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The military history of Arkansas begins with the Native American nations and the conflicts that arose among them. While Arkansas was still a part of Missouri Territory, the United States Army established an important outpost at Fort Smith. Among a number of important figures who served at the Fort was Zachary Taylor, who was later elected president of the United States. While the perceived threat from Indians helped to keep the territorial militia active, the first significant military action in the region took place in the Texas Revolution. It was said that Sam Houston did much of the planning for the Revolution in Washington, Arkansas, and some Arkansas citizens joined the effort. In the Mexican War, Arkansas troops were active in the fighting. The Civil War pulled about 70,000 Arkansas men into military service, with close to 9,000 of them fighting for the Union. Confederate soldiers from Arkansas fought for the Army of Northern Virginia and in the Army of Tennessee in some of the major battles of the War, but significant action took place in Arkansas as well. The Battle of Pea Ridge, called the “Gettysburg of the West,” opened the trans-Mississippi area to Union advances. By 1863, Union forces had taken Little Rock. The War did not bring the wholesale destruction visited upon some regions in the east, but significant property and lives were lost. Arkansas soldiers fought with distinction in both World Wars, but in World War II the most important contribution from the state came not in men but in the aluminum made from Arkansas bauxite. The military airplanes needed for modern warfare were made of aluminum, and with external supplies of aluminum blocked off, Arkansas bauxite became crucial to the war effort.

The best collection of military records for Arkansas servicemen is maintained by the Arkansas History Commission. Several of the service records from the National Archives have microfilmed indexes, which are available at the Arkansas History Commission. That includes indexes for the Indian wars, Revolutionary War, and War of 1812. Mexican War, Spanish-American War, and Civil War records have all been compiled by the Arkansas History Commission as well. They also have United States Military Post returns from 1800 to 1916 on file. Those returns include information such as: Reports, Rosters, Confederate States Army Casualties: Lists and Narrative Reports (1861-65), Register of Confederate Soldiers, Sailors, and Citizens Who Died in Federal Prisons and Military Hospitals in the North (1861-65), Registers of Confederate Prisoners Held in the Military Prison at Little Rock, Arkansas (1863-65)

The Arkansas History Commission is also home to Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee Confederate pension records and indexes, including widow and veteran pension applications. Each county tax assessor was required to do a Confederate veteran census enumeration in 1911, under the Public Acts of Arkansas, Number 353. Records of that census from 44 Arkansas counties still exist, but records from 31 have been lost. The existing records contain 1,751 questionnaires. The following information can be found on those questionnaires: Veteran’s Full Name, Veteran’s Address, Veteran’s Place of Birth, Veteran’s State and Date of Birth, County Where the Veteran Enlisted, Veteran’s Parents and Grandparents’ Full Names and Places of Birth, Veteran’s Wife’s Maiden Name, Place and Date of Marriage, Names of Veteran’s Wife’s Parents, Names of Veteran’s Children and Their Spouses

Copies of Confederate Veterans Magazine from 1893 to 1932, as well as the Arkansas Confederate veterans census from 1911 are on file at the Arkansas History Commission.

Widow and veteran pension applications can be full of useful information, including: Veteran Name, Wife/Widow Name, Date of Birth for Both, Veteran Death Date, Veteran Rank, Unit, and Total Service Time, Approved Pension Amount, Place of Residence at Time of Application.

Arkansas in the Civil War

Arkansas was the 9th state to suceed from the Union. Arkansas provided 58,815 of her sons for the war effort which translates to 1.5% (ranked 24th out of 44 states and territories) of the total men who served on both sides of the conflict. There were a total of 771 raids, skirmishes and battles in the state. Arkansas had 1 Union P.O.W. Camp:
Little Rock

Though simple in appearance, the flag was rich in symbolism. The colors red, white, and blue signified that Arkansas was one of the United States. The diamond reminded viewers that Arkansas had the nation’s only diamond mine. The 25 white stars bordering the diamond showed that Arkansas was the 25th state to enter the union.

The three stars in the center of the flag did triple duty as historical symbols. Prior to statehood, Arkansas had belonged to 3 nations: Spain, France, and the United States. The United States purchased Louisiana, which included Arkansas, in 1803 and Arkansas was the third state created out of the Louisiana Purchase.

The flag remained unchanged until 1923, when the Legislature added a fourth star to the diamond to represent the Confederacy.

Civil War Website Links

  • Arkansas, First Draft Registration Cards, 1940-1945 ( Name index and images of draft registration cards covering a special classification of individuals born between 1897 and 1928. Additional records will be added as they are completed.