Encounter War!

Learning About the Civil War

Why is the Civil War so important?

The American Civil War was the most deadly and arguably the most important event in the nation's history. Sectional tensions enshrined in the Constitution erupted into a brutal war that cost over 600,000 lives and divided a nation in two. Slavery was a root cause of the conflict, and while the Thirteenth Amendment ended the practice at war's end, race relations continued to dominate American politics and society well into the future. The war also increased American economic power until it rivaled, and then surpassed, that of all other countries. And following the war, Americans had a new sense of being a part of a single nation instead of a group of states with their own foundations and histories.

Arkansas in the Civil War

While no comparison to the prosperous cities of the East, 1850s Arkansas was comfortable, pioneer-wise. Farming was the premier industry, from sustenance farming in the northwest corner of the state, to the small commercial farms along numerous waterways, to planter’s farms in the Delta. Slavery was a commonplace, with 20 percent of white people owning at least one slave. Arkansans were of the position that they “needed” slavery to survive. In order to grow the farms, additional labor was required. Since most were not effluent at all, slave labor was seen as the only means to accomplish that. Despite the wide presence of slavery in Arkansas, there was some loyalty to the United States, shown especially in March 1861 when the pro-slavery establishment took a stand against newly-elected President Abraham Lincoln’s desire to abolish the practice. In its initial vote, Arkansas chose to not join the Confederate States of America. The stipulation was agreed that if Lincoln’s Federal forces attacked C.S.A. territory, Arkansas would reconsider its vote. This would not take time to reconsider as in less than a month, Union troops attacked the Confederate fortification at Fort Sumpter, South Carolina. Word traveled fast back to Little Rock, where a new convention was held. This time, the conventioneers voted overwhelmingly (unanimous except for one vote- that of Isaac Murphy) to secede from the United States. The decision became official on May 6, 1861, at 4 p.m. Arkansas would leave the Union and join forces against her.

Even though Arkansas was wealthy from their standards, there wasn’t much that the state had to offer other than manpower, by way of slaves and white people alike. Unfortunately, since Arkansas was not seen as a valuable asset to the war, Confederate officials didn’t place as much emphasis on protecting the state as they did on territories east of the Mississippi River. Minor skirmishes popped up, but there was little loss of property or lives. This would change in March of the next year. Confederate troops, fresh off of a win at Wilson’s Creek in Southwest Missouri, were chased across the Arkansas border near Bentonville, where they faced a formidable Union force at Pea Ridge, and were defeated.

Union soldiers forced their way southward to the Arkansas River, and followed it along toward the Mississippi, confiscating supplies along the way from already war-ravaged villages, and releasing black slaves in the name of the United States. Many of these men would join Union forces against the Confederacy.

In May 1862, C.S.A. command sent Thomas Hindman, a prominent attorney and Democrat before the War, to Little Rock to re-establish government there. Hindman found a desolate city, war-shocked and pillaged. In response, Hindman ordered guerrilla warfare teams to attack Union forces. Unfortunately, they also attacked innocent civilians of all political positions. Because of these brutalities, Hindman was relieved of command. Hindman’s fighting days were not over, leading an early December 1862 force to fight Union near present-day Prairie Grove. The Federal forces overthrew Hindmen’s men, and Arkansas’ year of fighting in the war came to an end. 1863 began Arkansas’ entry into Reconstruction. Lincoln agreed to support government implementation and reconstruction of lost property as long as 10 percent of Arkansas voters from the 1860 election swore allegiance to the United States and agreed to emancipation of slaves, which would be accomplished in January 1864. Fighting between Confederate and Union forces continued, but all these minor spats did was to solidify the Federal position in Arkansas. Arkansas would pass it’s new constitution and ratify the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment in 1868, officially rejoining the United States.

Planters in the new Arkansas wanted to begin to rebuild the fortunes that they had lost, but with slavery being illegal, these men were forced to negotiate with the former slaves for trading of labor in exchange for a percentage of the crops. Sharecropping would remain popular for many decades after the war.

Let's See It For Ourselves

Trip to Pea Ridge National Military Park

Friday, Nov. 21st, 8:30am-3pm

15930 E Highway 62

Garfield, AR

The battle that decided whether Arkansas would remain a Confederate State or part of the Union, the Pea Ridge National Military Park visit will include stops at various field vantages of the fighting, as well as the museum and interactive video.

Lunch will be provided by The Short Stop Grill in Garfield. There is no cost for lunch or park entry. If snacks are desired, students should bring those with them. Water fountains are available throughout the museum.

Bus leaves the school parking lot PROMPTLY at 8:30am. We will return by 3pm (7th hour).

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Trip to Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park

Tuesday, Nov. 25th, 8:30am

506 E Douglas St

Prairie Grove, AR

The Civil War battle at Prairie Grove opened the corridor for Union forces to begin their journey toward Confederate strongholds along the Arkansas River. We will tour the museum, participate in question and answer sessions with the knowledgeable staff, watch informative videos on the battle, and then tour the battlefield site, including various buildings that still exist today.

Lunch is being provided by Subway Restaurant in Farmington.

There is no cost for the trip or lunch; if souvenirs or snacks are desired, they may be purchased at the museum.

Bus leaves the school parking lot PROMPTLY at 8:30am. We will return by 3pm (7th hour).

Civil War Re-enactors Needed!!!

If interested in playing out the Civil War battles of our area, contact Captain Jack Jones at jones.csa@yahoo.com

Your Instructor

Fun! Engaging! Informative!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can we take pictures? Absolutely! There is no restrictions at either park on photoraphy.

Do we get to shoot stuff? No. Students will not fire any weapons, however, the rangers and other trained staff may give us a demonstration.

Can my parents or a friend come on the trip? Unless your parent or other adult has been approved as a chaperone, we cannot accommodate guests on this trip.

What do I need to bring? If you want souvenirs or a snack (at Prairie Grove), you can bring a water bottle, a camera, notebook, pen, or just yourself. You will want to dress appropriately for walking around outdoors. This is expected to be a fun, informative trip.

Permission slips? Individual permission slips (one per trip) are being sent out on Friday, November 14th. These are due to Mr. Grotts no later than the day before the trip. Under no circumstance will a student be allowed to travel without a permission slip or by bringing it the morning of the field trip.

What if I don't want to or cannot attend the field trip? Those students who do not go on the trips will attend all of your regular classes and report to Mr. Hagan in Study Hall during the hour you have History. He will have your name and something for you to work on. If you do not report to Study Hall during your assigned period, you will be considered truant, and we will address that on my return.

What if we have more questions or need to reach the group in an emergency? Mr. Grotts may be reached by email at jgrotts@rps.k12.ar.us or at school (479) 631-3579. He may be reached in an emergency at (850) 450-2888. Our principal, Mrs. Steen, can also be contacted at the school number. She will be in constant contact with the group and our drivers.