Camp Shadow

Camp Shadow

Elm Springs remembers spirits of the past

Confederate Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn rested his Army of the West — 10,000 troops — at Elm Springs on March 5, 1862, the night before the Battle of Pea Ridge. “Early morning found them hurrying to Bentonville,” reads a historical marker standing by the spring in Steele-Stevens Heritage Park in Elm Springs.

“Tents of the 16th Arkansas Infantry covered the campus of the (school) to the east near the head of Brush Creek during the winter of 1861-1862,” the marker continues. The 22nd and 34th Arkansas Regiments also were in camp, according to history provided by Civil War enthusiast Bob Underdown.

“It provided a logical point for the Confederates to organize for the coming battle,” elaborates an entry on the “Arkansas in the Civil War” website. “With plenty of water from a cluster of natural springs and plenty of wood for fuel, it was also a good staging point where all of the Southern troops coming down out of the Boston Mountains could gather. It was also within easy striking distance of both Bentonville and the main Federal camps at Sugar Creek near Pea Ridge.”

The Elm Springs Heritage Association has rebuilt the scene in an outdoor gallery using metal “shadow” art by Ron Waggoner of Fairland, Okla. “Camp Shadow” opens Saturday. Depictions of men in camp serve as a reminder of their time in the town.

“They are metal silhouettes — almost life size,” explained Anita Burney, executive director of the association. “They are meant to represent the ‘spirits’ of those who lived and trained at the camp at Elm Springs during 1861-1862.”

In addition to providing a cold night’s rest, the area served a training site for newly recruited Confederate troops and a Confederate mustering site for Arkansas and Missouri troops in the fall of 1862. Skirmishes were fought there April 26 and July 30, 1863.

Each nearly 6-foot-tall figure represents a particular person in camp or camp life in general, Burney said. She shared the lives of such men with historical details provided by Underdown, Mike Freels and members of the Maj. Fontaine R. Earle Camp of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.

• The rider on the horse represents Earle. Fontaine Richard Earle was a major in the Confederate 34th Arkansas Infantry from Cane Hill. Earle’s men formed Company B, 34th Regiment Arkansas Infantry, which Earle commanded at the battle of Prairie Grove on Dec. 7, 1862. In 1863, Earle was promoted to the rank of major.

Earle fought in a number of Civil War battles in the Trans-Mississippi theater and later served Northwest Arkansas as a legislator, from 1866 to 1867, and a minister, teacher, administrator and author.

• One soldier’s figure represents the young Lt. James H. Berry, who was stationed at the camp. Berry later became the governor of Arkansas and a U.S. state senator.

The Elm Springs Heritage Center, located across the street from the park, includes a photograph of Berry, with his signature, among its collection, Burney pointed out.

• The cannon represents an 1841 6-pounder, smooth-bore field gun. The 6-pounder field gun was a lightweight, mobile piece that was a favorite of the field artillery in the first half of the 19th century. These popular workhorses of the Mexican War-era were regarded as obsolete by the Union army, but they were still heavily employed by a Confederate army that needed any armament it could get.

This type of gun was employed by the 2nd Arkansas Light Artillery — also known as the Wiggins Arkansas Battery — one of several batteries that camped at Elm Springs the night before the Battle of Pea Ridge. However, the cannon reproduction does not look like the cannons used in Northwest Arkansas, Underdown said.

• The cannoneer represents many that joined a “light artillery” regiment and fired these noisy cannons.

• Another soldier represents William “Buck” Brown from Elm Springs. Brown was a Confederate soldier who later turned “bushwhacker,” Burney said, but Underdown described him as an “irregular” soldier. “A bushwhacker had no side and would kill anybody,” Underdown explained.

Brown is buried less than 4 miles from Elm Springs in the Thornsberry Cemetery. His history is referenced at the Heritage Center, which holds more than 600 Civil War reference books.

• The “kneeling soldier” represents the many young men who had never been in combat. “They were fresh from home, the field and farms,” Burney said. “This soldier often stopped to prayer for guidance, his protection and for his family back home.

• The campfire represents the way of life in a Civil War camp.

• The covered wagon represents the supply trains that ran to and from the camp carrying supplies to the troops, as well as the wounded from the battles to the nearby tent hospitals.

• One soldier represents all those who fought for the Confederacy and died during the war — or shortly thereafter — and was buried in the Elm Springs Cemetery, Burney said.

Underdown told the story of John T. McCamey and George William Deaver (the son of the town’s mill owner). Likely cousins, both men were 18 years old, fought with the 34th and were heading to their homes for a furlough. On March 21, 1865, they were overtaken by Union soldiers, who took the boys’ horses before killing them and burning their bodies and their saddles on a brush pile.

Their sisters borrowed an oxcart to get the bodies. Neither young man could be recognized, so the sisters buried them in the same grave, with a double headstone.

“Although I’m not really sure the Union did it,” Underdown said. “It could have been just a plain bushwhacker.”

• One soldier represents the many Union soldiers who came along after the camp at Elm Springs was vacated. Marcus LaRue Harrison was commissioned on Aug. 7, 1862, as colonel and commander of the 1st Arkansas Volunteer Cavalry, a unit made up of Unionists mostly from the northwestern corner of Arkansas. He led the regiment through the rest of the war. As a counter-guerrilla insurgency measure, they were very effective.

After the war, in 1864, Harrsion set up a post colony or farm colony. There would have been a squad of a sergeant and a few enlisted men here.

“Much of Northwest Arkansas was without civil law, and guerrilla activity was rampant,” reads the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. “Harrison’s avowed goal was to relocate residents willing to submit to Union authority to fortified colonies occupying 1,000 to 4,000 cultivable acres with abundant water. Families of men willing to swear loyalty to the Union would receive parcels of farmland surrounding the forts. Harrison claimed that membership in the colonies was voluntary, but his superior, Cyrus Bussey, reported that ‘numerous delegations of old men of loyalty and good character’ claimed that Harrison forced peaceful residents to join. At the system’s peak, 17 colonies were inhabited by 1,200 colonists, who controlled 15,000 acres. Most colonies were located in Washington County, including Union Valley, and Benton County at Pea Ridge and Bentonville.”

Future plans for the heritage association include raising money for permanent kiosks to be placed in front of the exhibits to tell about those who are represented in the gallery and for more silhouettes, Burney said.



Ribbon Cutting

For Camp Shadow

WHEN — Noon April 28

WHERE — Steele-Stevens Heritage Park in Elm Springs

COST — Free



Categories: Features, Maker Space