Try Us: Arkansas and the U.S.-Mexican War 

The Old State House Museum’s exhibit, Try Us: Arkansas and the U.S.-Mexican War, details Arkansas’s role in the Mexican and American War from 1846 to 1848.

This two year conflict found its roots in the United States’ pursuit of what it considered its “Manifest Destiny” to extend its borders to the Pacific. The conflict also revolved around disputes with Mexico over its border with Texas, as well as the South’s quest for new lands suitable for slavery and the plantation system in order to maintain its balance of power in the U.S. Congress. Many in Arkansas were also eager to fight for more personal reasons: to avenge the death of a fellow Arkansan, to test their mettle in battle or to cover themselves in glory to further their political careers. “Try us” was the motto of one Arkansas company organized in Crawford County.

Try Us is the museum’s first bilingual exhibit. Two guest curators present different views of the war and its impact. Bill Frazier, an editor for the Commercial Appeal in Memphis who has researched and written about the U.S.-Mexican War, provides an overview of Arkansas’s role in the American Mexican War. Laura Herrera, the exhibit’s co-curator, is a historian in Mexico City, Mexico. She portrays Mexico’s role in the war, and how the war has influenced the country’s present day relationship with the United States.

The exhibit features artifacts from the Old State House Museum’s collection, as well as images of artifacts from other institutions. Items include U.S. and Mexican artifacts: military uniforms; weaponry; original flags from Arkansas units that fought in the war; oil paintings; and letters, pictures, pens, canteens, and maps that once belonged to soldiers. JoEllen Maack, curator of the Old State House Museum, says that the exhibit not only illustrates the military aspect of the Mexican American War but also the social and political implications.