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Civil War Round Table of Arkansas

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Our 46th 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


CSS Pontchartrain


William Stevens 

Amateur historian and aspiring marine archeologist, William Stevens of Little Rock, will bring an exciting program concerning the search for the Confederate Ram, the CSS Pontchartrain.  Before Federal troops entered Little Rock on September 10, 1863, Confederate forces scuttled the Pontchartrain in the Arkansas River and burned her to the water line by some accounts. Where could she be? Think of the many years of flooding and fast river flows. Could the Pontchartrain be half-way to Pine Bluff? According to the March 2nd Arkansas/Gazette, Stevens and a group of volunteers have located in the water of the river a small bell and a bottle which may hold artifacts including Civil War marbles, belt buckles, bullets and buttons, possibly from Union uniforms. Where did these items come from?

 The Confederate Navy purchased the Lizzie Simmons in 1861 and converted the sidewheel paddleboat into a gunboat, the mighty Pontchartrain. After operating in the Mississippi River, she patrolled the Arkansas and White Rivers. Fort Hindman was being constructed at Arkansas Post to be an obstacle for Federal vessels attempting to enter the Arkansas and White Rivers. The Pontchartrain was charged with delivering guns for the defense of Fort Hindman.  When the Pontchartrain was returned to Little Rock to be converted into a ram, Capt. John W. Dunnington and 35 sailors remained at Fort Hindman to operate the guns. In Mark Christ’s new book, Civil War Arkansas 1863, The Battle For a State, Christ states that Dunnington, “brought his gunboat, the Pontchartrain, to St. Charles, bringing two 32-pound rifled guns to the earthworks.” PG 25


Arkansas Post was attacked by Federals on January 10 and 11, 1863, Dunnington and the sailors became prisons of war when the post fell.

 Back in Little Rock the Pontchartrain was being refitted with railroad iron and wood.  Originally 454-tons, the Confederates ram hoped to control the waterways of the Arkansas. She never saw additional action on the Arkansas River. Why wasn’t she a factor when the Federals approached Little Rock? (The Confederates remembered the role the USS Tyler played on July 4th 1863 at Helena and how its guns rained death upon them).  Could the depth of the river have an impact on the action?  Why wasn’t the Pontchartrain seen or heard at Bayou Fourche?  What factor did the water level of the river play in her operation?


Lt. Commandeer S.L. Phelps, writes to Gen. Frederick Steele from Devall’s Bluff on September 10, 1863:  

“From the information I can gather here, I am not likely to have the pleasure of seeing you, unless I go over to Little Rock to congratulate you on your success and triumphs. (capture of Little Rock). The river is falling, and there is not over 5 feet of water on some of the bars.  If this is to be your base of supplies, the low water coming requires your prompt attention, as, at 3 feet, the low-water stage, steamers could bring up very little freight…”       Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Washington, 1912, PG 403



Where does one hide a 204’ long paddleboat?

Come out Tuesday to meet Stevens and the CSS Ponchartrain

Also on Tuesday, we will meet Luke Childress, a young man who won a prize for his essay on U. S. Grant in the fall. This contest was sponsored by the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History.  Welcome Luke!

News release



In cooperation with the Franklin Charge, The Civil War Preservation Trust is helping to reclaim one Hallowed Acre at the Battle of Franklin, which was fought on November 30, 1864.  Nearly 8,500 casualties were “literally piled up” in just five hours. Jim Lighthizer of the Trust states that the Franklin Charge has a long range plan to purchase, preserve and restore the actual ground where the “maelstrom of battle happened.”  


Victory was finally realized when the Pizza Hut was torn down and now a park stands where Confederate General Patrick Cleburne was killed. This land to be purchased now is adjacent to the historic Cotton Gin property. The total purchase price is $950,000. For additional information visit the CWPT:     



Civil War Survivor



Farmhouse near Antietam National Battlefield Restored

In the January/February issue of the Preservation magazine, there is a wonderful article about how the plight of a two-story clapboard-over-log structure which was in such poor condition: “hornets in the attic, evidence of cows and raccoons in the basement, a collapsed chimney, and foot-long mud stalactites formed by termites hanging from beams atop the stone foundation.” It was built around 1840…and about to lose its battle until…


The home was purchased and restored by Brent and Julie Stinar. It sits near Burnside Bridge where 12,000 Union troops battled confederate sharpshooters. The land today yields vegetables, hay, with some wood lands. Your editor hopes to visit it in September when I make a trip to Antietam.

Park Day – Saturday April 10

Volunteers are needed to take on maintenance projects large and small at battlefields and historic sites. Some projects include raking leaves, cutting grass and brush, cleaning and painting signs, hauling trash, and trial building. Areas in Arkansas include:


Historic Washington State Park

Prairie Grove Battlefield

Pea Ridge National Military Park

Reed’s Bridge


In Central Arkansas workers can work at Reed’s Bridge in Jacksonville. Gather at 10:00 in the parking lot with good work gloves and boots. For additional information contact Jack Danielson in Jacksonville at 501-985-3670 or


Our Civil War Roundtable has purchased the panels and markers shown above. Over time they become dirty. We are asking for volunteers to “Adopt a Marker”. Workers are needed once a quarter to inspect the makers and clean them as needed. Soap, water and a brush is all that is needed. Contact your editor for the location you wish to adopt.

[Note: Publisher will kick start this by adopting No. 3 (Ashley's Mill)]

Important Dates to Remember 

Before the War: Antebellum Arkansas, April 15, 2010 - April 17, 2010
Arkansas Historical Association
416 Old Main, University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Ph: 479-575-5884

The 69th Annual Arkansas Historical Association Annual Conference will be held April 15 through 17 in Jonesboro. The theme for the 2009 AHA conference is “Before the War: Antebellum Arkansas.” Sessions will set the stage by focusing on life in Arkansas from 1803 to 1860-the Louisiana Purchase to the eve of war.

The conference will deal with all aspects of Arkansas's territorial and antebellum history

A Special Announcement will be made at the conference about a new award in memory of Charles Durnett, member of our Roundtable, who died on July 4 2008. Watch for details in next month’s newsletter.  

2010 Arkansas Preservation Conference, April 15, 2010 - April 17, 2010
Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas
1201 Tower Building, 323 Center Street
Little Rock, AR 72201
Ph: 501-372-4757

The 2010 Arkansas Preservation Conference will be held in Helena on April 15-17. The conference includes a track titled "Batteries, Buildings and Battlefields: Preserving Arkansas's Civil War Resources." For more information, call 501-372-4757 or send an e-mail to

Thank you Dr. Dougan! 

As usual, Dr. Michael Dougan from Jonesboro kept us entertained with his wisdom and whit at our meeting last month. Confederate General N. Bart Pearce is now well known! Thanks!


Change in Meeting Place and Time in April

Our Roundtable has been graciously invited to hold our April 27th meeting at the Ten Mile House, by Hooker, its owner. Tom Ezell will bring a program on David O. Dodd.  We will gather at 6:00 P.M. for light snacks and refreshments. Hooker will discuss his beautiful home and the program by Tom will begin at 7:00.

Located on Stagecoach Road (Hwy 5) just east of I-430.


Ten Mile House

The Ten Mile House was a stop on the Southwest Trail stagecoach line and is considered one of the oldest existing houses in Little Rock.  It was also used by Union troops during the Civil War, and the smokehouse was used to hold David O. Dodd until he was transported to Little Rock for trial.  The house has also been called the McHenry House after the original owners of the property, Archibald and Elizabeth McHenry.  It was built between 1825 and 1836 by Thomas Thorn using slave labor to make the bricks. 

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and privately owned.


See You Tuesday with William Stevens and the CSS Pontchartrain