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Civil War Commemoration Held

Hot Springs National Park

National Park News

Hot Springs National Park hosted a “Capital Weekend” during the first weekend in July to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the village of Hot Springs serving as the Arkansas state capital in July 1862 and to focus on how the Civil War affected local citizens.

Done in partnership with the Garland County Historical Society, Hot Springs Music Festival, and the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, the three-day event welcomed nearly 3,000 people to the various venues in and near the park.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Lamar Bathhouse on Friday morning kicked off the activities with the opening of the “Civil War in Arkansas” exhibit.  On loan from the Arkansas History Commission, the exhibit was viewed by more than 1,500 visitors. On Friday evening, toe-tapping fun, featuring music and dance lessons from the American Civil War era, greeted visitors to the lawn of park headquarters.

On Saturday, the lawns of Bathhouse Row came to life with living history “Civil War Perspectives” presentations followed by the Civil War Perspectives History Symposium.  The well-attended symposium featured Dr. Wendy Richter (“Hot Springs in the Civil War”), Dr. Tom DeBlack (“The War within the War: The Cherokees and the Civil War in Arkansas”), and Ronnie Nichols (“The Civil War in Arkansas and the Role of People of African Descent”). Dr. Ray Granade moderated. 

Saturday evening was capped off by The Magnolia Ball, which featured period music and dancing reminiscent of a southern 1860s cotillion.  Tours of the former Army and Navy Hospital provided the highlight on Sunday. The original hospital opened shortly after the Civil War to serve Union and Confederate veterans and is located within the boundary of the park.

The state capital moved to Hot Springs when Union forces threatened Little Rock in 1862.  The state’s records were stored at the bathhouse and kitchen of Governor Henry Rector, located within Hot Springs Reservation (now Hot Springs National Park). When the Union Army’s advance stalled, the capital move back to Little Rock until 1863 when it moved again to Old Fort Washington for the duration of the war.  After that move, Arkansas had two state capitals, the Confederate capital in Old Fort Washington and the Union capital in Little Rock.


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