Bentonville Confederate Monument
The Bentonville Confederate Monument is a commemorative sculpture erected in 1908 in the Bentonville (Benton County) town square by the James H. Berry Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) to honor local men who had served in the Confederate army during the Civil War.
Eleven companies of infantry and cavalry were raised for Confederate service from Benton County during the Civil War, and in the early twentieth century, the James H. Berry Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy decided to sponsor a monument in their honor in the Bentonville town square. A. J. Bates, a Bentonville banker, donated $1,000 of the $2,500 monument cost, and James H. Berry—a former Confederate soldier, Arkansas governor, and U.S. senator, as well as the man for whom the UDC chapter was named—donated $1,500.
The monument features a bearded Confederate soldier, his gun at rest by his side, atop a fourteen-foot granite base. The west side of the base is engraved: “TO THE SOUTHERN SOLDIERS / ERECTED BY A. J. BATES AND / THE JAMES H. BERRY CHAPTER / UNITED DAUGHTERS OF THE CONFEDERACY / AUG. 8, 1908. / CONFEDERATE.” An inscription on the south side of the base says “1861–65 / CONFEDERATE,” while the east face is inscribed, “THEY FOUGHT FOR HOME AND FATHERLAND / CONFEDERATE.” The north face is inscribed, “THEIR NAMES ARE BORNE ON HONOR’S SHIELD / THEIR RECORD IS WITH GOD / CONFEDERATE.” A bronze plaque honoring Berry was added to the west face of the monument on January 30, 1914—one year after the former soldier’s death.
The monument was dedicated on August 8, 1908, following a parade of horse-drawn floats from Park Springs to the square. Cora Peel sang “Dixie,” after which Berry introduced principal speaker Clifton R. Breckinridge, the son of former U.S. vice president and Confederate general John C. Breckinridge and himself a veteran of both the Confederate army and navy. Breckenridge declared that the South “had a perfect and constitutional right to secede” and did so to ensure “the faithful administration of [the Constitution’s] powers upon the sacred principle, not of privilege, but of equal rights.” Kate Terry Self, the daughter of a Confederate colonel, unveiled the Confederate flag-draped monument to conclude the festivities.
An effort to place the Benton County Courthouse in the square was thwarted when in 1914 the Benton County Quorum Court, according to the Arkansas Democrat, “passed a resolution turning the park in the city square to the James H. Berry chapter, U.D.C., to use…said park for the purpose of beautifying the same and maintaining the Confederate monument.” Bentonville mayor Terry Coberly led a rededication ceremony of the monument on April 13, 1996, and a centennial celebration of the monument’s installation was held in 2008. The Bentonville Confederate Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 26, 1996.
Following a violent demonstration in which white nationalists rallied against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, several municipalities across the United States began considering the removal of Confederate monuments. In Arkansas, the Bentonville Confederate Monument became a focus of this movement, with nearly 160 people attending a September 9, 2017, community meeting to discuss the matter. Sometime during the weekend of September 21–22, 2019, a large portion of the soldier’s musket was broken off, leaving only the barrel remaining. The statue again became the focus of protests during the spring of 2020.
On June 1, 2020, it was announced that the statue would be relocated to a private park. On September 2, 2020, work began on the removal of the monument. By late July 2023, work was nearing completion on the privately owned James H. Berry Park, at the corner of Southwest 5th Street and Southwest F Street, where the statue is to be located.
For additional information:
“Confederate Monument Rededicated.” Benton County Pioneer 41 (April–June 1996): 33–34.
Dodson, Mrs. Thomas F. “Confederate Monuments and Markers in Arkansas.” Arkansas Division UDC, 1960.
Eley, Ashton. “Bentonville Talk Centers on Statue.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 11, 2017, p. 3B.
The Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northwestern Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.
“History of the Monument to the Valiant Soldiers Who Died in Battle for the South.” Benton County Pioneer 5 (July 1969): 26–27.
Jones, Mike. “Berry Park’s Opening Approaches.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 29, 2023, p. 3B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2023/jul/29/confederate-statue-returns-to-public-view-as/ (accessed July 29, 2023).
———. “Civil War Statue in Bentonville on Panel Agenda.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 3, 2020, p. 2B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2020/aug/03/civil-war-statue-in-bentonville-on-panel-agenda/ (accessed July 29, 2023).
———. “Designs Unveiled for Park to House Confederate Statue.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 17, 2020, p. 2B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2020/sep/17/designs-unveiled-for-park-to-house-confederate/ (accessed July 29, 2023).
———. “Panel Backs Statue’s Spot on Historic List after Move.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 6, 2020, pp. 1B, 5B. Online at https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2020/aug/06/state-board-discusses-confederate-monument/ (accessed July 29, 2023).
Logan, Charles Russell. “Something So Dim It Must Be Holy”: Civil War Commemorative Sculpture in Arkansas, 1886–1934. Little Rock: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1996. Online at https://www.arkansasheritage.com/arkansas-preservation/programs/publications (accessed July 29, 2023).
“Mrs. S. M. Young.” Arkansas Democrat, November 9, 1914, p. 5.
Neal, Tracy. “Agreement Will Remove Confederate Statue.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 3, 2020, p. 3B.
Neal, Tracy, and Mike Jones. “Confederate Statue Vacates City Square.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 3, 2020, pp. 1B, 5.
Slater, John. “Bentonville Confederate Monument.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/BE3045S.nr.pdf (accessed September 3, 2020).
“Vandals Mar City Square Statue.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 27, 2019, p. 2B.
Mark K. Christ
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
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