The Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission approved an official logo at its April meeting. The logo, which features crossed swords overlaying the diamond and stars of the Arkansas state flag, will be used on ACWSC materials and for ACWSC-sanctioned events.

The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program submitted a Preserve America grant seeking $100,000 to establish a historic marker program for the ACWSC to designate Civil War-related sites around the state. The grant request includes funding for a plan on how to create a marker program and it is hoped that an ACWSC program would lead to a permanent historic marker program for Arkansas, which currently does not have one.

The ACWSC will seek a General Improvement Fund grant for $716,630 over the two years for historical markers, battlefield preservation, grants for local observances and planning, publications, and a kick-off event for the Sesquicentennial. The request will be considered by the 2010 General Assembly when it meets in January.

At the request of the ACWSC, a group of historians, preservationists, and Civil War enthusiasts met on May 19 to identify areas of Arkansas Civil War history that would benefit from additional research between now and the end of the Sesquicentennial. The list of topics and projects that should be of the highest priority is listed below:

Topics relating to Arkansas Civil War history that need additional focused research:

  1. Experiences of civilians (displacement and destruction, demographic and social effects); Arkansas    in the Civil War as opposed to the Civil War in Arkansas
  2. African-American soldiers in Arkansas
  3. The naval war in Arkansas
  4. Arkansas Unionism and Arkansas’s Union soldiers
  5. The motivations that led Arkansawyers to choose sides: It’s more complicated than Secessionists vs. Unionists
  6. The legacy of the Civil War in Arkansas: How it shaped us as a people and how it is viewed today.

   Projects that should be actively pursued up to and during the Sesquicentennial:

  1. Collate the Arkansas Slave Narratives to emphasize the Civil War years
  2. Republish the Arkansas Adjutant General’s Report
  3. Compile Civil War articles from the Arkansas Historical Quarterly
  4. Gather and publish maps and illustrations of Civil War Arkansas
  5. Reprint Margaret Ross’s Chronicles of Arkansas
  6. Compile letters from soldiers that appeared in newspapers, including letters from Union soldiers to their  hometowns in the North; the latter can provide an outsider’s view of the state
  7. Annotate and publish Civil War-period letters.

In late August 1863, Union Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt’s Army of the Frontier crossed the Arkansas River to drive Confederate forces from the river valley and secure the northern Indian Territory for the Union. Blunt occupied Fort Smith, Ark., without incident on September 1, dispatching Union Col. William F. Cloud with around 700 cavalrymen and an artillery battery in pursuit of Confederate forces under Brig. Gen. William Cabell.

The Confederates dug in on a ridge known as Devil’s Backbone southeast of Fort Smith, determined to buy time for their supply train to make it to safety. The battle began well for the Confederates; concealed cavalry opened fire on the advancing Federals, stopping their charge up Devil’s Backbone. Cloud quickly opened fire with his artillery, dismounted his cavalrymen and began moving forward. Cabell managed to hold the summit of the ridge with a handful of men and artillery battery as he and Cloud exchanged fire for several hours. Convinced that his wagon train was safe, Cabell then fell back toward Waldron. Cloud held the field, and the Federals had control of Fort Smith.

The 10 acres purchased by CWPT is a central portion of the battlefield and contains a portion of what was once the Confederate line holding the ridge. Confederate deserters were also held on the site; however, in the confusion of the battle they managed to escape and defected to the Union army. The tract is the first portion of the Devil’s Backbone battlefield preserved by Civil War Preservation Trust.

Reprinted courtesy of Hallowed Ground, the newsletter of the Civil War Preservation Trust.

Spring 2008 has been busy for SWACWHT. Members attended the re-dedication of a stone marker at Poison Spring in Ouachita County on Saturday, April 19. The event was sponsored by the Columbia County UDC. The UDC ladies from Columbia County were in antebellum dress.  Confederate re-enactors and staff from White Oak Lake State Park were also present. The staff of White Oak Lake State Park had moved the marker to Poison Spring State Park, which they maintain.

On April 24, Betty Faye Lewis of the Columbia County UDC took Peggy Lloyd on a tour of the Dockery Cemetery at Lamartine in Columbia County. The cemetery contains markers for General Thomas P. Dockery’s father, mother and brother-in-law, Capt. N. J. Gantt. There is also a marker for Truce, the little white Spitz given to Mrs. Dockery by Gen. U. S. Grant at the end of the siege of Vicksburg. Mrs. Dockery, in desperation, had gone to Grant to make inquiries about her husband. Impressed by her courage and devotion to her husband, Grant gave her the little dog as a token of his esteem.  The tour also included Frog Level, an antebellum home outside Magnolia, and several older cemeteries.

On April 26, Tom Beam attended a commemoration held by the Military Order of the Stars and Bars at Jenkins’ Ferry State Park. Mark Kalkbrenner of SEACWHT spoke representing southeast Arkansas.  Tom, representing southwest Arkansas, spoke on the four fields fought over at Jenkins’ Ferry.

Members of SWACWHT visited Moscow Church and Cemetery in recent months.  In mid-May, the Moscow Cemetery Association applied for a major cemetery grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council to perform remote sensing in the cemetery. If the grant is successful, archeologists will probably begin work in the fall. The site is associated with a rearguard action after the Battle of Prairie D’Ane in April 1864.  The remote sensing and detailed mapping of the cemetery should add to our knowledge of this site on the outskirts of Prescott.

In June, SWACWHT made a donation to the Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park. The Friends are collecting funds for the maintenance of the battlefield monuments, the USS Cairo and Lt. Gen. John Pemberton’s headquarters.

David Sesser, the curator of the Nevada County Depot and Museum in Prescott, resigned from the Depot to accept a position with the Henderson State University Library in Arkadelphia. David, a Civil War buff and native of Natchez, MS, is working on a master’s degree in history at Henderson.

The next meeting of SWACWHT will take place at the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives in Washington, Arkansas, on July 20, at 2 p.m. SARA is located at 201 Highway 195 South, a half mile south of the intersection of 195 and 278 in Historic Washington State Park.  Come in time to have lunch at the Williams Tavern. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

After the meeting, the group will caravan to Fulton to view the Confederate earthworks guarding the approaches to Fulton on the Washington and Springhill Roads.  For additional information or questions, e-mail or call SARA at 870-983-2633.  SARA is open from 8-4:30, Tuesday to Saturday, excluding holidays.

Chuck Durnett, the chairman of the Central Arkansas Civil War Heritage Trail and a member of the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, passed away on July 4. All of us who are associated with the ACWHT will miss our friend and colleague and offer our condolences to his family. His obituary is printed below.

Charles “Chuck” Olin Durnett, 66, of Little Rock died on July 4, 2008. A native of Colorado, Chuck traveled extensively in his youth as the ward of his older brother, a non-commissioned officer in the Air Force. After earning a degree in mathematics from Missouri Valley College, he married and began a family. A position with Dun & Bradstreet brought Chuck to Little Rock in 1972, where he established himself in the business, non-profit, and political arenas. At the time of his death, he was a former political consultant, a past president of the Arkansas Society of Association Executives, former vice president of the Arkansas Credit Union League, a past Commander of the General Robert C. Newton Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a past president of the Arkansas Civil War Heritage Trail, chairman of the Central Arkansas Civil War Heritage Trail, a member of the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, the Arkansas Division Commander of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, editor of the Civil War Roundtable of Arkansas, a commentator on governmental and political affairs, and a member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.
Charles Durnett is survived by his wife, Kay Durnett, his son and daughter-in-law Jason Durnett and Debbie Smiley of St. Louis, Missouri, his son and daughter-in-law Jairus Durnett and Tammy Slish of Memphis, Tennessee, his daughter and son-in-law Jennelle and Timothy Richardson of Zionsville, Indiana, and six granddaughters.

The family asks that donations be made to the Arkansas Civil War Heritage Trail Foundation, P.O. Box 20905, White Hall, Arkansas 71612 in lieu of flowers.

The Northeast Arkansas Civil War Heritage Trails Committee held its spring meeting on May 3 at the Chalk Bluff Battlefield Park pavilion. We had 56 in attendance for the meeting. President W. Danny Honnoll gave a updated report to the gathering.

Current Balance in Bank: $400.34 for the NEACWHTC.

This year’s main event at Chalk Bluff was a great success. We had a healthy turnout by the re-enactors and the public turnout was the best ever. Honnoll gave a speech on Confederate President Jefferson Davis at the Spring meeting of the NEACWHTC. Bobbie Barnett and Jeanenne Thompson hosted the Ladies’ Tea at Chalk Bluff this year and it was bigger and better than ever. The ladies that attended just loved the tea. Jackie Stevens, Dallas Stevens, Dale Barnett, Robert Hare and Harold Hunt helped set up the area for the Ladies’ Tea.

John Malloy of Mountain View was in command of the troops this year. Jimmy Downs of Pocahontas brought his Civil War-period wagon and took part in the event by bringing supplies to the Union troops taking part. Charles Berry of Evening Shade was in charge of the artillery this year since illness sidelined Delbert Hughes. We really missed Delbert this year.

On Sunday, the troops had a memorial service for Confederate Jefferson F. Davis on the bicentennial of his birth. It was a very moving service to honor the only president of the Confederacy.

Clay County sponsored this year’s event and Judge Gary Howell and his family did their usual outstanding job of feeding the troops and manning the concession stand. Sally Howell cooked a mean meat loaf this year and everyone loved it.

We are going to take next year off and not have a re-enactment at Chalk Bluff at the request of the 7th Arkansas re-enactors so they can attend an event in Texas. We are going to try every other year to see if this helps our Chalk Bluff event. In the future we are going to announce a living-history event at the town of Piggott so we can keep the interest up for the following year.

The NEACWHTC hopes to place a marker for either the L’Anguille Ferry (Lee County) or Taylor’s Creek (St. Francis) skirmish sites this year. Hopefully, we can get local support in raising money for both projects so the local community will have ownership in the markers. I am in the process of seeing if we can generate such interest. If you would like to help just let me know. The NEACWHTC has placed four historical markers in four years and would like to place at least one a year. Anyone having information on other sites or events that happened in Northeast Arkansas please let me know by contacting me at (870) 935-9830 or

The North East Arkansas Southern Heritage Foundation has named the Civil War park in Jonesboro the Southern Confederate Heritage Park. Trustee James Langley has been working very hard on the lighting at the park trying to get the best light on the park for the best price. The group has updated most of its handout materials for donations and informational matters. For the observance of Confederate Flag/Heritage Day on March 21 the group raised the new stars and stripes, an Arkansas flag, the first national Confederate flag, and a Confederate battle flag. On June 19, the group changed out the flags to the Betsy Ross flag, Arkansas flag, second national Confederate flag, and a 30th Arkansas Infantry Confederate battle flag. The Betsy Ross was for the upcoming 4th of July and the 30th Arkansas Infantry flag was for the Rebel troops that were raised in Jonesboro and fought in the battle of Jonesboro on August 2, 1862.

We are getting ready for the sesquicentennial of the “War Between the States” by working with the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee. More information will be coming out on this in the future.

Also December 16th is the date for our annual Christmas party in Jonesboro so mark your calendar and bring your money and gifts to help with the auction.

If you would like to donate to the NEACWHTC or want to pay your 2008 dues of $5 send it to NEACWHTC, c/o W. Danny Honnoll, 216 Hillpoint Cove, Jonesboro, Arkansas 72401-5992.

The next meeting of the NEACWHTC will be on October 21 at 6 p.m. at the Fishboat Restaurant in Jonesboro. See you there!

The Southeast Arkansas Civil War Heritage Trail has been active over the past few months, not on any one big project but on several local projects. And we have many more plans for the future.
Beginning plans are in the works for markers to be erected and dedicated at Lake Village for some unknown soldiers mortally wounded in the Battle of Ditch Bayou. Also, a marker is being prepared for placement in Drew County to be dedicated early 2009. More details will be released as this event nears. And the biannual re-enactment of Marks’ Mills will be held April 24-26, 2009.

Everyone is invited to the annual Camp White Sulphur Springs Civil War Weekend, October 17-19, 2008.  This year will be a little different:  there will be a wedding! Ellen DiMaggio and Mike Lewis will be jumping the broom in a period wedding on Saturday, followed by a ball with entertainment by the 52nd Tennessee Regimental String Band. On Sunday at 2 p.m. we will hold the annual Memorial and Dedication service.
A lot of things have been going on in Southeast Arkansas. Park Day was held at Camp White Sulphur Springs and Marks’ Mills in conjunction with the Civil War Preservation Trust and the History Channel. Edgar Colvin has been busy erecting markers around the area, most recently two headstones at Princeton. A memorial/re-dedication service was held at the end of April at Jenkins’ Ferry. A new Military Order of the Stars and Bars Chapter was recently organized and named in honor of the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry, and with this group’s enthusiasm and support of the Southeast and Southwest Trails, we hope to see more work toward preserving and history of this battlefield.

With the upcoming Sesquicentennial, several locations in Southeast Arkansas are looking to be a part of the celebration. Keep your eyes and ears open for information about this upcoming exciting time in our region.
It is with some sadness that I report the passing of one of our members and past officers, Tim Johnson of Warren. Tim passed away in early May. He was the ramrod for Civil War history in Bradley County. And he served the SEACWHT as our treasurer for several years. If you needed back-breaking labor or just someone to talk to, Tim was the one to call. Our heart-felt sympathy goes out to his family.

The next meeting of SEACWHT will be at noon on Saturday, October 18, at Camp White Sulphur Springs.

The Cane Hill driving- tour project is gaining steam. The first interpretive panel should be ready to pick up in July and the grant writing is underway for the second panel. Since the last update we have also learned that Dale Cox, author of the new book “The Battle of Massard Prairie” is donating half the profits, about $5 of each book, sold to the project. I’d like to express my gratitude to Mr. Cox for his gracious donations. We will have a marker dedication at a date to be announced.

The second annual Festival of Arkansas Civil War Heritage Reunion held at Pea Ridge was another success. More than 800 people attended to view the various lectures, living history activities, private collections displays and meet Andy Thomas, the artist who recently completed 10 new oil paintings for the park. Everybody should make plans to attend the event next year.

The next meeting of the NWACWHT will be at noon on July 18 in Yellville. The parks director for the city has contacted us about putting up markers denoting campsites and skirmishes in the area.

The Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society has been approved by the executive committee of Heritage Trail Partners (HTP) to use their signs and logo.

The society sent in the necessary paperwork with a $25 application fee to HTP, which was accepted and approved on April 16, 2008. It is the intent of the society to work with Brownsville in Lonoke County and Jacksonville and North Little Rock in Pulaski County to mark the Memphis to Little Rock Road.

These signs are very attractive, featuring a white background with the logo being red with gold trim. The logo itself says “Heritage Trail Partners,” stacked with three circular pictures above the word “Heritage” depicting the use of the road as a stage and mail route, its military importance and its role in Indian removal. It would be nice if this theme could be extended to Memphis.

The society has two Boy Scouts of America Eagle projects underway. Mark Baklawski of Troop 355 has taken as his project the construction of a 12’ x 24’ pavilion. Stage one, developing a plan and cost estimate, has been completed and stage two, consisting of donations of labor and materials plus fund-raising, is underway.

BSA Eagle project number two is being done by Neil Graham, also of Troop 355. Neil has taken maintenance of McCraw Cemetery as his project, which includes cutting and mowing, cleaning tombstones and erecting a split-rail fence at the entrance of the cemetery.

There will be a re-enactment of the August 27, 1863, Battle of Reed’s Bridge on the weekend of August 29, 30 and 31. Re-enactors will begin setting up camp on Friday the 29th, a mock battle will take place on Saturday the 30th during the day, and Saturday evening a dance using period dress and music will be held. Church services on Sunday morning at the bridge will close the event.

The Battle of Richmond, Kentucky, was fought on August 29 and 30, 1862, resulting in quite possibly the most one-sided victory that either side had over the other during the entire conflict. Arkansas generals Patrick Cleburne and Thomas Churchill both performed well in the Confederate victory.

Recently, the Madison County, Kentucky, Fiscal Court, through its Historic Properties Division, along with the Battle of Richmond Association, erected an interpretive marker highlighting Brig. Gen. Thomas Churchill’s participation. A significant topographical area on the Richmond battlefield is known as Churchill’s Draw, where Churchill led his Arkansas and Texas troops against the unsuspecting  Federal forces.

Patrick Cleburne also has an interpretive marker at the Battle of Richmond Visitors Center marking his involvement in the battle and his career. Most of the area where Cleburne commanded is not open to the public because it is a U.S. Army ammunition storage facility.  Cleburne was seriously wounded in the early stages of the Battle of Richmond.

Churchill, a Louisville, Kentucky, native, went on to serve in the Trans-Mississippi Department, serving under his former commander at Richmond, Lt. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Churchill, postmaster of Little Rock and politician, was elected state treasurer and later governor of Arkansas in the 1870s and 1880s.  He was buried in his Confederate uniform at his passing in 1905, and is buried in the Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock. 

For more information regarding the Battle of Richmond and Arkansas involvement, please call the Battle of Richmond Visitors Center at (859) 624-0013.

Sons of Confederate Veterans mark burials at University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff


The Pine Bluff Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans recently placed 14 monuments and markers in two historic cemeteries on the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff campus.

Evelyn Wright approached a member of the SCV, Edgar Colvin, and requested help marking some of her relatives’ graves and restoring the old historic Wright Cemetery located on the UAPB campus.  It was later learned that 37 individuals were moved to the Jane Oliver Cemetery in 1998 to make way for the Golden Lions Stadium. The cemetery was named for a black woman who acquired the Wright’s farm after the Civil War. According to Adam Robinson of Robinson Funeral Home of Pine Bluff, who supervised the relocation of these graves, they held the remains of children and adults that died in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Since these graves remained unmarked, the SCV decided to place a monument and four corner markers to mark their location. 

After contacting Dr. Lawrence Davis of UAPB and discussing the matter with him, Dr. Davis agreed that it was important to memorialize these historic sites.  Dr. Davis also stated it is important to remember our history and tragic mistakes so as not to repeat them in the future. 

Five monuments and four markers were placed in the Wright Cemetery that according to Evelyn Wright of Pine Bluff, who has done extensive genealogical research on the Wright family, was established with the death of Dr. Joseph J. Wright in 1854. The cemetery was located on the family farm that was patented in 1842 when Joseph Wright and his wife Elizabeth Tucker, who was born in North Carolina, settled in Jefferson County. The family home was located at the present day intersection of University Avenue and Jane Oliver Drive.  This location was also used as an encampment during the Civil War by Texas soldiers.

The SCV members raised the fallen marker of Dr. Joseph Wright, the early settler, and placed a monument to his wife Elizabeth Tucker.  She was born on June 18, 1811, and died August 5, 1865.  The group also placed monuments to mark the graves of Dr. Wright’s sons who served in the Confederate army during the Civil War. The sons were Lt. Joseph W. Wright and Pvt. Hartwell T. Wright who survived the war and lived until  the 1890s. A monument was placed to mark the grave of Mary R. Toney, wife of Hartwell Wright, who was born February 6, 1847, and died May 26, 1883.  Information on the markers also lists names of three other Wright children, but Ms. Wright is not certain if they are buried in the Wright Cemetery. 

The monuments were procured and some engraved by Edgar Colvin, a long-time historic preservationist from Pine Bluff. Colvin has placed monuments not only in Arkansas but also in Louisiana, Texas, Missouri and Mississippi.  He has been instrumental in the development of the Marks’ Mills Battlefield area near the Marks Cemetery and park at New Edinburg.