David O. Dodd Memorial

The David O. Dodd Memorial is a monument erected at the Old State House in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1923 to honor a young Confederate spy executed by Union authorities in 1864.

David Owen Dodd was a seventeen-year-old boy who was captured by Union pickets near the Ten Mile House south of Little Rock in late 1863 with coded papers outlining Union forces in and defenses of the capital city. Dodd was tried, convicted, and hanged on the grounds of St. Johns’ College in Little Rock on January 8, 1864.

In the years following the war, as monuments were erected around the state in memory of the Arkansas men who had fought for the South in the Civil War and the women who supported them, the young spy gradually became a focal figure for Arkansas adherents to the Lost Cause interpretation of the war. According to a 1923 Arkansas Gazette article, the idea of a monument for the “boy martyr” came from a 1913 Little Rock history class in which the students identified Dodd as a figure worthy of commemoration, leading to a dream of building a million-dollar hospital to be named in his honor. World War I soon made that plan unfeasible, so the United Daughters of the Confederacy and United Confederate Veterans, aided by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, took the lead in raising funds to create a monument to Dodd.

Ten years later, on November 10, 1923, the David O. Dodd Memorial was dedicated at the state War Memorial, which later became the Old State House Museum. M. E. Dunaway was the featured speaker, praising the young spy as one who “put honor above life.” Josie F. Cappleman of the UDC read a letter from Dodd’s two sisters, who “expressed appreciation of the monument for their brother.” Dr. J. R. Wayne, chairman of the War Memorial’s board, accepted the monument and then presented it to Governor Thomas McRae, who praised Dodd but also offered his assistance in raising a monument to a figure from the recent war, World War I hero Herman Davis. Frances Vogler and Frances Gunn Richardson, “dressed in the colors of the Confederacy,” unveiled the monument, and children “in the same colors” decorated it with flowers as a band played patriotic music.

The gray marble David O. Dodd Memorial features a central shaft with a white marble bas-relief carving of the youth flanked by benches. The central shaft is inscribed “DAVID O. DODD / ARKANSAS BOY MARTYR / OF THE CONFEDERACY / BORN NOV. 10, 1846 / EXECUTED JAN. 8 1864 / ‘Aye, such was the love of the / boy for his Southland, / Such his endurance of courage / his pride, / That e’er he’d betray his own / beloved band / He sacrificed all, and silently died.” The panel above the bench to the right is inscribed “DAVID OWEN DODD, A SOUTHERN BOY OF 17, WHEN LEAVING FOR HIS / HOME IN THE SOUTHERN PART OF THE STATE, WAS ARRESTED, TRIED / BY FEDERAL COURT MARTIAL AND HANGED IN FRONT OF OLD / ST. JOHN’S [sic] COLLEGE, LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS.” The left-hand panel is inscribed “PAPERS FOUND ON DAVID’S PERSON REVEALED VALUABLE INFORMATION / TO THE CONFEDERATE FORCES. FREEDOM WAS OFFERED IF HE WOULD / DIVULGE THE NAME OF / HIS INFORMANT, BUT HE PREFERRED DEATH / TO DISHONOR.” The monument is further inscribed “ERECTED BY THE VETERANS, / DAUGHTERS AND SONS OF THE / CONFEDERACY OF ARKANSAS. / UNVEILED NOVEMBER 10, 1923.”

The David O. Dodd Memorial was originally located in front of the central temple of the Old State House. It was later moved to the southwestern corner of the lawn and finally relocated to the memorial garden just east of the museum. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 26, 1996.

For additional information:
Logan, Charles R. “Something So Dim It Must Be Holy”: Civil War Commemorative Sculpture in Arkansas, 1886–1934. Little Rock: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1997. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/News-and-Events/publications (accessed September 13, 2019).

Moneyhon, Carl H. “Conflicting Civil War Historical Memory and Cultural Divides in Arkansas.” In Competing Memories: The Legacy of Arkansas’s Civil War, edited by Mark K. Christ. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2016.

———. “David O Dodd, the ‘Boy Martyr of Arkansas’: The Growth and Use of a Legend.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 74 (Autumn 2015): 203–230.

“Shaft to Young Hero Is Unveiled,” Arkansas Gazette, November 11, 1923, p. 11.

Slater, John. “David O. Dodd Memorial.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/PU4847S.nr.pdf (accessed September 13, 2019).

Mark K. Christ
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program

Last Updated: 09/13/2019