By Emma Monzeglio ’24

Historical Context

As tensions were escalating in the United States in the years leading up to war, Arkansas was forced to confront the issue of the future of slavery. Although eighty percent of Arkansas’s population did not own slaves, Arkansas’s economy relied heavily on the institution especially in the counties closest to the Mississippi River where commercial cotton agriculture began to flourish. By 1860, one in four people was a slave, but slaves were mainly concentrated in the lowland regions of Arkansas where cotton flourished, rather than the highlands.

Map showing the distribution of the slave population of the southern states of the United States. Compiled from the census of Washington Henry S. Graham, 1861 (courtesy of the Library of Congress).

During the election of 1860, Lincoln’s name did not even appear on Arkansas’s ballots and John C. Breckinridge, the Democratic candidate won a majority of the vote. Arkansas however, hesitated to secede initially. In January of 1861, Governor Henry M. Rector called for an election so that the people could vote on delegates to attend the secession convention. The secession convention met on March 4th, 1861, in the Old State House in Little Rock. The convention lasted two and a half weeks and resulted in a vote to remain in the Union. Many Arkansans believed the state should secede only if the Federal government waged a war on the Confederate states. That moment arrived after Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina on April 12th, when Lincoln asked Arkansas to supply troops to force the seceded states to re- join the Union. Viewing the request as a direct assault on the Confederate states, Governor Rector rejected Lincoln’s call. The governor then sent state troops to seize the Fort Smith arsenal in Little Rock while regiments began organizing to fight for the Confederacy. On May 6, 1861, another secession convention was called and on May 20th Arkansas was admitted into the Confederacy.

            Arkansas regiments mainly fought in the western theatre. But the state’s most celebrated regiment was the 3rd Arkansas, which fought with the Army of Northern Virginia and participated in almost every major battle in the eastern theatre such as Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and the Wilderness. Interestingly, Arkansas also supplied the largest number of Union regiments of any Confederate state except Tennessee; unsurprisingly, these Union recruits were comprised mainly of men from the northern and northwestern regions of the state.

            The Civil War disrupted Arkansan civilians’ lives and left the state in utter chaos and disarray. In 1861, most of Arkansas’s troops were being sent east of the Mississippi River to join the Confederate Army of Tennessee, leaving many civilians fearful over their lack of protection. Union forces began targeting the state to gain control of the Mississippi River, which connected the two theatres of the war and supplied the Confederacy with essential goods. In February of 1862, Union forces in Missouri led by Brigadier General Samuel Curtis moved south towards Arkansas in hopes of pushing Confederate General Sterling Price out of southwestern Missouri. Price retreated into Arkansas with Curtis in hot pursuit. The Battle of Pea Ridge began on March 7th, when Price, Earl Van Dorn, and Benjamin McCulloch’s Confederate troops clashed with the Union forces near the plateau of Pea Ridge. The fighting raged for two days, ending on March 8th with a decisive Union victory that allowed the Union to clear the upper Mississippi Valley region—a critical step toward their eventual control of the Mississippi River in 1863. When the Confederates retreated in the wake of the battle to the east of the Mississippi, they seized all the available animals, arms, equipment, and ammunition, leaving the state’s civilians defenseless. Arkansas soon faced shortages of food and other necessary resources, and few areas of the state were able to sustain functioning civil governments amidst the disturbances of the war. Many individuals’ properties were destroyed, causing civilians and soldiers alike to wonder if the cause was worth the cost. 

            In the late summer, Arkansas’s statewide government began to crumble. The Secession Convention had reduced the governor’s term from four years to two, and with the presence of Federal troops in the area and a statewide financial crisis, Arkansas’s government was unable to take any significant government actions. Therefore, much of Arkansas’s major state decisions were thereafter made by military authorities. Major General Thomas C. Hindman attempted to reinstate structure and government in Arkansas in late 1862. Hindman had been transferred to Arkansas to control the Trans-Mississippi Department and later, due to his harsh leadership style, the Confederacy removed him from command. However, Hindman was still allowed to control the Arkansas District of the Trans-Mississippi Department. Hindman declared martial law, executed deserters, authorized the use of “partisan rangers” (bands of guerillas), and ordered the burning of all excess cotton that might fall into Union hands. The guerilla bands harassed Union supply lines and their detached units, as well as civilians from all political parties. Law and order began to completely break down when some guerilla fighters started using their new status in the Confederate army as a justification for violent settlement of old grudges.

            By the summer of 1863, the Confederacy needed a decisive victory in Arkansas to boost the state’s plummeting morale. Major General Theophilus Holmes, who replaced Thomas Hindman as commander of Arkansas, planned to seize Helena, a busy commercial and agricultural center along the Mississippi River that was occupied by the Union. The attack began on the morning of July 4th but the Confederates ultimately failed to take the city. This failure, combined with concurrent Confederate losses at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, proved yet another major blow to Confederate morale. By mid-August, Union forces seized Little Rock forcing Confederates to evacuate the city and abandon Fort Smith and Pine Bluff. The state’s capital then moved to the town of Washington, in the southwest region of the state. With the original capital of the state under Union control, the future of the Confederacy must have looked grim to many citizens, forcing them to wonder if defeat would be inevitable.

            In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction to re-establish the loyalty of some of the Confederate state governments to the Union. State governments could be recognized by the United States and receive financial aid if ten percent of the 1860 census voters took an Oath of Allegiance to the United States. Many counties in the northern half of Arkansas attempted to form a new, pro-Union Arkansas government, likely due to the fact that many of the counties in the northwest region harbored majority Unionist sentiments prior to secession. In addition, battles such as Prairie Grove, Pea Ridge, and Cane Hill had caused significant destruction in northern Arkansas, likely weakening many civilians’ commitment to a cause that had so blighted their land and livelihoods. Ultimately, forty-five delegates were elected to the new constitutional convention in Little Rock (which was still under Union occupation). The new constitution was ratified on March 14, 1864, and officially abolished slavery within loyal Arkansas. Isaac Murphy was elected as the new governor of the state and new legislators were chosen. Abraham Lincoln approved Arkansas’s new constitution, however the United States Congress never recognized it. Thus, the Trans- Mississippi military district dissolved the new constitution. Martial leaders continued to run the district until June 2, 1865. The chaotic and fractured political situation only perpetuated the state’s struggle to institute order and consistency with its leadership.

            Chaos and constant in-fighting would plague the state continuously through the post war years. Immediately following the war, many of the former planter elites regained control of their land and relied on sharecroppers for their labor force. To oversee these freed slaves who were working the land, the Freedmen’s Bureau began operations in Arkansas in June of 1865. In an attempt to restore the state’s prewar economic status, many planters looked to cotton as their primary money crop. But after two years of failed harvests, Arkansas’s economy continued to struggle. Additionally, with former Confederates once more rising to political power within the state, Governor Murphy’s efforts to prepare Arkansas for reunion were halted. In October of 1865, a Congressional election was held so that the state’s elected representatives could reassume their seats in U.S. Congress. However, Arkansas and other former Confederate States could not obtain Congressional representation until they ratified the 13th and 14th amendments, which did not occur until 1868.

            Once Radical Reconstruction began in 1867, the former Confederate states were organized into new military districts. Arkansas and Mississippi became the Fourth Military District, which fell under control of a military officer. Radical Reconstruction placed more pressure on Arkansas to adhere to the Federal government’s political demands. Under Federal policies, many of the former Confederates who had risen to power in the wake of the war were no longer eligible to hold state office. This prewar ruling class felt threatened by the new policies, as the state aristocracy’s former way of life had been destroyed with no visible path towards “redemption.” Tension between the former elites, the occupying United States forces, and newly freed African Americans grew. In January of 1868, seventy delegates gathered in Little Rock to draft another new state constitution. The delegates included seventeen men from outside the South and eight black men. The new constitution that emerged from the convention reflected the dawn of a new, progressive era in the state: The constitution ratified the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, permanently banning slavery, allowing freed blacks full civil and political rights (including suffrage for black males), establishing a free public education system, and scheduling a new election of state officials in March of 1868. On June 22, 1868, Arkansas officially became the second Confederate state to be readmitted into the Union.

            In response to the ratification of the 13th and 14th Amendments, as well as to blacks’ increasing civil and political rights, many southern states passed the Black Codes. Arkansas’s Black Codes in Arkansas prohibited freed blacks from attending school with whites and in 1867, Act 122 (called “An Act to Regulate the Labor System in This State”) was passed. This act required written labor contracts that could not be violated. For blacks working in the sharecropping system, the act legally bound them to the land, forcing them into perpetual state of exploitation.

            However, largely due to newly expanded black suffrage within the state, Powell Clayton, a Union cavalry officer from Kansas, was elected as the new governor. Clayton saw Reconstruction as an extension of the Civil War and actively sought to wrest control from still smarting former Confederates. He took advantage of the governor’s newly expanded appointive powers to appoint numerous Republicans to power and built a loyal base of political followers in the state legislature. Angered by Republicans’ growing political power, the disenfranchisement of ex- Confederates, and Republican control over state elections, many Democrats turned to extralegal means to gain control over the state government. One of the most famous extralegal groups was the Ku Klux Klan, which formed its first chapter in Arkansas in 1868. The Klan embarked on a campaign of terror and violence in all regions of the state, except for the northwestern counties. Although Klan groups in other states regularly terrorized southern whites who had held pro-Union sympathies, it is possible the Klan largely avoided the northwest counties due to the overwhelmingly large and formidable populace of Republicans and pro- Union residents there.

            In August of 1868, violence escalated, forcing Governor Clayton to organize a state militia; it had become nearly impossible to hold a legal election due to the Klan’s voter registration intimidation and violent aggression. Despite these challenges, Clayton was ultimately to ensure that the state’s electoral votes went to the Republican candidate for president. The day after the presidential election, Clayton declared ten counties under martial law, later extending it to four additional counties. Arkansas was then divided into four military districts where militiamen were posted to combat the Klan’s violence. During the next five months, the militia forces clashed with the Klan in the southeast, southwest, and northeast portions of the state. Marial law was only lifted in a county if Clayton believed law and order was securely established. On March 21, 1869, Crittenden County became the last county to have martial law lifted, marking the end to what became known as the Militia Wars. Governor Clayton had been successful in establishing secure Republican rule, moving the state in a powerfully progressive direction, and permanently ending the Militia Wars; however, in his efforts to do so he alienated significant portions of the Arkansas citizenry and sowed the seeds for a long legacy of bitterness between Arkansans.  

            After this foundational measure of law and order was restored in the state, Republicans attempted to bolster the still-struggling economy through the construction of 650 miles of railroad track and the creation of a free public school system. However, the program was plagued by corruption, lack of funds, mismanagement, and severe partisanship. In the spring of 1869, a schism within the Republican Party halted any further progress in the state. A group of “Liberal Republicans” had emerged in opposition to Clayton. They sought to end the corruption within his administration, limit Clayton’s powers, and immediately terminate all restrictions on ex- Confederates’ voting rights.

When Clayton left his gubernatorial post and became a U.S. senator in 1871, the fighting between the Liberal Republicans, Regular Republicans, and Democrats escalated. In 1872, the Liberal Republicans selected Joseph Brooks, a chaplain of the Fifty-Sixth U.S. Colored Infantry during the war, as their gubernatorial nominee. The Regular Republicans selected Elisha Baxter, who was a former state legislator and commanded a Union infantry regiment in the war, as their nominee. The election created such friction that by 1874 political chaos ensued once again in Arkansas with the “Brooks-Baxter War.” Following what became a highly contested and supposedly fraudulent 1872 gubernatorial election that had resulted in the rise to power of Elisha Baxter, fighting broke out in Little Rock between opposing militias that had supported the two Republican candidates, Elisha Baxter, and Joseph Brooks. President Ulysses S. Grant was forced to intervene, declaring his support for Baxter, and calling for the conflict to come to an end. A month after the conflict, the first statewide election allowing former Confederates was held. As a result, an overwhelming number of the newly re-enfranchised, former Confederate voters decided to hold yet another convention to make a new (and less stringent) state constitution. More than seventy of the ninety delegates elected to that convention were Democrats. The new constitution limited the governor’s power and was ratified in October of 1874. Democrat Augustus Garland was elected governor and the state legislature fell back under Democratic control, putting an official end to Reconstruction in Arkansas.

During the post-Reconstruction era, threats to Republicans’ former socio-political progress turned into realities. In 1891, a new election law was passed that required illiterate voters to have their ballots marked by an election judge. The law was created to intimidate poor whites and illiterate freed blacks from voting, allowing for more Democratic officials to be elected within the state legislature. As a result, the number of black politicians within the state legislature began to wane; the number of black members in the General Assembly in 1891 (eight) dropped sharply to zero members by 1893. The state legislature also passed the poll tax, which exacerbated the disenfranchisement of (largely poor) black voters. However, despite, these mounting challenges for blacks, a small black middle class did begin to rise in numerous towns. For example, Mifflin W. Gibbs, a black man, established himself as a well-known attorney in Little Rock, and in Menifee, Arkansas, an entire community of black landowners emerged. Though often difficult and frequently dangerous business, blacks began protesting their unfair treatment. Often, whites responded to black resistance through violence and demanded formal segregation in towns and cities. By February of 1891, the first of many segregation laws were passed with the “Separate Coach Law.” With the political disenfranchisement of large sectors of the black community, these laws were nearly impossible to prevent or overrun. 

The struggle for racial equality was far from over in Arkansas as the nation entered into the twentieth century. In the 1930s, African Americans began laying the groundwork for the Civil Rights movement that would begin, in full, in the 1950s. The New Deal also helped to create some new opportunities for African Americans: one of the country’s five National Youth Administration Camps opened in Arkansas where young African American women could take art classes and vocational classes. The WPA interviewed former slaves, beginning one of the Federal government’s first large-scale efforts to recognize and include African American history within the national history of the United States. In 1934, both whites and blacks founded the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union in Poinsette County, in the northeastern region of the state. The organization sought to reform the sharecropping and tenant farming systems and demonstrated that racially integrated institutions were actually possible. Additionally, William Harold Flowers, an African American lawyer, established the Committee on Negro Organizations (CNO) to expand voting rights for blacks. The CNO helped mobilize black voters to participate in the general elections, while also helping to raise black political consciousness. In 1942, increased black activism led to the appointment of eight black police officers in Little Rock. Still further, Silas Hunt helped pave the way for other black students to enroll in a university when he was admitted into the University of Arkansas; Hunt was the first African American to enroll in a university in the south without legal actions since the Reconstruction Era.

 In the wake of the Supreme Court’s seminal 1954 Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education ruling which determined that segregated schools were “inherently unequal” and thus unconstitutional, nine African American students enrolled in Central High School in Little Rock. In response, Arkansas’s defiant governor, Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the African American students from attending Central High School. President Eisenhower ultimately called in the 101st Airborne Division to ensure that the “Little Rock Nine” could enter the school safely and that the Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education ruling was upheld.

Nevertheless, things were still uneasy between the races within the state. Arkansas witnessed widespread Civil Rights protests throughout the 1960s including the famed “sit-in” movements initiated by the Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), as well as the Freedom Rides in 1961. These protests were met with harsh consequences such as heavy fines and jail sentences. However, through persistence, peaceful protests like sit-ins helped to end segregation in Little Rock, with a plan emerging to phase out segregation beginning in 1963. With these successes, groups like the SNCC moved deeper into the state to accelerate the Civil Rights activism in the Delta area of the state, which boasted a large black population; however, their efforts were met with intense white opposition. In the late 1960s, after Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, the Civil Rights movement in Arkansas took a more radical and militant turn. A conflict between protesters and police in the Pine Bluff area led to a shooting that resulted in four wounded African Americans. Then in 1969, nearly one-hundred black citizens marched to Benton’s City Hall after a restaurant owner shot and killed an African American teenager. The Civil Rights movement continued to spread throughout the state, yet despite the opposition it throughout the state, the mass movement demonstrated the significance and impact of African American mobilization, organization, and occasionally biracial cooperation to make necessary advancements.

As the Civil War’s one hundredth anniversary approached, many states, especially in the North began preparations for events in the mid 1950s. However, like many southern states, Arkansas was pre-occupied with the Civil Rights movement, which impeded the organization and communication necessary for a successful, coordinated commemoration; additionally, in the middle of planning, the Arkansas History Commission’s executive secretary, Ted R. Worley was hospitalized due to illness. It was not until 1958, with the creation of the Civil War Centennial Commission (CWCC), that planning became more unified and concrete plans were more solidified. Much of Arkansas’s celebrations centered merely around their pride of being a former Confederate State. In 1960, the state kicked off one of the first events of the centennial celebration with a reenactment of the Secession Convention at the Old State House. Heritage groups such as the Sons of the Confederacy and Daughters of the Confederacy were heavily involved in the events. In Little Rock, the UDC laid a memorial wreath on the grave of David O. Dodd, who was hung by the Federal forces for serving as a Confederate spy, and thus later served as a symbol of the “cruel injustice” of the Union Army.

Meanwhile, Arkansas’s governor, Orval Faubus and his wife held an exclusive Civil War-themed ball, decorated with decorations provided by the Daughters and Sons of the Confederacy, that helped to raise money for the CWCC’s Memorial Marker Fund. Markers were erected across the state at Civil War sites and numerous books were published about Arkansas’s role in the war. Battle reenactments such as that at Prairie Grove were staged. Efforts towards historical preservation began as well such, as the establishment of the Pea Ridge National Military Park. One of the final celebrations of the centennial was the erection of a monument dedicated to the Arkansas troops who served with the Army of Northern Virginia on the Gettysburg battlefield—a conscious attempt to yoke the history and heritage of this somewhat overlooked “western theatre” state with that of Robert E. Lee’s ever-glorified “defenders” of the eastern theatre. As with pervious commemorative events, this capstone event sought to emphasize the state’s integral connection with and prominence within the Confederacy and to further inculcate Confederate pride amongst contemporary Arkansas.  

Today, the state still prides itself on its Confederate heritage, and the memory of the Civil War hangs heavily upon numerous regions of the state. However, tensions between the “old guard” of “Confederate-proud” Arkansans and more progressive Arkansans are growing. For example, in April of 2021, the state legislature passed a bill to replace state’s Confederate Flag Day with a day honoring the state’s history.  With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, there have been increasing calls to removed Confederate monuments across the state, with many supporters believing that such monuments were erected to primarily to intimidate African Americans and assert white power and authority. In 2020, two monuments were relocated to private property, and two monuments were removed altogether. Others have pushed back against such efforts, claiming that the monuments represent their familial heritage and the martial valor of Arkansas troops (among other notions), and not simply white supremacy. In response to these disputes and the calls from monuments’ defenders, Arkansas’s state senator, Mark Johnson, created SB 514 “Arkansas Heritage Protection Act” in 2019, which ensured the preservation of monuments on public property that commemorate multiple military conflicts, like the Civil War. The bill did not pass, but in April 2021, a similar bill, SB 553, passed in both state Senate and House, protecting monuments from vandalism and damage.

Controversy has also swirled regarding the current flag of Arkansas, as Confederate sentiment still proudly manifests itself in the state flag. The current flag of Arkansas was approved in 1913. Originally, the flag had three stars in the center to represent that Arkansas was the third state created from the Louisiana Territory. The three stars also symbolized the three nations that had ruled over Arkansas over the previous 125 years: France, Spain, and the United States. Eventually, in April of 1924, a lone star was added to commemorate Arkansas’s membership in the Confederate States of America. There are currently twenty-five stars bordering the central diamond to represent that Arkansas was the twenty-fifth state to enter the Union.

Flag of Arkansas (courtesy of the Encyclopedia Britannica)

Overview of Results

Many of Arkansas’s 39 Confederate monuments are dispersed throughout the state; however, most seem to be concentrated in the interior of the state, with minimal monuments in the western portion. Only four monuments are located in the far west (about 10%) and only five are located on the eastern border.

Of the 39 monuments erected in Arkansas 25 were erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (roughly 64%).  33 of the 39 monuments (85%) were erected by the UDC, Sons of Confederate Veterans, or the United Confederate Veterans combined. These heritage group-sponsored monuments were erected in roughly geographical proportion to the state’s total geographic distribution of Confederate monuments.

Only one monument was erected in 19th-century Arkansas. The monument was erected by the Sons of the Confederacy and the United Daughters of the Confederacy on courthouse grounds in Crawford County.

In the first decade of the 20th century, nine monuments were erected and nearly half (4 monuments) were built on courthouse grounds.

Six new monuments were erected from 1910 to 1920, mainly in the eastern parts of the state with many of the monuments located on courthouse or government grounds.

Seven Confederate monuments were built during the 1920s, four which were erected in Little Rock alone. All seven of the monuments were put up by heritage groups such as the Sons of the Confederacy and Daughters of the Confederacy.

Six monuments, located mainly in the far eastern region of the state, were erected in the 1930s. All six of these monuments were erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy.

Only 3 monuments were erected during the Civil Rights and Civil War Centennial eras, with no monuments erected in the 1950s. Two monuments were put up in 1964—one by the UDC to Jefferson Davis in Dardanelle (center of Arkansas) and the other erected by an “unknown” individual or group that had no specific honoree (in Prescott which is southwestern Arkansas). The third monument was erected in 1969 at the Pea Ridge battlefield as a Texas memorial to Texas troops who had fought there and was funded by the state of Texas.

Only one monument was erected in the late 20th century (1986). The Sons of Confederate Veterans installed this monument in Boone County, to commemorate Confederate veterans as a general group.

30 of Arkansas’s 39 monuments (77%) have no specific honoree. Of the monuments that commemorate a specific honoree, two are dedicated to Jefferson Davis, one is dedicated to Robert E. Lee, one is to Stonewall Jackson; and the rest are dedicated to various officers who lead Arkansas regiments.

38% (15 of the 39 monuments) of Arkansas’s monuments are located on courthouse grounds; and 3 monuments stand on government office grounds in Little Rock alone. One of the monuments on government office grounds is dedicated to David Owen Dodd, a 17-year-old who was accused of and executed for spying for the Confederacy during the Civil War; that monument has since been removed from its original position in Little Rock in June, 2020. The remaining monuments on government office grounds are all in Little Rock as well and are dedicated to Confederate POWs and Confederate women.

Analysis of Results

Many of the early monuments erected in Arkansas were put up in the first third of the twentieth century. During this time, the population of Civil War soldiers was waning, which renewed public interest in preserving of the Civil War fighting generation. Specifically, Arkansans desired to commemorate in perpetuity, and for future generations of Arkansans in particular, the sacrifice and bravery of the state’s native sons. Some of these monuments were erected at Confederate cemeteries in places such as Little Rock and Fayetteville. Arkansas’s first Confederate monument was erected in 1899 in the Fairview Cemetery and was moved eight years later to the Crawford County courthouse grounds in order to occupy a more prominent location. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) who sponsored the monument to commemorate the bravery and local Confederates who had sacrificed their lives for the Confederate cause. They chose the Fairview Cemetery because it was the burial ground for over four hundred Confederates. Similarly, many other Confederate states’ earliest monuments were erected in cemeteries during the 1870s and 1880s. It is likely that Arkansas was late to constructing these fist monuments due to the unique fragility and disorganization of their state government, economic collapse, and the Militia War and Brooks Baxter War. However, once the state began erecting monuments, memorialization efforts took off, largely due to the efforts of the UDC. 

It was the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s goal to preserve the memory of those who fought for what they deemed a “cause so holy and as just” by erecting monuments dedicated to Confederates. Women led the charge to perpetuate Confederate memory and Lost Cause rhetoric because they were deemed “apolitical” and thus “safe.” The UDC aspired to transform the Confederate cause from a military defeat to a cultural victory. They sought to inoculate future generations to believe in a romanticized image of the south with a “benevolent” planter class that cared and worked with enslaved peoples, and with Confederate men fought so honorably, and bravely, even if hopelessly, for the preservation of states’ rights in the face of an aggressive, tyrannical federal government that wished to impose racial anarchy upon the nation.  The rhetoric carefully sought to cloak the reality that the secession conventions on the eve of war made it clear that they must secede and go to war in order to fight to preserve the institution of slavery, the supremacy of whites. Although their mission began with seemingly “harmless” commemoration and memorialization of the Confederate dead, the UDC quickly expanded its efforts to include the authoring of prescriptive literature on the war, from strictly Lost Cause perspective, for southern schoolchildren, to the dedication of significantly more “political” monuments that exalted the Confederate cause while sharply critiquing the “injustices” and “cruelty” of the “Yankee invaders.”

            It is important to note that, in addition to the state’s Confederate monuments, four Union monuments were constructed in Arkansas. Three of the four Union monuments were erected in the early twentieth century. The Minnesota monument in Little Rock was built in 1916 to commemorate Minnesota soldiers who died in Arkansas. The monument was erected in the Little Rock National Cemetery where thirty-six of the one hundred and sixty-two Minnesota soldiers that died in Little Rock in 1863 are buried. The Grand Army of the Republic monument in Gentry Cemetery was built in 1918, and the Grand Army of the Republic monument in Siloam Springs was erected in 1928. Interestingly, the first Union monument, which was installed in Judsonia, Arkansas, was erected in 1894, meaning that it predates the first Confederate monument (erected in 1899). The Judsonia monument is also unique because it is located in the center of the state where support for the Union was not particularly strong. However, in the 1870s, many northerners migrated south to Judsonia to attend the new Christian school, Judson University, established by Martin R. Forey of Chicago. Forey purchased two hundred and fifty acres to build the campus and additional housing to entice northerners to migrate to Arkansas. The increase in northern migration thus planted the seeds for pro-Union sentiment in the town during the postwar years. Additionally, it is likely that this monument was erected before the first Confederate monument because its sponsor, the Grand Army of the Republic, was able to secure funds more quickly, as the northern economy had not been nearly as decimated as that of the South. Not surprisingly, two of the Union monuments stand in the historically Unionist stronghold located in the northwestern corner of the state, in Siloam Springs and Gentry, Arkansas. Moreover, nearly all of the dedication ceremonies of the Union monuments convey reconciliationist overtones. All but one of the dedication ceremonies for these Union monuments had veterans from both the North and the South help to unveil the new monuments, conveying the sentiment of brother coming together with brother. However, it is important to note the iconography of every monument describes solely the bravery and honor of the Union soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the preservation of the Union. The monument in Siloam Spring is the only Union monument that did not have Confederates at the dedication ceremony. It is possible that many of the Confederates had passed away by its dedication in 1928; however, it is more likely that the monument was considered too controversial for any remaining Confederate veterans to stomach. It was erected to honor the Grand Army of the Republic post in Arkansas, which included many African American members, and was later controlled by whites who were uncomfortable with the growing power of the Southern Democratic party. Like the Confederate monuments, the Siloam Springs monument seems to have been erected to help symbolically perpetuate Union authority and sentiment in the northwest region of the state.

Much of the Confederate monumentation in Arkansas is concentrated in the center of the state, especially surrounding the capital of Little Rock, as well as on the eastern border, along the Mississippi River where the economy was reliant on the slave labor and large-scale plantations. During the beginning of the twentieth century, African American populations in the middle of the state and along the Mississippi River increased. In fact, the vast majority of monuments located in or near the northwest region of the state are located strictly on or around the battlefields like Prairie Grove and Pea Ridge—not in town squares and courthouse grounds—since the northwest had the lowest population of slaves and was mostly pro-Union during the Civil War thus, it would only make sense for the few monuments in this region to be confined strictly to areas on which Confederate soldiers actively battled. It is also, therefore, no surprise that most of the monuments erected by the UDC are concentrated in the areas that boasted higher African American populations and plantations, as the UDC’s monuments mainly catered to the white populations in those areas, preserving those locations’ culture and historical memory that whites themselves had often fabricated, and which was perceived as necessary for staving off the “threats” of rising black power in the wake of the war.

Hot Springs Confederate Monument (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Confederate monument in Hot Springs is one example of the UDC’s classic Lost Cause approach to monumentation. Erected in 1934 by the UDC, the monument’s fundraising campaign dates back to 1913. The UDC chapter president, C.M. Roberts stated early on in the process that the chapter had not chosen a location for the monument but wanted it in a “prominent” spot so that it could be admired by those who visit Hot Springs. Twelve years later, when the group has raised sufficient funds had finally been raised, the monument was slated for installation in Landmark Plaza, where African American men had been lynched in 1913 and in 1922—clearly a politically laded location on which to erect such a monument.

“Virgil, quick come see” (courtesy of the Arkansas Times)

Some monuments were also erected with the purpose of promoting the Lost Cause as a whole. An examination of the dedication speeches for certain monuments reveals a clear intention to purify the Confederate cause. The Confederate Soldiers Monument erected in 1905 in Little Rock is a prime example. The monument was erected collectively by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, United Confederate Veterans, and the state of Arkansas. In the dedication speech delivered by Colonel Asa S. Morgan, a former Confederate veteran, Morgan states, “the Confederate cause…is not a lost cause, nor will the Confederate soldier be forgotten” due to their “heroic courage…beat back from their homes and firesides the serried ranks of their ruthless and overwhelming invaders.” Colonel Asa S. Morgan outwardly demonized the North condemning them as “invaders” while promoting the nobility of the Confederate cause and bravery of Confederate soldiers who fought stoically in the face of inevitable defeat. His speech thus casts the men to whom the monument is dedicated as martyrs and victims who died in the service of a uniquely honorable and doomed cause—the roots of which (southern slavery) are absent entirely from the speech.

Although it might come as a surprise to some who associate Arkansas regiments predominantly with the warfare of the western theatre, it is fitting that of the state monuments’ few specific honorees, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are depicted. As the 3rd Arkansas Infantry served with distinction in the Army of Northern Virginia, these monuments seek to emphasize the proud connection Arkansas had with the eastern theatre and some of the most celebrated and important figures in Confederate history. Additionally, the two monuments of Jefferson Davis, one erected in 1903 and the other in 1961 (both by the UDC) also highlight Arkansas’s integral role and pride in the larger Confederate war effort. 

It is important to note that 77% of these Confederate monuments do not have a specific honoree, but rather honor a collective group like POWs, Confederate women, or simply the common men who fought. These monuments portray Arkansas as a unified state, where every common man and woman honorably supported the Confederacy; however, this could not be further from the truth. Both during and after the war, Arkansas suffered from brutal political and racial tension and infighting that often times led to vicious outbreaks of violence. Thus, although the intentions behind the creation of each of these monuments are varied, their collective statement about the fabric of the Confederate and post-war Arkansas is seductively romantic and tinged with the Lost Cause overtones.

The fact that many of the state’s first monuments were erected in the time between 1900 and 1930 in Arkansas could be due, in part, to the reality that like many southern states’, Arkansas’s economy had been decimated by the war and it simply did not have the funding to erect monuments immediately after its end. The westward expansion of the railroad in the postbellum era helped to facilitate urbanization of parts of Arkansas that previously had been regarded as the frontier. The new infrastructure thus helped to improve the economy and connect the state to outside resources such as money for (and the prioritization of) memorialization efforts.

Additionally, the early twentieth century correlates with the Jim Crow era in the South. It is likely that some monuments were erected to promote white supremacy amidst fears that black southerners would try to wrest social and political power away from whites by taking advantage of the freedoms and civil rights accorded to them by Reconstruction-era amendments. Given Arkansas’s bitter disputes and deep divisions both within and between political parties throughout the Reconstruction era and early twentieth century, it is highly likely that at least some of these monuments were utilized as instruments for expanding and solidifying the socio-political power of Confederate-sympathizing white southerners and Democratic politicians.

Additionally, the uptick of monumentation (with eight new monuments) in the early twentieth century should also be considered within broader, international context. It is possible some of these monuments were erected in reaction to the Spanish American War, during which time inter-sectional reconciliation through shared celebration of the “patriotic” and martial valor of Americans of all stripes was both desires and needed for a showing of national strength and unity toward international threats. These monuments highlight the historic willingness of Arkansan men to fight for perceived principles of liberty and independence. During the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Department of War asked the state of Arkansas to provide two regiments to fight in the war. However, Arkansas however, had no organized guard to send. Despite these and other challenges, Arkansas’s government eventually mustered two regiments, mainly comprised of volunteers. Although neither regiment engaged in combat, the uptick in monumentation could been stoked by a renewed fervor to celebrate the martial accomplishments of the state. That Arkansas did manage to raise two regiments raised for the Spanish American War represented, to many proud Arkansans, the eagerness of their men to take up arms and fight for an honorable cause. In addition, still more Arkansans fought in other regiments like Roosevelt’s famed Rough Riders, while Stokeley Morgan, a sailor from Arkansas, was thought to have fired the first shot of the Spanish American War. The enthusiasm generated from these contemporary achievements on the battlefield no doubt renewed the state’s interests in promoting and memorializing its previous martial accomplishments.

Van Buren Confederate Monument, erected 1899, Van Buren, Arkansas (courtesy of

monuments were built from 1911 to 1914 alone, with the sixth monument built in 1917. These monuments are mostly to nonspecific honorees and stand on courthouse or government office grounds. Given their unique geographical clustering, these monuments may have been a reaction to the large black migrations occurring northward through Arkansas from the Deep South during this time period which saw many African Americans were seeking new employment opportunities that were emerging from the demands of World War I. By 1914, twenty thousand new African Americans had migrated to Arkansas. Whites living in areas along the Mississippi River and around Little Rock viewed the increase of the African American population as a threat; in turn they attempted to use both official legal means and intimidation, as well as symbolic statements about white power and the enduring influence of former Confederate leaders, to reassert their claims over political processes and local government to black as well as their progressive white rivals. Such symbolic statements were often made in stone, and on the grounds of powerful government and legal institutions. Many of the monuments constructed between 1911 to 1917 reflect the geographical pattern of black migration and white backlash, with the monuments being concentrated in the middle-to -southeastern portion of the state.

Another possible factor for this particular boom was the arrival of the Civil War Semi-Centennial in 1911. As this anniversary drew increased reflection on the war and war veterans were rapidly dying out, individuals across the South looked for a way both to celebrate their heroes’ “valor under fire” and to properly memorialize their scarifies in perpetuity. A wave of new monuments would have proved just the fitting tribute to both the war and to the state’s aging veterans during the 50th anniversary.

It was not until the mid 1920s that the state saw another surge of monumentation. World War I had initially helped boost Arkansas’s economy, with the growing lead and zinc mining industries and the proliferation of factories that were built to produce military weapons. Additionally, as demand increased for cotton due to the need for bandages and uniforms, cotton prices also increased in Arkansas, filling up the state’s much-depleted coffers early on. However, much of the state’s energy and attention was directed across the ocean during the second half of the 1910s, when scores of Alabama’s own male population was fighting and dying in droves on the battlefield. By the 1920s, the war had ended, and the state found its coffers still fuller than before with funds that could at last be dispensed for monumentation. Additionally, the war had also depleted the young male population, not only in Arkansas but across the country, that many Arkansans began to once more reflect upon the desire to memorialize their martial past and the sacrifices of so many of their native sons throughout history. Like in many southern states, the hearts of Arkansans also may well have swelled towards a celebration of American patriotic valor on the battlefield as a whole, with an emphasis on the distinct contribution of southerners—and Arkansan males in the Confederacy, in particular—to the achievement of contemporary American military prowess around the world.

However, it is important to note that in the wake of the war, many whites viewed African Americans joining the (segregated) ranks in World War I as a threat. Of the seventy-two thousand Arkansas soldiers who served in World War I, over eighteen thousand were African Americans. After the war, African Americans across the country hoped their duty and service to their nation would improve their place in society and their civil rights within southern states, especially. However, hostilities only increased between whites and African Americans in the post-World War I years. Tensions grew as African Americans demanded equality, while many whites pushed back on any civil rights progress made during the war. As a result, racial violence increased in Arkansas. Therefore, it is also likely that some of the Confederate monuments erected during this period were put up to promote white superiority and further intimidate African American communities.

It is remarkable that during the Great Depression six monuments were erected in Arkansas. The effects of the stock market crash in 1929 were slow to reach Arkansas, as many agricultural workers were already suffering from low wages and decreasing cotton and grain prices, which began in the 1920s. However, eventually the state too, fell full victim to the Depression. Additionally, floods and tornados from 1927 to 1929 caused poor harvest seasons which were only exacerbated beginning in 1930 with the worst drought in Arkansas’s history. Farmers struggled to purchase food for their families and could not take out loans from banks, since many had closed due to the depression. The federal government and Red Cross provided aid to the state attempting to alleviate some of the suffering. As a result, of their resilience under so much suffering, a renewed sentiment of “Arkansas pride” belief spread among many citizens who embraced their rough-and-tough character and saw hope with the onset of federal aid. Indeed, they even vowed to save up money to eventually pay back organizations like the Red Cross to prove to other states the distinct strength perseverance, and independence of Arkansans as a people. The reemergence of this unique brand of state pride might possibly account for the 1930spike in monumentation, during which time Arkansans sought a distraction from their struggles, inspiration from their martial past, and reaffirmation of their state’s individual identity and history through its abiding, collective connection to the “honor” and “former glory” of the Confederacy.

After the 1930s, Confederate monumentation slowed significantly with no monuments constructed in the 1940s and 1950s. It is surprising that World War II did not cause a renewal of monument-building, considering other southern states’ desire during that time to re-commemorate and celebrate the unique history and martial honor of Confederate soldiers within the broader context of America’s more contemporary wars. The war-time economics boom also would have yielded the financial resources to fund such memorialization projects, yet none took place. It is possible that Arkansans were distracted by the war and that their resources and manpower were too badly needed elsewhere to support the war effort and post-war recovery. Only three monuments were erected in the 1960s, all of which appear to have been inspired by the resurgence of interest in Civil War history and memory with the war’s centennial. Arkansas still strongly felt the need and desire to connect their states, still often overlooked role in the war to larger history and memory of the Confederacy as a whole, and they did so particularly by highlighting the military bravery and honor of their solders. The 1960s monuments were constructed on either battlefield in 1964, or with direct reference to the bravery of all Confederates (clearly toking Arkansas to other more celebrated Confederate states), as is true with the Confederate War Memorial in Prescott Arkansas, dedicated in 1969. Considering the state’s troubled and highly volatile racial history, it is quite surprising that Arkansas did not turn to Confederate monumentation during the height of the Civil Rights movement to help stoke renewed interest in the former Confederacy’s emphasis on white supremacy and attempt to rebut the political and legal gains made by the state’s black population through symbolic re-claims to white power. Perhaps the state was simply too preoccupied fighting those battles in the actual courtrooms, classrooms, and street cars to spend any remaining energy on costly monumentation efforts that were merely symbols of white backlash, not actual combatants against racial progressivism. 

Texas State Monument on the Pea Ridge Battlefield, erected 1964 (courtesy of the Civil War Muse)

A multitude of factors could have contributed to the sharp decline of Confederate monumentation, which started in the 1970s and continues into the twenty-first century. The economic centers in Arkansas were no longer concentrated in the middle-to-southeastern portions of the state. The first Walmart was established in Benton County, in the far northwestern region of the state, and the success of Tyson Chicken’s success was growing in Springdale which is just south of Benton County. As the success of these businesses grew over the years, the demographics and Arkansas and its cultural makeup changed. The population grew significantly, with people from all over the country moving to Arkansas for job opportunities. By the 1990s, Arkansas led the U.S. in the growth of the Latino population. Latinos helped open new businesses and stores, paving the way for more immigrant communities. These key changes in the economy and state demographics could have contributed to the decrease in monumentation as the population no longer catered to the “old guard’s” history. This is not to say that belief in the Lost Cause and a strong sentimental connection to the Confederacy altogether disappeared, but rather it simply took another form of preservation rather than monumentation. Groups like many United Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of the Confederacy chapters continue to help perpetuate the Lost Cause through their vocal defenses of the Confederacy (and its monuments) that center almost entirely on honoring their “forefathers,” without much critical analysis or explanation of the root causes of the war. Vague and rudimentary defenses such as these oversimplify both Confederate history and the complex context of the monuments, which cannot be, as a whole, reduced merely to “heritage.” Additionally, when many of these groups do venture into discussions of Confederate history, they often continue to separate the Confederacy from anything deemed “offensive”: They promote the interpretation that the war was over states’ rights, not slavery, through education groups like the Children of the Confederacy youth group. However, it is undeniable that the Confederacy fought for the states’ rights to own slaves. Additionally, groups like the UDC continue to use Lost Cause rhetoric such as “the war between states.” Although subtle, this rhetoric continues to imply that the war was a war of “northern aggression” where the South “justifiably” sought to maintain their rights and liberties. Frequently, these groups make little mention of the Confederate States seceding from and taking up arms against the United States, which were considered unconstitutional and treasonous acts; when they do make reference to secession, it is often its glowing tribute to the bravery and moral fortitude of the Confederates states who seceded.

In 1986, one final monument was constructed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans in the town of Harrison, in northwest Arkansas. This monument is particularly unusual, as it is not constructed on a battlefield and is in the northwestern portion of the state, which long lacked any strong Confederate sentiment. Upon closer examination, it is clear that the creation of this monument was an act to perpetuate Lost Cause sentiment within the region that had long turned its back on such rhetoric, with an inscription stating that, from Arkansas’s “broken fortunes, she has preserved for her children the priceless treasure of their memories, teaching all who may claim the same birthright that truth, courage, and patriotism endure forever.” “Truth” referencing the Lost Cause narrative’s notion of “states’ rights” and the “defense of honor in the face of tyranny” as the true cause of the war, and not slavery; “courage” references the unique valor of southern soldiers who fought honorably in the face of overwhelming numbers and resources; and “patriotism” referring to a celebrated and enduring devotion to states’ rights, the notion of “state” as country, and the idea that southern soldiers were the “true” embodiment of American patriotism in the war—a brand of patriotism that should continue to define and inspire future generations. It is possible that the monument was erected as a backlash to the growing immigrant population and incoming tide of citizens from northern states that moved into the region during the late 20th century. Thus ended (for the time being) Arkansas’s registering, in stone, their Confederate pride and historically inspired, contemporary political and social agendas.

Confederate Veterans Monument, Boone County, Arkansas, erected 1986 (courtesy of the Historical Marker Database)


Arkansas’s Confederate monuments provide an interesting insight on the diversity of ways in which the Civil War is remembered and commemorated in the state, as well as on the enormously complicated political scene that existed in the state during and long after the war. Most of the monuments memorialize the common soldier’s sense of duty, honor, and bravery. However, it is not shocking that of the specific honorees Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis are represented as a way to connect Arkansas to the most recognized leaders of the Confederacy and provide the state with martial legitimation.

The state has a unique geographical pattern of monuments that reflects the Arkansas’s history of bitter infighting. The Confederate monuments are concentrated in areas with historically high African American populations and Democratic-leaning areas, whereas the pro-Union and highland areas of Arkansas have little Confederate monumentation at all (except on battlefields).

Arkansas demonstrates the significant complexities, both expected and unexpected nuances, and both explainable and somewhat inexplicable patterns of Civil War monumentation and memory. Civil War monuments, anywhere, cannot fit neatly into one or two interpretations, but rather they present a kaleidoscopic lens into how memory is constantly evolving, debated, and is shaped by what is happening on the ground level. In some instances, they prove remarkably revealing of social and political trends at the time they were erected, and at other times they can mystify or confuse with their presences, absences, and myriad layers of interpretation and intentions. In Arkansas, monuments initially were used to commemorate the sacrifices of those who died in battle and of an aging veteran populace whose valorous contributions and inspirations Arkansans sought to re-produce in stone when those men were no longer around in flesh and blood. But over time, some monuments were clearly erected to reassert white supremacy and intimidate African Americans who were gaining more civil rights and social opportunities; other times, they were used as a powerful tool to perpetuate various elements of the Lost Cause myth and the notion of unquestioned Confederate unity throughout the war. They could also serve as a source of state pride, martial inspiration, and “character building” for Arkansans during times of war or struggle, such as the Spanish American War, World War I, and the Great Depression. During important anniversaries of the war, such as the centennial, they served as the outlets for renewed fervor and interest in Civil War history and preservation of historical memory.

 It is impossible to fully unpack the meaning and significance of each monument without examining every dedication speech, ceremony, patrons, and specific location within the broader context of local, national, and international currents. In addition, the research herein has its limitations, as the basic data is largely supplied provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which cannot verify the exact location of each monument, and (as in the case of other southern states’ monument records), the data provided may not account for a dull record of all Confederate monuments within the state. However, this map report still reveals important patters and complexities that is critical to the future unpacking of Confederate monuments as a whole.

NameCreatorDate Valid ForDescriptionHyperlink
Arkansas CountiesT.I.G.E.R.2022Shapefile representing Arkansas’s counties.Link
Whose Heritage Master SheetSouthern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)2022Google Sheets dataset containing name, location, date of dedication, and other available information of all Confederate monuments across the United States.Link

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