Flag back 150 years af­ter loss

LR re­mem­bers Civil War bat­tles

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - JAKE SAN­DLIN

When Union troops dur­ing the Civil War ad­vanced into Lit­tle Rock to take com­mand of the state cap­i­tal Sept. 10, 1863, Con­fed­er­ate evac­u­a­tion moved so swiftly that South­ern soldiers didn’t have time to com­plete one last im­por­tant task.

As the 3rd Iowa Cav­alry moved into Lit­tle Rock, the first Fed­eral troops to en­ter, they chased off the last strag­gling Con­fed­er­ate reg­i­ments who were sup­posed to set fire to the town and blow up the arse­nal stor­ing mu­ni­tions at what is now the MacArthur Mu­seum of Arkansas Mil­i­tary His­tory.

“We like to think th­ese com­pa­nies from Iowa were in­stru­men­tal, not just for be­ing the first to come in, but to help keep the arse­nal from be­ing blown up,” said Stephan McA­teer, the mu­seum’s di­rec­tor. “It’s an in­ter­est­ing twist of fate. The arse­nal that has been here for 173 years wouldn’t be here to­day, and our mu­seum wouldn’t be here, if not for the Iowa troops.”

In an ob­ser­vance of the sesqui­cen­ten­nial an­niver­sary of the cap­i­tal city’s takeover, the mu­seum will have a sym­bolic low­er­ing of the Con­fed­er­ate national flag and sub­se­quent rais­ing

of the Union guidon by two Union re-en­ac­tors at 5 p.m. Sept. 10 in front of the mu­seum build­ing at 503 E. 9th St. in down­town Lit­tle Rock.

The mu­seum will then host a five-week ex­hi­bi­tion Sept. 11-Oct. 19 of two Civil War reg­i­men­tal flags from the 37th Arkansas In­fantry and the 3rd Iowa Cav­alry — both on loan from Iowa’s State His­tor­i­cal Mu­seum, part of the Iowa Depart­ment of Cul­tural Af­fairs. A preview of the flag ex­hibit will be 5-7 p.m. Sept. 10, fol­low­ing the flag-rais­ing cer­e­mony. Both events, as well as ad­mis­sion to the ex­hibit, are free and open to the pub­lic.

Nei­ther flag has been in Arkansas since the Civil War, McA­teer said, but the two are some­what re­lated in his­tory.

The Iowa reg­i­men­tal flag rep­re­sents the first troops to en­ter Lit­tle Rock about 5 p.m. Sept. 10, 150 years ago, with city lead­ers of­fi­cially sur­ren­der­ing the city two hours later. The Arkansas reg­i­ment’s flag was cap­tured by a dif­fer­ent Iowa reg­i­ment, McA­teer said, dur­ing the Bat­tle of He­lena on July 4, 1863, which opened the way for the Lit­tle Rock cam­paign that led Gen. Fred­er­ick Steele’s 13,000 Union troops to ad­vance to­ward the cap­i­tal city.

“The 37th Arkansas In­fantry fought both at He­lena and at Lit­tle Rock,” McA­teer said. “About half of them were cap­tured at He­lena. The ones who weren’t came back and par­tic­i­pated in the de­fense of Lit­tle Rock.

“This is the first time ei­ther of th­ese flags have been on ex­hibit in Arkansas,” he con­tin­ued. “The two flags are very im­pres­sive. Just the fact that we can bring back a cap­tured flag to Arkansas, that’s just gravy for us.”

Heav­ily out­num­bered, the Con­fed­er­ate army un­der Gen. Ster­ling Price chose to evac­u­ate Lit­tle Rock with mainly just small bat­tles and skir­mishes tak­ing place on the out­skirts of town to try to slow the Union ad­vance.

“There was no ‘bat­tle’ of Lit­tle Rock,” said Ian Beard, adult- ed­u­ca­tion co­or­di­na­tor at the Old State House, which served as the cap­i­tal for both Con­fed­er­ate and Union gov­ern­ments dur­ing the war. “There was a Bat­tle of Fourche Creek, sort of a run­ning skir­mish that es­sen­tially was buy­ing Con­fed­er­ate troops time to evac­u­ate the city.

“There are plenty of ac­counts that Gen. Ster­ling Price lost far more troops from de­ser­tion while on his way to Arkadel­phia than he would have by stand­ing and fight­ing in Lit­tle Rock,” Beard added.

Po­lit­i­cally, though, the Union takeover of Lit­tle Rock had big im­pli­ca­tions, Beard said.

“Re­con­struc­tion be­gins and Lit­tle Rock be­comes a hub for freed men who had ei­ther es­caped slav­ery or found freedom with the Union army or had been hid­ing out in the hills since the be­gin­ning of the war and could now more openly sup­port the cause of the U.S.,” Beard said. “Cer­tainly it was a heavy blow to the Con­fed­er­ate war ef­fort in Arkansas and to the Con­fed­er­ate govern­ment in Arkansas.”

Con­fed­er­ate con­trol of Lit­tle Rock was doomed, McA­teer said, with the losses at He­lena and Vicks­burg, both July 4 that year, open­ing the Mis­sis­sippi River val­ley and mak­ing Union troops avail­able to move on Lit­tle Rock.

“The fall of Lit­tle Rock was a blow to the morale of Con­fed­er­ate troops,” McA­teer said. “Ba­si­cally you had the north­ern half of the state un­der Union con­trol and the south­ern half un­der Con­fed­er­ate con­trol.”

Sev­eral ob­ser­vances of the 150th an­niver­sary of Lit­tle Rock’s sur­ren­der are sched­uled dur­ing the month as part of com­mem­o­ra­tion events of the war’s sesqui­cen­ten­nial pe­riod. Ad­mis­sion to all events is free.

The Old State House Mu­seum at 300 W. Markham in Lit­tle Rock will host a pair of brown-bag lunch lec­tures. On Thurs­day, Larry Le­Mas­ters will speak about “Walker’s Last Stand: The Marmaduke-Walker Duel.” The pis­tol duel be­tween Con­fed­er­ate Brig. Gens. John S. Marmaduke and L. Marsh Walker hap­pened Sept. 6, 1863, as Union troops closed in on the cap­i­tal city. Walker died the next morn­ing, leav­ing the Con­fed­er­ate army with­out one of its top mil­i­tary lead­ers. On Sept. 10, Mark Christ of the Arkansas Civil War Sesqui­cen­ten­nial Com­mis­sion will talk about the Union’s 1863 Lit­tle Rock Cam­paign.

On Satur­day and Sun­day, Reed’s Bridge Bat­tle­field Park, on Arkansas 161 at the Bayou Meto cross­ing in Jack­sonville, will com­mem­o­rate the an­niver­sary of the Aug. 27, 1863, Bat­tle of Reed’s Bridge. Liv­ing his­tory camps will open at 9:30 a.m. both days, with a bat­tle re-en­act­ment at 2 p.m. Satur­day. A re-en­act­ment of the Marmaduke-Walker duel is sched­uled for 1 p.m. Sun­day. Park­ing will be $1 with shut­tles avail­able. More in­for­ma­tion can be found at the Reed’s Bridge Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety Face­book page.

On Sept. 14, the Scott Plan­ta­tion Set­tle­ment, 15525 Alexan­der Road in Scott, will have lec­tures about the skir­mish at Ash­ley’s Mills, which hap­pened Sept. 7, 1863, and of­fer tours of the plan­ta­tion set­tle­ment. Top­ics will in­clude the Marmaduke-Walker duel and the pres­ence of both Con­fed­er­ate and Union armies in Scott dur­ing the Lit­tle Rock Cam­paign. The prop­erty was used by Steele as a bivouac for his troops af­ter Lit­tle Rock’s fall. More in­for­ma­tion is avail­able by con­tact­ing the set­tle­ment at (501) 351-5737.

The Skir­mish at Ash­ley’s Mills will also be a lec­ture topic Sept. 10 at the Grand Prairie Civil War Roundtable at the Lonoke County Mu­seum in Lonoke, fea­tur­ing Martin Gip­son of Scott Con­nec­tions. More in­for­ma­tion can be found by call­ing the mu­seum at (501) 676-6750.

On Sept. 14, a reded­i­ca­tion of the Con­fed­er­ate Last Stand Mon­u­ment will be at 2 p.m. at the Ten Mile House, 6915 Stage­coach Road in Lit­tle Rock. The 8th Arkansas In­fantry, Bar­rett’s Bat­tery, is sched­uled to mark the event with the fir­ing of three can­nons, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease. The ob­ser­vance is of the fi­nal failed at­tempt by Con­fed­er­ate troops to de­fend Lit­tle Rock on Sept. 11, 1863 — an ac­tion the day af­ter Lit­tle Rock’s fall that took place along McHenry’s Creek near the Ten Mile House, also known as the McHenry House and the Stage­coach House.

More in­for­ma­tion on sesqui­cen­ten­nial ac­tiv­i­ties can be found at the Arkansas Civil War Sesqui­cen­ten­nial Com­mis­sion web­site at arkansas­civil­war150.com/events.

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