Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission

Arkansas took its first step toward observing the 150th anniversary of the Civil War as Act 635 of the 86th Arkansas General Assembly created the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.

Under the legislation, the purpose of the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission is to:

  1. promote a suitable statewide observance of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War;
  2. cooperate and assist national, state and local organizations with programs and activities suitable for the sesquicentennial observance;
  3. assist in ensuring that any observance of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War is inclusive and appropriately recognizes the experiences and points of view of all people affected by the Civil War; and
  4. provide assistance for the development of programs, projects, and activities on the Civil War that have lasting educational value.

The Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission has the following duties:

  1. plan, develop, and carry out programs and activities appropriate to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War era and encourage the development of programs that ensure the commemoration results in a positive legacy and has long-term public benefits;
  2. encourage interdisciplinary examination of the Civil War;
  3. facilitate Civil War related activities throughout the State;
  4. encourage civic, historical, educational, economic, and other organizations across the State to organize and participate in activities to expand the understanding and appreciation of the significance of the Civil War;
  5. coordinate and facilitate the public distribution of scholarly research, publications, and interpretation of the Civil War; and
  6. provide technical assistance to local organizations and nonprofit organizations to further the commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

To fulfill those duties, the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission adopted the following mission statement:

The Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission will seek to support a statewide observance of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War that is educational, comprehensive and inclusive; that tells the story of the Civil War in Arkansas without making judgments about the actions and motivations of the people who took part in the war; and that stresses the relevance to Arkansawyers today by promoting local observances and acknowledging the impact the Civil War had on modern Arkansas. The commission shall achieve this goal by:

1) Sanctioning events around the state (re-enactments, symposia, etc.) that are appropriate observances of the Sesquicentennial

2) Promoting historic sites around the state that are connected to the Civil War through educational efforts (brochures, websites, etc.)

3) Promoting publications and archival collections connected to the Civil War in Arkansas and advocating donations of materials to appropriate repositories

4) Promoting local observances that tell the local story

5) Supporting efforts to teach and research Arkansas Civil War history in the state's schools and universities

6) Supporting efforts to preserve and interpret the state's Civil War sites and documentary heritage and artifacts

7) Ensure that the sesquicentennial commemoration includes ALL Arkansans.

Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission Annual Themes

The Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission has developed interpretive themes for each year of the observance of the 150th anniversary of the war to provide guidance to local governments, historical societies, museums and other organizations as they begin planning local events. The themes are:

2011: "Why Commemorate the Civil War?"

As we enter the 150th anniversary of a war that changed the social, economic and political nature of Arkansas forever, it is vitally important to reflect on the reasons for war and its impacts. It is even more important to explore the relevance of the events of 1861-1865 to us as a people a century and a half after the close of hostilities.

2012: "A Divided Arkansas"

War came to Arkansas in 1862 as Union armies invaded the northwest portion of the state and Confederate leaders authorized formation of bands of guerrilla fighters to oppose them. Families were split as members chose allegiance to the Union or the Confederacy while other Arkansawyers simply tried to stay out of it. It became apparent that every community in the state would be affected by the war.

2013: "Big War, Little War"

Thousands of Arkansas soldiers were shipped to fight battles east of the Mississippi River, while thousands of Union soldiers occupied Arkansas. The theme focuses on the anguish of those serving far from home and the hardship faced by those who stayed behind, as well as the choices faced by the state's African-American population as they decided whether to remain with their owners or escape to Union lines.

2014: "Under Two Governments"

The people of Arkansas faced unparalleled hardship during 1864 as food and other supplies dwindled and much of Arkansas existed in a lawless state. Roving bands of armed men killed and stole with impunity as both Union and Confederate governors sought to conduct the business of the state.

2015: "Emancipation and Reconstruction"

As the war wound down, the Confederate armies surrendered and soldiers returned to a blighted landscape and Union rule. Slavery officially ended in the state as Arkansas ratified the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on April 14, 1865.

Click here to read the legislation that created the ACWSC.

Click here to read the minutes of the ACWSC's meetings.

The following members, or their designees, were appointed to the commission through Act 635 of 2007:

  • Carolyn Ashcraft, director of the Arkansas State Library
  • Bill Gatewood, director of the Old State House Museum
  • Richard Davies, director of the Department of Parks and Tourism
  • Mark Christ of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Department of Arkansas Heritage
  • Timothy Nutt, representing the Arkansas Historical Association
  • Dushun Scarborough, chairman of the Martin Luther King Commission
  • Dr. Lisa Speer, director of the Arkansas History Commission
  • W. Danny Honnoll, president of the Arkansas Civil War Heritage Trails Foundation.
  • Tom Dupree of Jacksonville (chairman), appointed by Governor Mike Beebe
  • Ernest Cunningham of Helena-West Helena, appointed by Governor Mike Beebe
  • Dr. Jamie Brandon of Magnolia (vice-chairman), appointed by Governor Mike Beebe
  • Archie Moore of Little Rock, appointed by Governor Mike Beebe
  • Robert Dodson of Camden, appointed by House Speaker Robert Moore, Jr.
  • Dr. George Lankford of Batesville, appointed by Senate Pro Tem Paul Bookout
  • Dr. Blake Wintory of Lake Village, appointed by Senate Pro Tem Paul Bookout
  • C.C. "Chip" Culpepper of Little Rock, appointed by House Speaker Robert s. Moore, Jr.

Act 635 also designated the following to serve in an advisory capacity to the commission:

  • M. Ray Jones III, president of the Arkansas chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans
  • DeeLois Lawrence, representing the Arkansas Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy
  • John C. Scott, superintendent of Pea Ridge National Military Park
  • Tom Ezell, representing the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

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