Little Rock Confederate Memorial
The Little Rock Confederate Memorial at Oakland-Fraternal Cemetery is a memorial shaft erected in 1914 on the burial site of 900 Confederate soldiers who died of disease while stationed in Little Rock (Pulaski County).
Five months after the dedication of the Monument to Confederate Women at the Arkansas State Capitol, the Memorial Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) announced plans to mark the burial site of hundreds of Confederate soldiers adjacent to the Little Rock National Cemetery. The Arkansas Gazette reported on October 26, 1913, that the UDC chapter “is erecting a monument…in the southeast portion of Oakland cemetery….A stone coping encloses the plot of ground, where are buried 900 soldiers, most of whom died in St. John’s hospital.” The newspaper reported that architect Henry J. Harker designed the monument, donating his services, and that Hilliard Brothers would install the memorial shaft. Ten UDC chapters and fifty-three individuals had made donations toward the memorial, with $100 more needed to pay for the $650 project.
The Little Rock Confederate Memorial was placed at the plot sometime in 1914, but it was not dedicated until the following year. The dedication ceremony was held on June 3, 1915, the birthday of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. More than 100 people attended the ceremony, including Confederate veterans and UDC members. The monument was unveiled by three members of Children’s Chapters of the UDC: Rosalie Newman, president of the Nancy Gwinn Chapter; Laura Lee Hannum, president of the John Deane Chapter; and Helen Smith, president of the Margaret Rose Jr. Chapter.
Colonel Ransom Gulley was the featured speaker, giving an address on “The Known and the Unknown.” The Arkansas Gazette reported that Gulley “referred to the 900 soldiers who lie buried in the trenches near the monument as the unknown, and Jefferson Davis, whose birthday was being observed, as the known. He declared [that] the men who fill the unmarked graves after every battle play their parts as nobly as the men whose memory lives long afterward.”
The Little Rock Confederate Memorial is an eighteen-foot-tall granite obelisk. The obelisk’s west side is inscribed “U.D.C. / 1913 / IN MEMORY OF / THE NINE HUNDRED CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS / BURIED WITHIN THIS ENCLOSURE, MOST / OF WHOM DIED IN THE HOSPITALS / IN LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS / IN 1863.” The base on the west side is inscribed: “OUR CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS.”
The north side is inscribed “GATHER THE SACRED DUST / OF THE WARRIORS TRIED AND TRUE / WHO BORE THE FLAG OF A NATION’S TRUST / AND FELL IN A CAUSE, THOUGH LOST STILL JUST / AND DIED FOR ME AND YOU. / AND THE DEAD THUS MEET THE DEAD, / WHILE THE LIVING O’ER THEM WEEP. / AND THE MEN BY LEE AND STONEWALL LED, / AND THAT HEARTS THAT ONCE TOGETHER BLED / TOGETHER STILL THEY SLEEP.”
The south side is inscribed “ALL LOST! BUT BY THE GRAVE / WHERE MARTYERED HEROES REST / HE WINS THE MOST WHO SAVES / SUCCESS IS NOT THE TEST. / IT RECKS NOT WHERE THEIR BODIES LIE / BY BLOODY HILLSIDE, PLAIN OR RIVER / THEIR NAMES ARE BRIGHT ON FAME’S PROUD SKY / THEIR DEEDS OF VALOR LIVE FOREVER.”
While it is part of Oakland-Fraternal Cemetery, the Confederate cemetery is maintained by the Little Rock National Cemetery. The Little Rock Confederate Memorial was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 3, 1996. The memorial was vandalized in early July 2020 in the wake of nationwide protests against police violence and Confederate symbols.
For additional information:
Diaz, Lakresha, Callie Williams, and Van Zbinden. “Oakland-Fraternal Cemetery.” 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/PU5892.nr.pdf (accessed January 16, 2020).
Dodson, Mrs. Thomas F. “Confederate Monuments and Markers in Arkansas.” Arkansas Division UDC, 1960.
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 http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/News-and-Events/publications (accessed January 16, 2020).
“Monument to Confederate Heroes Who Rest in Oakland Cemetery.” Arkansas Gazette, October 26, 1913, p. 5.
Sanders, William. “Cemetery Vandals Hit Confederate Markers.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 12, 2020, pp. 1B, 5B.
———.”Confederate Section of Cemetery Damaged.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 27, 2020, pp. 1B, 6B.
“Shaft to Unknown Dead is Unveiled.” Arkansas Gazette, June 4, 1915, p. 3.
Slater, John. “Little Rock Confederate Memorial.” 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/PU5271.nr.pdf (accessed January 16, 2020).
“To Unveil Monument.” Arkansas Gazette, June 3, 1915, p. 5.
Mark K. Christ
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
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