Re­mem­ber­ing the war

Arkansas has own share of Con­fed­er­ate mark­ers

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - PROFILES - Tom Dil­lard is a his­to­rian and re­tired ar­chiv­ist liv­ing in Hot Spring County. Email him at Ark­topia.td@gmail.com.

The re­cent re­moval in New Or­leans of three mon­u­ments to the Con­fed­er­acy has drawn at­ten­tion to the myr­iad of such mon­u­ments in Arkansas. In lo­ca­tions across Arkansas stretch­ing from Lake Vil­lage to Ben­tonville, more than 30 Con­fed­er­ate memo­ri­als can be found in the state — as well as a few hon­or­ing the Union Army. The Con­fed­er­acy lost the Civil War, but it cer­tainly won the bat­tle to memo­ri­al­ize the con­flict and in the process re­cast the war as “a no­ble lost cause.”

The preva­lence of Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments is in large mea­sure due to the ef­forts of the United Con­fed­er­ate Veter­ans, the United Daugh­ters of the Con­fed­er­acy and the Sons of Con­fed­er­ate Veter­ans. How­ever, as his­to­rian Charles Rus­sell Lo­gan wrote in his ex­cel­lent his­tory of Civil War com­mem­o­ra­tive sculp­ture in Arkansas, un­til the 1890s “most me­mo­rial and mon­u­ment ac­tiv­i­ties in the South were per­formed by lo­cal ladies’ me­mo­rial as­so­ci­a­tions.” Such was cer­tainly the case in Arkansas.

Within a year of the Con­fed­er­ate sur­ren­der in 1865, Con­fed­er­ate me­mo­rial groups be­gan spring­ing up — per­haps the most prom­i­nent in Colum­bus, Ga. Ac­cord­ing to Lo­gan, the typ­i­cal me­mo­rial as­so­ci­a­tion was “com­posed of women who had lost a loved one or had been part of a ladies’ re­lief or­ga­ni­za­tion dur­ing the war.” Th­ese early ef­forts usu­ally in­volved cre­at­ing ceme­ter­ies, cel­e­brat­ing a me­mo­rial day and build­ing mon­u­ments.

Fayet­teville and He­lena were home to well-or­ga­nized ladies’ me­mo­rial as­so­ci­a­tions. In 1869 the Phillips County Me­mo­rial As­so­ci­a­tion cre­ated He­lena’s Con­fed­er­ate Me­mo­rial Ceme­tery, which in­cludes the graves of about 100 Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers, many of whom were killed in the Bat­tle of He­lena on July 4, 1863. The body of Gen. Pa­trick R. Cle­burne, a He­lena res­i­dent and out­stand­ing Con­fed­er­ate com­man­der, was re­lo­cated from Ten­nessee to the new He­lena ceme­tery in 1870.

Thirty-eight Fayet­teville women or­ga­nized the South­ern Me­mo­rial As­so­ci­a­tion in June 1872 with the pur­pose of cre­at­ing a Con­fed­er­ate ceme­tery. Within a year the As­so­ci­a­tion ded­i­cated the Fayet­teville Con­fed­er­ate Ceme­tery, which would be­come the fi­nal rest­ing place for al­most 1,000 Con­fed­er­ates — in­clud­ing many killed at bat­tles at Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove. Most of the Con­fed­er­ates killed at Prairie Grove had been buried in a trench. In 1897 the As­so­ci­a­tion un­veiled a bronze statue of a Con­fed­er­ate pri­vate. The South­ern Me­mo­rial As­so­ci­a­tion still ex­ists.

Most of the women’s me­mo­rial as­so­ci­a­tions dis­ap­peared over time as new, more vo­cal and di­verse, or­ga­ni­za­tions arose. In 1889 the United Con­fed­er­ate Veter­ans (UCV) were or­ga­nized in New Or­leans. Con­fed­er­ate Col. Ben­jamin T. Du­val es­tab­lished the Arkansas Di­vi­sion of the UCV. The UCV es­tab­lished a ceme­tery at a for­mer Con­fed­er­ate site known as Camp Nel­son near mod­ern Cabot where 500 sol­diers suc­cumbed dur­ing a measles epi­demic. The UCV also helped build a me­mo­rial to the “boy mar­tyr of the Con­fed­er­acy,” David O. Dodd.

Per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant mon­u­ment erected by the Arkansas UCV was a mon­u­ment to Con­fed­er­ate women, known as the “Mother of the South” statue lo­cated on the state capi­tol grounds in Lit­tle Rock. The UCV both na­tion­ally and lo­cally de­voted much of its ef­forts to hon­or­ing the women of the Con­fed­er­acy, some­times re­sort­ing to lofty and ex­ces­sive prose — what the later south­ern writer W.J. Cash once de­scribed as “down­right gy­ne­olotry.”

Here is how a male speaker at the 1915 ded­i­ca­tion of a women’s me­mo­rial on the court­house lawn in Cam­den de­scribed the role of women in the an­te­bel­lum South: “…that beam from her beau­ti­ful and lovely face is a pro­to­type of the high civ­i­liza­tion of the time in which she ap­peared in the tragic drama … a time when pa­tri­o­tism stood at full tide and fair Ar­ca­dia pul­sated with knight er­rant, and chivalry and honor dec­o­rated and adorned her love­li­ness.”

The role of women in memo­ri­al­iz­ing the Con­fed­er­acy took a great leap in 1892 when the United Daugh­ters of the Con­fed­er­acy (UDC) was or­ga­nized. The first chap­ter in Arkansas was or­ga­nized at Hope in 1896. Even­tu­ally 103 UDC chap­ters were or­ga­nized in the state. The UDC helped build mon­u­ments, but its most im­por­tant and last­ing ef­fort was to shape the way the Con­fed­er­acy was de­picted in pub­lished his­to­ries, es­pe­cially public school text­books.

In­ter­est­ingly the Sons of the Con­fed­er­ate Veter­ans (SCV), the male equiv­a­lent of the UDC, was not nearly so suc­cess­ful as the women’s group. Founded in 1896, the SCV in Arkansas built only one mon­u­ment, though it as­sisted in cre­at­ing oth­ers. The Robert C. New­ton Camp of the SCV un­veiled a bronze me­mo­rial at what is to­day MacArthur Park in Lit­tle Rock in May 1911, dur­ing the na­tional UCV re­union. The mon­u­ment honored the Capi­tol Guards, a pres­ti­gious unit known as “the flower of Lit­tle Rock.” More than 100,000 peo­ple at­tended that na­tional con­ven­tion in Lit­tle Rock, with thou­sands be­ing present when the statue was un­veiled and more than 20,000 rose blos­soms show­ered down on the crowd.

Two Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments were built in the state with­out the help of the Daugh­ters or Sons groups. In 1914 pri­vate sub­scrip­tions were used to fund a me­mo­rial on the court­house grounds in New­port hon­or­ing the Jack­son Guards, and three years later pri­vate funds were used to build the Searcy Con­fed­er­ate Me­mo­rial at the White County Court­house.

Arkansas mon­u­ments to the Union cause were built by the Grand Army of the Re­pub­lic (GAR), a na­tional Union vet­eran’s or­ga­ni­za­tion founded in 1866 in Illi­nois. The first chap­ters in Arkansas in­cluded many black veter­ans, which alien­ated some white Union veter­ans, but the GAR had a resur­gence in the 1880s. The GAR Depart­ment of Arkansas was es­tab­lished in Lit­tle Rock in 1883. More than 100 GAR chap­ters were formed in the state. The group built mon­u­ments in Jud­so­nia (White County) and Siloam Springs, and the state of Min­nesota built a mon­u­ment at the Lit­tle Rock Na­tional Ceme­tery. An ef­fort was made in the 1911 leg­is­la­ture to au­tho­rize a Union mon­u­ment on the state capi­tol grounds, but it was de­feated.

A com­plete list­ing of Civil War mon­u­ments in Arkansas may be found in Charles R. Lo­gan’s in­formed and com­pre­hen­sive his­tory of the topic ti­tled Some­thing So Dim It Must Be Holy: Civil War Com­mem­o­ra­tive Sculp­ture in Arkansas, 1886-1934, Arkansas His­toric Preser­va­tion Pro­gram, www.arkansasp­reser­va­tion.com.

TOM DIL­LARD

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