Van Buren Confederate Monument
The Van Buren Confederate Monument is a sculpture erected in 1898 in Fairview Cemetery by the Mary Lee Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to commemorate local men who had served in the Confederate army during the Civil War. It was moved to the grounds of the Crawford County Courthouse eight years later.
As many as 1,000 Crawford County men fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, and on March 19, 1896, the Mary Lee Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy organized in Van Buren (Crawford County) with a goal of raising a monument to honor them and other Confederate soldiers who died in the area. The chapter was effective at fundraising, and in 1898 its members contracted with T. H. Elgin of Russellville (Pope County) to erect a monument in the Confederate Section of Fairview Cemetery, where nearly 450 Confederates were buried, many of whom had suffered mortal wounds in battles at Wilson’s Creek, Missouri, and Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove, Arkansas. The monument was to be placed at the grave of Captain S. Churchill Clark, a Pea Ridge casualty whose brother was one of the most significant donors for the project.
The monument’s cornerstone was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1898, and the Arkansas Gazette reported that at least 1,000 Confederate veterans attended the ceremony. Young women representing Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, and the Indian Territory—each of which had soldiers buried at Fairview—knelt around the base of the monument as it was put into place above a time capsule that contained local newspapers, the names of all of the ex-Confederates attending the ceremony, a battle flag, and other mementos. At 2:30 p.m. a parade featuring the Queen City Cornet Band, the women of the Mary Lee Chapter in carriages, Confederate veterans, groups representing local fraternal organizations, local elected officials, and others made its way from the Crawford County Courthouse to Fairview Cemetery. Once there, Methodist preacher J. B. Stevens offered a prayer, after which Judge Joseph Hill gave a speech about the large battles in the region, and Worshipful Master S. A. Pernot of the local Masonic lodge directed placement of the cornerstone as the audience sang “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”
U.S. senator James H. Berry, “a maimed survivor of the lost cause,” in the words of the Arkansas Gazette, made the principal address, and he “moved his large audience to tears as in words he pictured more clearly the suffering, the heroism and final results than could ever be depicted by an artist’s brush” as he described the grim battles at Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove, as well as the movement of the wounded from those battles “over the rough mountains in ambulances devoid of springs or covering to protect them from the cold or storms” to hospitals in Van Buren where many died, to be buried at Fairview.
Senator Berry returned to Van Buren on October 10, 1899, for the formal unveiling of the completed monument. “Thousands of people from a radius of one hundred miles gathered to participate in the unveiling,” the Arkansas Gazette reported, and “old, battlescarred veterans and battle-torn flags were prominent in the parade,” which also featured school children, “secret orders,” and others. Berry, Congressman Hugh A. Dinsmore, and Judge John H. Rogers, among others, made speeches.
The Van Buren Confederate Monument features a life-sized marble figure of a bearded Confederate soldier, his left hand shielding his eyes as he gazes to the north. The statue stands atop a fifteen-foot granite base, on the northwest side of which is inscribed “1899 / FURLED BUT NOT FORGOT / 1861 C.S.A. 1865 / ERECTED BY THE / MARY LEE CHAPTER / UNITED DAUGHTERS / OF THE / CONFEDERACY.” The southwest side is inscribed “BATTLES / OAK HILL / AUG. 10, 1861. / ELK HORN / MARCH 6 TO 8, 1862. / PRAIRIE GROVE / DEC. 7, 1862. / CAPT. S. CHURCHILL CLARKE / MISSOURI BATTERY NO. 2 / KILLED AT ELK HORN. / MARCH 6, 1862, / AGED 20 YEARS.” The southeast side of the base features the words “THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA: 22 FEBRUARY, 1862 / DEO VINDICE / HE WINS THE MOST WHO HONOUR SAVES / SUCCESS IS NOT THE TEST. RYAN. / FATE DENIED THEM VICTORY, BUT / CROWNED THEM WITH GLORIOUS IMMORTALITY.” The northeast side is inscribed “TO OUR / BELOVED / CONFEDERATE / DEAD. / ARKANSAS / TEXAS / LOUISIANA / MISSOURI / INDIAN TERRITORY.”
Seven years after its dedication at Fairview Cemetery, the Van Buren Confederate Monument was moved to its current location in front of the Crawford County Courthouse at the request of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), who wanted it in a more prominent place. N. F. Donelson of Fort Smith (Sebastian County) moved the statue on August 4, 1906, and the Arkansas Gazette reported, “The Confederate Monument is now in its new place in Court Square at Van Buren, fully set up and cleared off….Even those who were opposed to its removal, it is said, acknowledge the wisdom of doing so.” The Van Buren Confederate Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 26, 1996.
For additional information:
“Confederate Monument Placed on National Register of Historic Places.” The Heritage 39 (Winter 1996): 30–31.
Dodson, Mrs. Thomas F. “Confederate Monuments and Markers in Arkansas.” Arkansas Division UDC, 1960.
The Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northwestern Arkansas. Chicago: The Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.
“Honoring Heroes.” Arkansas Gazette, October 11, 1899, p. 6.
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 May 29, 2018).
“Monument Raised.” Arkansas Gazette, November 25, 1898, p. 2.
Slater, John. “Van Buren 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/CW0165S.nr.pdf (accessed May 29, 2018).
West, Doris. “Confederate Monument on Courthouse Square in Van Buren, Ar.” The Heritage 25 (Fall 1981): 10–11.
Mark K. Christ
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
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