Civil War Buff

      The Civil War in Arkansas

   Home     What's New     Search     People     Places     Units     Groups     Forum     Books     Calendar     About Us



Civil War Round Table of Arkansas

Promote Your Page Too


Our 45th Year  
Meets Fourth Tuesday; January-November 
Founded March 1964 

Second Presbyterian Church

600 Pleasant Valley Drive

Little Rock  
Program at 7 p.m.   
Jan Sarna, President 

Rick Meadows, Editor /   
Dues $20 Per Year 

Bill Shea


The Battle of Prairie Grove

Dr. William Shea, History Professor at The University of Arkansas in Monticello will be our featured speaker on Tuesday night. He will answer the question: “What Really Happened at Prairie Grove?”

A native of Louisiana, Shea earned his B.A. from Louisiana State University and a Ph.D. from Rice University.  He has been a Rockefeller Scholar at Colonial Williamsburg, a Fulbright Scholar in China, a consultant for the National Park Service, and a battlefield guide for the Smithsonian Institution.  Shea has authored or co-authored numerous books and articles on American military history, especially the Civil War west of the Mississippi River.  

His latest book, Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign, was recently published by the University of North Carolina Press.      Your browser may not support display of this image.

<SPAN STYLE= "" >Fields of Blood</SPAN>

      ISBN 978-0-8078-3315-5

      His other works include:

    • Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide (University of Nebraska Press, 2006)

    • Vicksburg Is the Key: The Struggle for the Mississippi River (University of Nebraska Press, 2003)

    • Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West (University of North Carolina Press, 1992)

    • The Virginia Militia in the Seventeenth Century (Louisiana State University Press, 1983)

Currently Shea is working on a biography of Samuel Ryan Curtis. Curtis was the Union general responsible for the victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge, the capture of Helena, and the repulse of Sterling Price’s 1864 invasion of Missouri and Kansas.  

Fields of Blood 

from the Publisher:  

“William Shea offers a gripping narrative of the events surrounding Prairie Grove, Arkansas, one of the great unsung battles of the Civil War that effectively ended Confederate offensive operations west of the Mississippi River. Shea provides a colorful account of a grueling campaign that lasted five months and covered hundreds of miles of rugged Ozark terrain. In a fascinating analysis of the personal, geographical, and strategic elements that led to the fateful clash in northwest Arkansas, he describes a campaign notable for rapid marching, bold movements, hard fighting, and the most remarkable raid of the Civil War”.


"William Shea set the standard for campaign narrative in his classic work Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West. In Fields of Blood, he has raised the bar and established himself as the foremost historian on the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi. Smooth. Polished. Riveting!" 
--Terrence J. Winschel, historian, Vicksburg National Military Park, author of Triumph and Defeat: The Vicksburg Campaign, Vols. 1-2

"Fields of Blood is the definitive study of an important campaign that heretofore has not received the scholarly attention its significance merits. Shea's research is thorough and professional, his narrative clear, and his analysis judicious. This is a first-rate example of the historian's craft."--William Garrett Piston, coauthor of Wilson's Creek: The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It.

The Dilemma of General Robert Lee

Painting of Lee and Grant shaking hands.

Special thanks to Stephen McAteer, our friends at The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, and The Old State House Museum for the wonderful presentation of Robert E. Lee who was portrayed by Al Stone. The Wednesday event was held at the Old State House. About a dozen members of your Roundtable as well as others journeyed back to 1867 at Washington University in which Stone answered the question: Why did you (Lee) turn down the opportunity to command the Federal troops which would be the largest army in the world? In short, Stone replied that it was a constitutional crisis. Since the Revolutionary War and numerous times afterwards, individual states felt that they had the right to secede if the central government abused their constitutional powers.

Thru January 9th, the Lee and Grant exhibition will be at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. This exhibit looks at the lasting impact that Lee and Grant have had on our society, not only through the war years but directly after the war during the Reconstruction Era, into the 20th and 21st centuries. The exhibit funded and provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Virginia Historical Society will feature artifacts, interactive displays, and engaging text. The presenting sponsors are Harriet and Warren Stephens, Stephens Inc. and Entergy Arkansas Inc. Visit for additional information.

Thank you Mark Christ!

Last month Mark Christ, Community Outreach Director with the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program brought our program on the Battle of Helena. Mark discussed what the Federals did right and what the Confederates did wrong (just about everything)! Before his presentation he showed a video about the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and its hopes and goals.

This week Mark announced that the Arkansas Legislative Rules and Regulations Committee has approved the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Marker Program. Additional information will be available on the web site in the future.

In addition to his talk on Helena, Mark announced at our October meeting a new Passport Program. The following is taken from the Sesquicentennial Commission web site:

    The Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission (ACWSC) will sponsor a passport program during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War between 2011 and 2015. 
    The passport program will encourage visitors to travel to the state’s many Civil War-related sites where they will be able to have specially designed passports stamped. This will not only highlight Arkansas’s rich Civil War history, but will also promote heritage tourism around the state. 
    The ACWSC maintains a list of Civil War sites on its website at, but wants to ensure that other potential sites can be included. These need not only be battle sites, but can also include buildings with Civil War history and interpretation, and museums with Civil War-related exhibits. 
    If you know of any Civil War properties that should be added to our list, please write Mark Christ, Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, 1500 Tower Building, 323 Center Street, Little Rock, AR 72201; send an e-mail, or call (501) 324-9886. 
    The Sesquicentennial will provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to highlight one of the most significant periods in Arkansas history.   
       The Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission is housed within the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. The AHPP is the Department of Arkansas Heritage agency responsible for identifying, evaluating, registering and preserving the state’s cultural resources. Other agencies are the Arkansas Arts Council, the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, the Old State House Museum, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and the Historic Arkansas Museum.


Election of Officers for 2010

At our meeting on Tuesday, we will elect a new slate of officers to serve for 2010. Thanks to those who have served this year. Contact our President, Jan Sarna, if you would like to serve in any position.


Board Meeting

At our last board meeting we discussed the possibility of taking a trip to Vicksburg in the spring or summer of 2010 (before it gets too hot!) On the drive down, we could stop and visit the Lakeport Plantation near Lake Village. With the restoration of the Coker House, a side trip to Champion Hill might be included. Your editor has reprinted an article from The Vicksburg Post about the Coker House.  At our Board meeting, we also discussed the possibility of having a dinner in the fall of 2010. Monies raised would benefit preservation efforts. More information will follow.

Restoring historyYour browser may not support display of this image.


Coker House as seen in 2007

Coker house construction has allowed Kay Windham Turner to reconstruct her childhood

By Gordon Cotton Published: Sunday, August 16, 2009 2:17 AM CDTYour browser may not support display of this image. 

Kay Windham Turner stands in front of the Coker House, her childhood home. (Meredith Spencer*The Vicksburg Post)

Kay grew up in the historic home on the edge of the Champion Hill battleground about 3 miles out of Edwards on the Raymond Road, Mississippi 467. She lived there from the time she was born in 1946 until the family moved when she was 17. They didn’t go very far — just across the highway to a new house. 
The Coker House, built about 1852, has just undergone exterior reconstruction by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. It is considered one of the most significant structures that endured the May 16, 1863, battle of Champion Hill during the Vicksburg campaign. A Confederate victory probably would have changed the outcome of the war. 
The house has a wide center hall, used as a parlor, with two large bedrooms on each side. A separate dining room and kitchen were originally connected to the back porch by a set of steps and another porch. There were, also, the other usual outbuildings. In the 1900s, two bathrooms were added. The bathrooms have been torn away, and the dining/kitchen building has not been reconstructed. 
Kay has always been aware of the history centered on the house — though probably not as interested as many people — for she grew up with history buffs frequently knocking on the door, “and they continue to knock on my door across the road.” Years ago, it was not unusual to find artifacts such as belt buckles, shells and bullets. 
Mr. and Mrs. H.P. Coker were living there when Union Gen. A.J. Smith positioned a battery in front of the house on that fateful day in May1863, dueling relentlessly with Cowan’s Battery of Loring’s Confederates, who were dug in on Cotton Hill nearby. The house suffered from the guns of each side, and for years bullet holes in the siding and shattered timbers gave testimonial to the fierceness of the battle. Across the road, Gen. Lloyd Tilghman was killed by cannon fire from the direction of the Coker House. Today, a stone and fence mark the place of his death. 
The property was originally owned by two brothers, both doctors, who had moved from North Carolina. Dr. Jesse Cotton remained in the community, and in 1849 Dr. John A. Cotton and some friends headed to California to the Gold Rush, but he died at Independence, Mo. His widow married Coker, and they built the new house on her plantation. The Cokers’ descendants owned the property until 1932 when Alfred and Stella Gervin from near Rosedale bought it, moving to Hinds County with their seven children. Their son Bubba Gervin and his wife, Hazel, lived there in later years along with their daughter Louise and her husband, Noble Windham, and children Kay and Alfred. 
“We had a fabulous time in this house,” Kay remembers, for all the family came to visit on every occasion and on each holiday. Sometimes there were as many as 25 staying there, she said, adding, “I never slept in a bed on a holiday until I got married. The children all slept in pallets on the floor.” 
Folks were always dropping in, and they might stay a day or a month. A few extra places were always set on the dining room table in case somebody dropped by — and usually somebody did. 
In 1962, when Kay’s grandmother died, the place was sold to Fred Adams Jr. of Jackson, who operated Adams Eggs Farm there, using one room for a time as his office. The company is now Cal-Maine Industries. From the time the Windhams moved out, no one has lived in the Coker House. Adams deeded it to the Jackson Civil War Roundtable in 1985, and they made plans to stabilize it to keep it from further deterioration, but little was accomplished. The organization deeded it to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and plans were begun for restoration — or reconstruction. 
The house continued to deteriorate until last year when the MDAH, using grant money, had the building dismantled, the pieces numbered and stored, and on Dec. 8, 2008, the process of rebuilding began, using as much of the original material as possible. 
“It’s beautiful,” Kay said. “It looks the same as the house I grew up in, but it’s not the same. The timbers are still good, the doors and mantels are mostly intact, but so much could have been avoided with just a little bit of effort — like putting on a new roof. I guess they’ll restore the inside when they get more grant money. I just hope it doesn’t take as long as it did to do the outside of the house.” 
Though a road cuts through the edge of the lawn, many of the ancient trees — mostly magnolias and cedars still stand with camellias almost a century old. They bloom profusely, Kay said, like they are determined to hang on as part of our heritage. 
From her vantage point across the way, Kay has watched with a deep personal interest the reconstruction of her childhood home. 
Did they ask her advice? “No,” she said. “If they had, I would have told them to make the steps wider.”

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History completed the restoration.

Hope to see you Tuesday with Dr. Shea and The Battle of Prairie Grove!