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Battlefield Sites, Events Keep Civil War 'Alive'


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Pea Ridge National Military Park
Pea Ridge National Military Park
    Pea Ridge National Military Park
Pea Ridge National Military Park
       
 
Re-enacting the battle at Pea Ridge
Re-enacting the battle at Pea Ridge
   
May 8, 2001


Battlefield Sites,
Events Keep Civil War 'Alive'

*****
By Craig Ogilvie, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Some 140 years after the start of the conflict, millions of Americans remain intrigued by the Civil War. In terms of human lives, it was the nation's costliest war. More than 620,000 soldiers were killed and at least that many were wounded or maimed. Its impact upon our nation continues today.

Reluctant to leave the Union, Arkansas was among the last three states to secede. Native sons, volunteering to protect the homefront, were instead marched east and participated in every major battle, from Gettysburg to Chickamauga. Poorly protected, Arkansas was an early target, with two important battles fought before the end of 1862. The state endured some 750 military clashes before the war ended. The confrontations, starvation and roaming outlaws have become part of the state's heritage and lore.

Arkansas, along with most states affected by the conflict, has a liberal sprinkling of federal and state battlefield parks, scores of annual events, dozens of re-enactments, and an untold number of organizations dedicated to the preservation of Civil War history.

Places to visit include:

* Pea Ridge National Military Park, east of Rogers, protects 4300 acres around the site of the largest Civil War battle west of the Mississippi. More than 26,000 soldiers participated in the March 7-8, 1862, engagement that historians say prevented the Confederate occupation of Missouri. A visitor center, museum, audio-visual theater and self-guided tours are available to the public.

* Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, west of Fayetteville, preserves the Dec. 7, 1862, site where 11,000 Confederates staged a running battle with Union troops that ended with a rebel retreat and total federal occupation of northern Arkansas. Park facilities include a visitor center (with the "Civil War Discovery" computer system), museum, driving and walking tours, historic buildings with guided tours daily, interpretive programs and special events. Over 1,000 people participate in the re-enactment of the battle during the first December weekend in even numbered years.

* Arkansas Post National Memorial, south of Gillett, marks the site of Gen. John McClernand's Union defeat of Confederate defenders under Gen. Thomas Churchill on Jan. 11, 1863. The long and colorful saga of Arkansas Post, first permanent European settlement in the lower Mississippi River Valley, is interpreted at the park museum.

* Old Washington Historic State Park, north of Hope, is a uniquely preserved pioneer town with restored buildings dating to the 1830s. When Little Rock was captured in September, 1863, Confederate Governor Harris Flanagin moved the state government to Washington, where it remained until the end of the war. The 1836 Hempstead County Courthouse became the Arkansas Confederate Capitol, and it remains an important part of the park's current tour of historic buildings.

* Little Rock Civil War sites include the Old State House Museum, 300 W. Markham, which served as the state capitol for both Confederate and Union governments during the war and was the scene of the 1861 secession convention. Other points of interest include the Old U.S. Arsenal in MacArthur Park; Mount Holly Cemetery, final resting place of five Confederate generals and 17-year-old David O. Dodd (convicted and executed Southern spy); and Civil War monuments on the State Capitol grounds. A driving tour brochure, highlighting Little Rock's Civil War locations, is available by calling 1-800-844-4781, ext. 3290.

* The Red River Campaign into southwest Arkansas during the spring of 1864 was the last significant federal offense in the state. Gen. Frederick Steele left Little Rock with 13,000 soldiers, 30 cannons and 800 wagons. Near Prescott, Confederates attacked and turned the Federals eastward to Camden. Attempts to replenish Steele's forces led to the capture of Union wagon trains, followed by Steele's mad dash back to the safety of Little Rock.

Poison Spring (west of Camden), Marks' Mill (east of Fordyce), and Jenkins' Ferry (south of Sheridan) were battle sites during the Red River Campaign now preserved as part of the Arkansas State Parks system. Each offers outdoor exhibits, trails and picnic sites.

A sampling of 2001 events include:

* Civil War Weekend, June 9, Hot Springs (Gulpha Gorge Campground). A living history encampment and evening speakers explain the daily life of the common soldier in Arkansas.

* Ed Bearss Tours, Aug. 3-5, in Little Rock. Former chief historian of the National Park Service and renowned historian will headline a group of speakers and conduct guided tours of central and southern Arkansas Civil War battle sites.

* Mammoth Spring Encampment, Aug. 4-5. The 7th annual Civil War weekend at Mammoth Spring State Park will include camp tours, daily skirmish, demonstrations and tours.

* Civil War Days at Dardanelle, Aug. 25-26 (Mount Nebo State Park). Tours explore the daily living conditions of Arkansas infantry soldiers, encamped atop one of the state's largest mountains.

* Clothesline Fair at Prairie Grove, Sept. 1-3. This traditional Ozark craft fair, in its 50th year, includes Civil War artifact displays and sales booths, plus living history demonstrations.

* Battlefields as Memories, Sept. 29, at the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources at Smackover. The first annual chautauqua, under a big tent next to the museum, will include historical and musical productions from the Civil War era.

* Civil War Weekend at Lake Chicot State Park, Oct. 5-7. Activities will include camp demonstrations, suttlers' booths, social events and the re-enactment of the Battle of Ditch Bayou, the last major Civil War action in Arkansas.

* Civil War Experience at Old Washington, Nov. 3. Hundreds of re-enactors from several states will meet to relive the struggles of military duty during the war.

* Christmas Open House at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, Dec. 1-2. Visitors are invited to tour the historic park buildings and enjoy Civil War living history programs, laced with holiday spirit.

For more information on the Civil War in Arkansas, including a listing of Heritage Trail Councils and Roundtables, visit the following websites: http://civilwarbuff.org and http://arkansaspreservation.org/history/civilwar.asp; or call 1-800-NATUAL for general information about Civil War sites in the state. For updates on scheduled activities, visit www.Arkansas.com and click on "Calendar of Events."

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Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 682-7606
E-mail: info@arkansas.com

May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"


ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF PARKS & TOURISM
1 Capitol Mall, 4A-900 - Little Rock, Arkansas 72201 | 1-800-872-1259 or (501) 682-7777 (V/TT)
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