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Exhibit traces Civil War history of state archives

Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin invites the public to view the fall Capitol exhibit, “Archives in Motion.” The display on the Capitol’s first floor tells the story of how Arkansas’ state records escaped, then returned to the capital city during the Civil War.

A century and a half ago, Union troops advanced into Arkansas while the Civil War raged across the South. In the summer of 1862, as the conflict edged westward, Gov. Henry Rector feared the Yankees would strike toward Little Rock from Searcy, so the state government moved temporarily to Hot Springs.

This move required the state’s archives to be removed from the capital city and sent to a safe place. Ultimately, the records were moved to Hot Springs. The round-about journey saw the archives loaded onto the steamboat Little Rock, shipped downriver, then back up as far as Dardanelle, loaded onto wagons, then transported around and through the Ouachita Mountains to Hot Springs.

After a short time in the Spa City, the records and government workers returned to Little Rock, this time via the long-established stagecoach road. In September 1863, the Confederate state government again fled – this time to the town of Washington, where it remained for the rest of the war. Parts of the archives of that day survive in the collections of the Arkansas History Commission and the Arkansas Secretary of State.

“Archives in Motion” is a collaboration between the Secretary of State’s office and the Arkansas History Commission. It features a selection of materials that may have made the long trip to Hot Springs in 1862. It will remain on display through Nov. 18.

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