Monday, October 12, 2009

More from Prairie Grove Battlefield

On Sunday afternoon I met with the Sons of Confederate Veterans at Prairie Grove, one of the many groups that meet at the park. Groups like these help the park with projects and events. With their help we are working to preserve heritage and history.

I toured the one mile walking trail with a group of German foreign exchange students and saw where the heaviest fighting occurred during the Battle of Prairie Grove.

We also met with the Master Gardeners, a group of volunteers who help keep the park looking beautiful. The Battlefield Park has many different groups that help tell what happened here on December 7th, 1862.
The Battle of Prairie Grove covered about 2,875 acres of ground with battle formations that stretched over two miles from east to west along the ridge and valley. Today Prairie Grove Battlefield preserves 840 acres including land where some of the heaviest fighting took place.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Touring Prairie Grove Battlefield

“While visiting Prairie Grove Battlefield today, I was able to take advantage of the daily house tours offered by the park. During my tour I was actually able to go inside several of the houses and buildings located on the park grounds, and I learned what life was like for civilians during the Civil War. I was amazed by how difficult life was back then!

We began at the Morrow House, where I saw the one room log cabin John and Mariah Morrow lived in when they first came to Arkansas in 1834. This one room served as a bedroom, living room, kitchen, and dining room for the Morrows until they finally expanded the house around 1855. Originally located south of the battlefield, the house’s parlor served as a conference room for Confederate General Hindman and his generals before the battle.

Moving on to the Latta House, I learned that the Latta family came most of the way to Arkansas by flatboat because there were so few roads in those days. Even when the Civil War began, Arkansas was still considered a frontier, and there were still very few roads. This made it very difficult for the armies to move around, too.

My guide ended the tour by telling me about the guerrilla warfare in northwest Arkansas and its effect on the civilians. I learned that guerrillas were actually men who organized in their own small groups rather than joining the army and who frequently attacked civilians. They were especially bad in this area because of the different opinions held by the people here. During the war, the people of northwest Arkansas were usually one of two types of people, unionists or secessionists. Unionists were people who supported the Union rather than the Confederacy, while secessionists were people who supported the Confederacy. Northwest Arkansas was unusual because of the large number of unionists who lived here during the war. Since these unionists had opposite views from their secessionist neighbors they frequently fought each other. This type of fighting was especially hard on the civilians and added to their burden. As my tour ended I had a new understanding of how hard the Civil War was not only on soldiers but on civilians as well.”

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Today, October 8th I toured Hindman Hall Visitor Center and Battlefield Museum, with the Rayburn family from Tennessee. I learned about the different types of Artillery that was here during the Battle of Prairie Grove, December 7, 1862.

The Battle of Prairie Grove was the last time two armies of almost equal strength faced each other for control of northwest Arkansas. When the Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi withdrew from the bloody ground on the night of December 7th, it was clear Missouri and northwest Arkansas would remain under Federal protection.

Artillery at Battle Prairie Grove
10-pounder Parrot Rifle: US (10): CS (0) - Range: 1900 yards or 1.1 miles
3-inch Ordnance Rifle: US (8): CS (0) - Range: 1850 yards or 1.1 miles
14-pounder James Rifle: US (8): CS (0) - Range: 1850 yards or 1.1 miles
Type 1 James Rifle (6-pounder smoothbores modified with James’ rifling system): US (0): CS (2) -Range: 1700 yards or 1 mile
6-pounder smoothbore gun: US (8): CS (13) - Range: 1523 yards or .8 miles
Confederate 2.25-inch Mountain Rifle: US (0): CS (up to 4) - Range: 1100 yards or .6 miles
12-pounder Field Howitzer: US (8): CS (8) - Range: 1072 yards or .6 miles
12-pounder Mountain Howitzer: US (12): CS (3) - Range: 1005 yards or .6 miles

I enjoyed looking at the Rifled and smoothbore projectiles with Danita the office manager.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Visiting Jacksonport State Park

Today the part interpreters gave me a run through of the different things that are offered at Jacksonport State Park for visitors. As many of you have noticed through my other blogs, there are several things including the Confederate monument, cannon, and commemorative signs available to look at in the courtyard.

The courthouse has several exhibits covering the whole history of the Jacksonport; however, there are parts of the exhibit that relate specifically to the Civil War. The Courthouse which visitors are able to pay a small admission and go through has a direct connection to the Civil War. This is that even though taxes were levied in 1861 and funds to begin construction of the Courthouse were raised, construction was put on hold until 1869. The courthouse wasn’t completed until December 24, 1872. The reason for this delay was during the Civil War local citizens many of whom were fighting for the Confederacy far from home were without adequate means to live.

Their families in Jacksonport were also going through tough times. The money originally set aside for the construction of the courthouse was actually used to help feed and clothe the volunteers who join the Confederacy and their families.

Besides visiting the courthouse, Confederate monument, and cannon in the courtyard, visitors have other ways to learn about the Civil War history at Jacksonport. The park interpreters offer a variety of regularly scheduled interpretive programs relating to the Civil war. A few of these programs are Weapons of the Civil War, Tools of the Civil War, Flags of the Confederacy, and a Mr. William E. Bevens programs.

The “Weapons of the Civil War” let visitors see and learn about the weapons that were used in the Civil War. Some of these weapons include reproduction 1862 Richmond musket, a Colt 1861 Navy pistol or 1858 Remington Pistol, a Civil War saber, a bayonet, and a Confederate D Guard Bowie Knife. On some occasions, interpreters will not only demonstrate how one fired the guns, but will actually fire them. Hearing the musket fired was really cool, although it did startle me some. Below is a picture with me and some of the weapons discussed during these programs.

The” Tools of the Civil war” program is similar to the weapons program but different because more than just the weapons are discussed during this program The interpreters show and discuss several different items that soldiers used during the Civil War. Some of these items include the uniforms, haversacks, bed rolls, sewing kits, tin mess plates, tin cups, canteens, lanterns, and civil war money just to name a few.
The “Flags of the Confederacy” program shows the different flags used by the Confederacy. The 3 national confederate flags are shown and discussed as well as the Confederate Battle Flag and the Bonnie blue flag. The interpreter, who told me about the Bonnie blue flag, explained that during the Civil War a song was written about the flag to encourage people to join the Confederacy. The song was written by Harry Macarthy. I really enjoyed it, when the interpreter asked us to sing the song with him. It was a lot of fun. The program also explained how the Flags of the Confederacy have influenced some of our state flags as well. Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi are just a few of the flags influenced by the Confederate flag. Check out my picture below with the Bonnie Blue flag.

The last program I was told about that the interpreters do here at Jacksonport is the Mr. William E. Bevens. Mr. Bevens as I mention in a past blog was a member of the Jackson Guards who wrote his accounts of the Civil War to help raise money for the Confederate monument that now sits at Jacksonport. A costume interpreter portrays himself as William E. Bevens. He discusses the Civil War from Mr. Bevens reminisces. Although I was not able to see the whole program, the interpreter did give me an example of this program. From what I saw Mr. Bevens was a very interesting person and I really wished I had more time to learn about him.
Overall I really enjoyed my experience here. Seeing the exhibits, monuments, and some of the interpretive programs really made me want to learn more about the Civil War’s affect on Jacksonport Arkansas. It is a shame that I was not able to catch all the programs, but I am excited to know I will be heading to some where new and learn more about the history of the Civil War and the effect it has on our present, and our future. Saying good bye to my friends here at Jacksonport is hard, but I am excited at the possibility of making new friends at other parks.
Farewell to Interpreters Donna Bentley, and Brian Whitson, and all my other friends at Jacksonport State Park.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Today I learned about the Union occupation of Jacksonport. In May of 1862, The Union army moved down from Batesville and set up Camp Tucker on the west bank of the mouth of the Black River. At one time there were 5,429 Union soldiers in camp here. Having control of the White river would proved an advantage for both Confederate and Union armies. The Union army camped a little above Jacksonport where the black river meets the White.

Having the Union army so close to a town with strong Confederate support would be viewed as negative by the local Citizens. Part of this negative view stem from a lack of money. Besides the fact that many of the citizens saw the Union as the enemy, having them there proved stressful on their money. This was because many people were using Confederate money as shown in the picture below. This type of script would be completely useless with the Union control over Jacksonport.

Dr. Charles Brackett a Union solider wrote his experiences during this time in his Journal. Dr. Brackett explains that a local resident Mary Todd Caldwell, the one who presented the Jackson Guards with their Confederate regimental flag, “glorifies in being a rebel”. He went on to explain “Mrs. Caldwell wished she had the power to kill every Officer in the Union army, and ole Abe especially.”
Mrs. Caldwell has her own account of Union occupation in 1862. She says that the Dutch Yankees who occupied her house,” went into her room and dangled her cloths and made fun of them. She further explains that they took all we had and insulted our women folk.
Even with the tension between the Union solders and the local citizens, the Union occupied Jacksonport until June, when the Confederates recaptured Jacksonport. The only paper to be printed in Jacksonport was printed when the Union occupied Jacksonport. Paper became very difficult to come by during the Civil War, which caused for a lack of newspapers being printed. The Union printed the newspaper “stars and Stripes” on December 8, 1862. Due to the shortage of paper, this newspaper was printed on wall paper. Jacksonport is the second location that the” Stars and Stripes “was printed at. It was first printed in Bloomfield, Missouri on November 9, 1861. The “Stars and Stripes continues to be published today. Soldiers today in Iraq and Afghanistan still read the “Stars and Stripes”.
I really enjoyed learning about what life was like for the citizens of Jacksonport during the Union’s occupation. It is surprising to learn that a newspaper that was written in Jacksonport during the Civil War is still being published today.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The cannon of Jacksonport

Today I learned about the cannon here at Jacksonport. The cannon barrel is an original 1861 Union barrel that was used in the Civil War. TTSL, No. 349 PIC are some of the markings still on the cannon. The PIC and the No. 349 markings show that the barrel was made by Phoenix Irion Company which is in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania and the cannon was number 349. The TTSL marking stands for the initials of the Union Army Inspector Major Theodore T. S. Laidley.

The cannon was moved to Newport to in the late 1890’s to be used by the Tom Hindman Camp of the United Confederate Veterans. It was used in reunion battles every summer during the years of 1894-1900. At the town Elizabeth, the old cannon was used and fired during the mock battles. The Confederates would charge out of the woods toward the make believe Union Soldiers along the bank of the White River. People from all over Jackson County would show up for this event. Once the event was over the cannon was moved back to the Newport Courthouse where it would stay until next year’s battle.

In 1978 the cannon was moved from the Newport Courthouse to Jacksonport State Park in order to add to the park’s Civil War Heritage. In 1996 the cannon was temporality removed and stored since the carriage had deteriorated some much that it was unsafe for visitors. It wasn’t until July 2001 that the cannon was finally restored and brought back to Jacksonport.

The pictures show the cannon at Jacksonport State Park. There is also a picture of the park interpreter and myself standing by a panel that shows the history of the cannon as well as how to fire one. The park interpreter explained that an artillery crew each had a specific task that must be done properly. If one person failed to complete their individual task, it could prove unsafe for everyone. Overall I really enjoyed learning about the Civil War cannon and its different uses.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A day with the Jackson Guards

As I visited Jacksonport, I learned about the soldiers that formed Jackson Guards. This unit was formed in 1861 of 120 men from Jackson County. These men left Jacksonport on May 5, 1861 after receiving a flag made for them by local woman of Jacksonport.

This unit was part of the First Arkansas Infantry and fought in several major battles such as the battle of 1st Manassas, Virginia, the battle of Shiloh, Tennessee and the battle of Franklin, Tennessee. On June 5, 1865 Confederate General Jeff Thompson also known as the "Swamp fox of the Confederacy" surrendered over 6,000 troops to Lt. Colonel C.W. Davis at Jacksonport. Several members of the Jackson Guards were part of the 6,000 troops that surrendered during this time.

The monument in the picture was built by Confederate Veterans to honor the Jackson Guards. William E. Bevens a former member of the Jackson Guards wrote his reminiscences in order to raise money for the construction of the monument. One can still read Bevens memories of his experience in the Civil War in a book titled "Reminiscences of a Private". The monument was original dedicated in Newport, Arkansas in 1914; however, it was moved to Jacksonport State on November 10, 1973. The monument now sits on the point that the Jackson Guards left from beside the White River.