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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The following members, or their designees, were appointed to the commission through Act 635 of 2007:
Act 635 also designated the following to serve in an advisory capacity to the commission: