Post Civil War

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B-17 Flying Fortress Explosion of 1943

On March 12, 1943, the nine-man crew of a B-17F Flying Fortress perished after one of the plane’s engines caught fire and exploded mid-air during a flight from Smoky Hill Air Field in Salina, Kansas, to Morrison Field in West Palm Beach, Florida. The plane crashed in a wooded area five miles northwest of Sheridan (Grant County). In 2015, the crash site became home to a memorial park honoring the nine airmen; it also honors Union and Confederate Civil War soldiers who fought in the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry, along with the soldiers from Grant County who have been killed in action since World War I. The nine-man crew consisted of Second Lieutenant George Davis of Dubuque, Iowa (pilot); Second Lt. Robert …

B-47 Bomber Crash of 1960

On the morning of March 31, 1960, aircraft number 52-1414A was set to take off from the Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB) in Jacksonville (Pulaski County). This B-47E was part of the 384th Bombardment Wing, which was established at the LRAFB on August 1955. The aircraft was destined for Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana. The typical B-47 crew consisted of three crew members: pilot, co-pilot, and navigator. However, this flight was carrying four crew members on the morning of March 31: Captain Herbert J. Aldridge (pilot, Air Force Reserve), First Lieutenant Thomas G. Smoak (co-pilot, Air Force Reserve), Lieutenant Colonel Reynolds S. Watson (navigator, Air Force Reserve), and Kenneth E. Brose (civil engineer, Regular Air Force.) With …

Brooks-Baxter War

The Brooks-Baxter War, which occurred during April and May 1874, was an armed conflict between the supporters of two rivals for the governorship—Joseph Brooks and Elisha Baxter. The violence spilled out of Little Rock (Pulaski County) into much of the state and was resolved only when the federal government intervened. The result of the war, recognition of Elisha Baxter as the governor, brought a practical end to Republican rule in the state and thus ended the era of Reconstruction. Questions concerning the results of the state’s 1872 gubernatorial election brought about the Brooks-Baxter War. In that election, Joseph Brooks—a carpetbagger with a radical reputation and the leader of the party faction known as the “Brindletails”—ran as a Reform Republican, supporting …

Civil War Veterans’ Reunions

After the Civil War, Arkansas veterans returned home and attempted to revert to civilian life, a task very difficult in a destitute, disrupted, and divided state. During the immediate postwar decades, veterans and their families began to establish veterans’ cemeteries, hold memorial services for the dead, build monuments, conduct unit reunions, and organize veterans’ groups. Reunions, perhaps the most important outlet for the ex-soldiers, allowed veterans to communicate with others who had shared the experience of Civil War combat and the difficulties of returning to civilian life. A decade after the end of the war, veterans began to realize that including their old adversaries in reunions could help mend the wounds of the war. Toward the beginning of the twentieth …

Cleburne County Draft War

The Cleburne County Draft War was one of three violent encounters in World War I–era Arkansas that occurred in the spring and summer of 1918 between local officials determined to enforce the Selective Service Act of 1917 and citizens who resisted conscription. In this episode, those resisting the draft were Jehovah’s Witnesses, then known as Russellites, who were widely viewed with suspicion and hatred because of their refusal to take part in civic and military affairs. The Cleburne County Draft War began before sunrise on Sunday, July 7, 1918, when Sheriff Jasper Duke led four men into an area of the county between Rosebud (White County) and Pearson (Cleburne County) in search of delinquents who had not registered for the …

Desert Storm

aka: Gulf War
aka: First Gulf War
aka: Desert Shield
aka: Persian Gulf War
aka: Operation Desert Storm
On August 2, 1990, the Iraq Army under the command of President Saddam Hussein and General Ali Hassan al-Majid invaded and occupied the country of Kuwait. Following the occupation, Ali Hassan was placed in Kuwait as military governor. In response to this, the United Nations Security Council condemned the Iraqi administration and issued economic sanctions on the country. From the invasion until February 28, 1991, U.S. president George H. W. Bush, along with a coalition of thirty-eight other countries, supported the military forces deployed to the Middle East to counter this action. This build-up of forces became the first part of the 1990/1991 Gulf War and was codenamed Operation Desert Shield (August 7, 1990–January 17, 1991). The counter-strike and combat …

Indochinese Resettlement Program

aka: Operation New Life
In 1975, the state of Arkansas was tapped by the federal government to be one of four main entry points for Indochinese refugees. The presence and availability of the facilities at Fort Chaffee, located adjacent to Fort Smith (Sebastian County), made it an ideal location for processing tens of thousands of Indochinese seeking refuge from their war-torn country. When the United States evacuated its remaining personnel from Vietnam in the spring of 1975, it left in its wake a wide segment of the Indochinese population who had assisted the American military and political effort. Without the American presence, they were left vulnerable to retaliation by the North Vietnamese government. Many fled in the days and weeks leading up to the …

Korean War

On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces invaded South Korea after failed negotiations for the reunification of the country. Unprepared for this show of force, Seoul, the capital of South Korea, fell in only four days. As the conflict grew, North and South Korea became a Cold War battleground. Officially considered only a “police action” by the United States, the ensuing three-year military conflict included twenty-two countries and resulted in the deaths of an estimated two to four million military personnel and civilians, including 36,940 American soldiers. Although it had little direct impact on civilian Arkansans, approximately 6,300 Arkansans fought in the Korean War, and 461 were killed. Six Arkansans—Gilbert G. Collier, Lloyd “Scooter” Burke, Charles L. Gilliland, Herbert A. …

Logan County Draft War

aka: Franklin County Draft War
The Logan County Draft War was an episode of armed draft resistance in Arkansas during World War I. Following on the heels of the more infamous Cleburne County Draft War, the Logan County incident—which actually took place predominately in Franklin County, and later in the wooded area near Mount Magazine—followed the familiar pattern of previous draft skirmishes in which a local posse encountered suspected draft evaders, resulting in a shootout, a death, and then a wider manhunt. On August 5, 1918, authorities from Ozark (Franklin County) assembled a posse of seven men led by a Constable Horton to investigate the farmhouse of J. H. Benson near Cecil (Franklin County). It is unclear from the sources whether this posse was formed …

Militia Wars of 1868–1869

A series of conflicts fought across the state in the aftermath of the Civil War, the Militia Wars were a response to the wave of violence that swept Arkansas after the adoption of the Constitution of 1868. With the capture of Little Rock (Pulaski County) by Federal forces in 1863, Isaac Murphy was selected as the provisional governor of the state, taking office in March 1864. With little influence beyond the capital and other isolated Union outposts, Murphy was unable to consolidate his power before the end of the war. In 1866, almost the entire Unionist state government was defeated for reelection. However, Murphy and the secretary of state, who were serving four-year terms that expired in 1868, survived. The …

Newton County Draft War

The Newton County Draft War was the last armed incident of the documented Arkansas draft wars, as well as one of the most colorful, as word of the “Cecil Cove Slackers” spread to national publications. In 1918, Newton County—located in the Ozark Mountains—was one of the most isolated and least developed regions in Arkansas, not yet crossed by railroads or serviceable highways. The Cecil Cove region—twelve miles long and eight miles wide, bordered by steep cliffs and caves, and only traversable by foot or mule—was an exceptional hiding spot. In the last months of World War I, several draft resistors in the region successfully eluded authorities. Later interviews with the deserters outline a now familiar refrain for draft resistance in …

Operation Iraqi Freedom

The armed conflict called Operation Iraqi Freedom began with an invasion of Iraq, led primarily by the United States with the assistance of Great Britain and other allies; the conflict lasted from 2003 to 2011. The invasion was initiated based on intelligence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), and that Saddam Hussein was harboring and supporting al-Qaeda terrorists. The lack of evidence of any WMDs later became a political flashpoint. One goal of the invasion was to overthrow the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein to establish a free and independent Iraqi government, democratically elected by its people. Significant opposition arose in 2002–2003 during the run up to the war, with sixty-three percent of Americans desiring a diplomatic solution …

Perry County War of 1881

The Perry County War is the common name given to a brief period of violence that erupted in Perryville (Perry County) in the summer of 1881. The general lawlessness, including the murder of the local newspaper editor, resulted in the governor sending the militia to calm the situation. In actuality, the 1881 events were a second eruption of an ongoing settling of political differences in Perry County dating back to the Civil War. Like many counties in Arkansas during the Civil War, Perry County was divided by conflicting loyalties. The mountainous western sections of the county aligned with the Union, while whites in the eastern half, where most of the enslaved people lived, held Confederate sympathies. These philosophical differences continued …

Polk County Draft War

The Polk County Draft War was the first of five documented episodes of armed resistance to the draft in Arkansas during World War I (four of which were violent). The Selective Service Act of 1917 introduced forced conscription to Arkansas, but efforts to apprehend and/or punish draft evaders did not begin in earnest until the spring of 1918, likely due to a greater demand for military manpower. The ensuing crackdown on draft evasion sparked a series of so-called draft wars, brief episodes of armed defiance by close-knit family groups against authorities. These acts of resistance often occurred in isolated, mountainous regions of the state, where socialism and/or organized labor had found purchase. On May 25, 1918, Sheriff H. W. Finger …

Pope County Militia War

The Pope County Militia War was a conflict between the Reconstruction government of the state and county partisans, some of them former Confederates, who opposed Reconstruction. It entailed the assassination of many local officials and is often seen as a prelude to the Brooks-Baxter War of 1874. Pope County, lacking a large slave economy, had been divided in terms of loyalty during the Civil War, and those divisions ran high even after the formal end of hostilities. In 1865, Governor Isaac Murphy appointed Archibald Dodson Napier, a former Federal officer, as sheriff of Pope County. On October 25, 1865, he and his deputy, Albert M. Parks, were both shot from ambush as they rode horseback along the old Springfield road …

Searcy County Draft War

Coming on the heels of a notorious case of World War I–era draft resistance in Polk County was the less notable Searcy County Draft War in Leslie (Searcy County). Like other such so-called draft wars in Arkansas, the Searcy County incident involved a family/clan living in an isolated, mountainous region. In August 1917, a year prior to the incident, the youngest son of the local Goodwin family, Miller Goodwin, had committed suicide rather than enter into military service. The Arkansas Gazette reported that he had left his home to report for military service in Marshall (Searcy County). During the trip, he stopped at a neighbor’s house at breakfast time. Shortly after his arrival, he shot himself. Suicides such as that …

Spanish-American War

On April 25, 1898, after months of discussion and negotiations concerning the revolt in Cuba, an island possessed by Spain, the U.S. Congress officially declared war upon Spain. For months, the national media, including Arkansas newspapers, had been filing exaggerated reports concerning the revolt in Cuba, stirring up anti-Spanish sentiment throughout the country. By the time of the unexplained sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Havana Harbor in February 1898, many citizens of Arkansas were ready for war. On the same day as the war declaration, Governor Daniel Webster Jones received a message from the U.S. Department of War requesting that Arkansas provide two regiments of National Guard troops, approximately 2,000 soldiers. This was a difficult task for the …

Titan II Missile Accident (1965)

Titan II ICBM Launch Complex 373-4 near Searcy (White County) was the site of an accident on August 9, 1965, in which fifty-three workers were killed—the largest loss of life ever suffered in a U.S. nuclear weapons facility. Titan II ICBM Launch Complex 373-4 was one of eighteen Arkansas launch complexes operated by the 308th Strategic Missile Squadron headquartered at the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville (Pulaski County). Construction of Launch Complex 373-4 had commenced on January 3, 1961, and was finished on July 31, 1962—the first of the 308th’s sites to be completed and the first to go on alert (meaning that it was fully operational and ready to respond) on May 16, 1963. After it had …

Titan II Missile Explosion (1980)

The Titan II Launch Complex 374-7 in Southside (Van Buren County), just north of Damascus (Van Buren and Faulkner counties), became the site of the most highly publicized disaster in the history of the Titan II missile program when its missile exploded within the launch duct on September 19, 1980. An Air Force airman was killed, and the complex was destroyed. The Titan II Missile Launch Complex 374-7 Site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on February 18, 2000. Complex 374-7 had already been the site of one significant accident on January 27, 1978, when an oxidizer leak sent a cloud of toxic fumes 3,000 feet long, 300 feet wide, and 100 feet high drifting across U.S. Highway …

United Confederate Veterans Reunion of 1911

Little Rock (Pulaski County) hosted the twenty-first annual United Confederate Veterans Reunion on May 16–18, 1911. The reunion drew more than 140,000 people, including approximately 12,000 veterans, making it the largest event in Little Rock history until William Jefferson Clinton’s election night in 1992. The United Confederate Veterans (UCV) formed in 1889 with a goal of keeping alive the memory of the men who fought for the South during the Civil War and to bring national attention to the needs of the aging veterans. The annual reunion was one of the group’s major projects, and towns across the country vied to host the event. Judge William M. Kavanaugh chaired Little Rock’s planning committee for the event. Subcommittees arranged for lodging, …

United Confederate Veterans Reunion of 1928

The thirty-eighth annual national reunion of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV), held on May 8–11, 1928, marked the second time that Little Rock (Pulaski County) served as the event’s host city, seventeen years after the much-celebrated 1911 reunion. Governor John Ellis Martineau’s personal invitation, along with a $30,000 legislative appropriation to provide free entertainment for all veterans, helped Little Rock beat out the cities of Atlanta, Georgia, and Lexington, Kentucky, for the honor. The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) oversaw all planning. Edmund R. Wiles, commander of the Trans-Mississippi Division of the SCV, served as general chairman of the reunion committee and used the War Memorial Building (now the Old State House) as committee headquarters. In November 1927, Wiles dispelled …

United Confederate Veterans Reunion of 1949

The fifty-ninth annual national reunion of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) marked the third and final time that Little Rock (Pulaski County) served as host city for the event. Thereafter, the UCV held only two more national reunions. The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) planned and organized all of the event’s activities. Little Rock’s Robert C. Newton Camp of the SCV served as the host organization throughout the reunion. Other organizations associated with the reunion included the Order of the Stars and Bars and the Confederated Southern Memorial Association (CSMA). Due to the limited number of living Civil War veterans, reunion officials expected no more than eight veterans to attend the event. Even this modest attendance expectation went unfulfilled, however, …

Waldron War

The Waldron War was a decade-long period of violence that began during the Reconstruction era and was characterized by arson, general lawlessness, personal and political feuds, electoral misconduct, and violence—including murder—throughout Scott County. The civil strife resulted in Governors Augustus Garland and William Read Miller dispatching the state militia to the county on at least three occasions to restore order. With much of Waldron (Scott County) burned by departing Union troops in 1864, the citizens faced the reestablishment of the infrastructure of the town. While hostile feelings remained between those sympathetic to the Union cause and the Confederate cause, much of the strife was attributed to personality conflicts within the local Republican Party. Although there was the occasional outburst of …

Williwaw War

The “Williwaw War” has become the common term for the World War II conflict between American and Japanese troops in the Arctic Aleutian Islands. The term “williwaw” apparently dates to the nineteenth century, though its origin is uncertain; it describes sudden violent gusts of wind, often accompanied by rain, snow, and fog. The Aleutian theater in the war held particular interest for Arkansans: according to a story widely believed at the time (and which may actually be true), the loss of a coin toss in July of 1941 resulted in assignment of the 206th Coast Artillery Regiment of the recently federalized Arkansas National Guard to Aleutian duty. The winners (as they then thought), New Mexico’s 200th, were dispatched to the tropical …

World War I

aka: The Great War
World War I had less impact on the state of Arkansas than the Civil War or World War II. Still, World War I did deplete the young male population of the state for a time, brought new institutions into the state that continue to the present time, and gave many Arkansans a new view of the world and of Arkansas’s place in an increasingly connected world community. World War I was the result of many complex factors, including a network of alliances linking the larger powers in Europe and the growing power of nationalism in some regions of the world. The Balkan region of southeastern Europe—which had been part of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and …

World War II

During World War II, Arkansas underwent fundamental social and economic changes that affected all parts of the state. From the creation of ordnance plants to the presence of prisoners of war (POWs) and Japanese-American internees, the impact of the war meant that the Arkansas of 1945 was vastly different from the Arkansas of 1941. In some ways, this reflected issues particular to Arkansas, while in other ways it reflected the profound changes that the United States as a whole underwent during the war. Along with the lingering effects of the Great Depression, the transformations that were brought about by World War II were to form a clear break between prewar and postwar Arkansas. Industrialization, urbanization, and migration all dramatically transformed …