Tuesday, April 07, 2015

TOP STORY >> 150 years after, remembering Gen. Lee’s surrender to Grant

Lonoke County Museum

On April 9, 1865, 150 years ago this month, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his army of Northern Virginia to the Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Va., signaling the beginning of the end of the Civil War.

In 2007, the Arkansas General Assembly created the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, a program of the Arkansas Preservation Program, which is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. The Sesquicentennial Commission developed an annual theme for each of the five years of the observance.

Mark Christ of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program helped develop the themes that covered the major issues the state faced during those years a century and a half ago.

Christ will speak at the Grand Prairie Civil War Roundtable’s meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Lonoke County Museum.

A book will be raffled. For additional information, call 501-676-6750. Membership dues are $20.

The historic preservation program’s theme in 2011 was “Why Commemorate the Civil War?” The goal was to encourage Arkansans and visitors to reflect on the reasons for war and the impacts of war on a nation.

In 2012, the theme was “A Divided Arkansas,” which examined the invasion of the state by Union forces and the Confederate government’s authorized formations of guerilla fighters across the state to oppose them.

The 2013 theme was “Big War, Little War” and focused on the anguish of the thousands of Arkansas soldiers sent to fight far from home east of the Mississippi River and the hardships faced by those who stayed back in Arkansas.

In addition, in 1863, there were many choices and issues faced by the state’s African American slaves, who had to decide whether to stay with their owners or escape to the Union forces occupying the state.

In 2014, the theme was “Under Two Governments” and explored how the Union and Confederate governments in the state tried to deal with the rapid depletion of food and other supplies and the lawlessness of the state wracked by guerrilla warfare.

Bands of armed men roamed the state killing and stealing what they wanted and neither government could control them.

This year’s theme is “Emancipation and Reconstruction.” The Civil War veterans, often wounded or otherwise suffering from the trauma of war, were forced to live with the devastated environment that was so different socially and economically than what they had left four years before.

The Lonoke County Museum and Genealogy Research Center is at 215 SE Front St. in Lonoke. It is open Monday through Friday.

Its staff regularly writes articles about local Civil War history for The Leader.