With thanks to Arkansas friends who sent us the following story from the Democrat-Gazette:
BY EVIN DEMIREL ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Nearly 5 tons and 10 feet long, the iron-banded cannon sitting on the front lawn of the Old State House Museum played a large role in keeping Arkansas in the Confederacy in 1862.
But not for long.
“The history of the Civil War can be traced in that cannon right there,” said Ron Kelley, 35, of White Hall, pointing past the Civil War re-enactors and spectators gathered Saturday to commemorate the 145th anniversary of the federal capture of Little Rock.
Kelley, a former president of the 100-member Civil War Roundtable of Arkansas, explained that by the spring of 1862 thousands of Arkansans had been summoned by the Confederacy for campaigns to the east.
Arkansas Gov. Henry Rector feared his state’s vulnerability to federal invasion and threatened to secede from the Confederacy if aid wasn’t given.
Kelley said that Confederate President Jefferson Davis sent the CSS Pontchartrain — with the cannon among its weapons — from New Orleans to appease Rector, who never did act to make Arkansas an independent state.
The black 8-inch cannon, which came to be known as Lady Baxter, was removed from the ship and later used to fortify Little Rock from invading federal troops in the summer of 1863.
It wasn’t enough. Little Rock fell on the evening of Sept. 10, 1863, after a Union victory at Fourche Dam Pike, a swampy area near what is now Little Rock National Airport, Adams Field.
Though it was known in the South as the Battle of Little Rock, none of the fighting occurred within the city limits. The North referred to the fight as the battle of Bayou Fourche.
Michael Croy, 57, of Little Rock said that there has only been one re-enactment of the Sept. 10 battle, and it was his first as a re-enactor. On the battle’s centennial in 1963, a bean farmer allowed around 200 re-enactors to use his field, recalled Croy, who estimated he’d fought in more than 200 re-enactments since.
Kelley, also a re-enactor, said he has found canister shot and musket pieces while walking around the original battle site.
“The ground’s always in motion around the river so it literally spits up cannonballs all the time. It’s the silliest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said.
The loss at Bayou Fourche sent Confederate troops and sympathizers streaming20southward from Little Rock after the battle, ceding the fourth Confederate capital to the Union. They established a new Confederate state capital in Washington in Hempstead County, where it stayed until the end of the war.
As federal forces amassed for the Little Rock campaign, Little Rock women of the 1st Arkansas Regiment Civilian Corps gathered into “Lint Societies,” said re-enactor Lisa Wisner, 26, of Maumelle, who was dressed in period costume at Saturday’s commemoration.
Pointing to a group of bonneted players in petticoats and hoop skirts sitting nearby, Wisner said the women rolled bandages, knitted socks and scarves and scraped lint from linen to create wadding that surgeons could use to dress wounds.
She said that the Arkansas Gazette advertised the ad hoc meetings in which dressings were prepared for the expected Confederate casualties.
Nowadays, with the safety precautions Croy said are observed at Civil War battle reenactments, there is no need to prepare such medical supplies. Still, re-enactors prepare in other ways.
Croy, who dressed as a Union artillery officer, with navy wool frock coat, red epaulets and red-striped pants and a steel artillery saber, stood near a 10-pound parrot gun — a cannon on wheels.
Eve n though Croy is a Southerner, he often portrays a Northerner — too few Northern re-enactors in the South is the cause, he said.
It also goes the other way.
His friend, Bill Farmer, 54, of Warren said that this year at Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania, he met about a dozen re-enactors representing the 1st Arkansas Infantry — from Great Britain.
And at the site of the First Battle of Manassas in Virginia two years ago, he helped about 24 other “Arkansan” infantrymen — from Rhode Island.
“We tried to help them with ‘ya’ll’,” Farmer said. “It’s real funny listening to somebody talk Southern with a Yankee twang.”