LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas' capital marked 150 years since it was seized by U.S. troops during the Civil War on Tuesday, opening an exhibit of two battle flags that hadn't been in Little Rock since the city's capture.
Seemingly appropriate, the power went out Tuesday afternoon at the MacArthur Military Museum, located in the old arsenal where Gen. Douglas MacArthur was born in 1880. The darkened staircases gave the place an especially historic feel before the museum highlighted standards from the conquering 3rd Iowa Calvary and the 37th Arkansas Volunteer Infantry, which was captured at the Battle of Helena.
"This is the first time that they're back in Arkansas," said Sheila Hanke, the conservator and collections manager for the Iowa Battle Flag Project at the State Historical Society of Iowa.
The arsenal served Confederate and Union forces during the Civil War and survived an attempt by retreating rebels to destroy its cache of weapons before federal troops moved in.
"The grounds were still a functioning arsenal. Our building housed all the ammunition," said Stephan McAteer, the museum's director. "They were trying to blow up the building. Had those Confederate forces been able to do that, we wouldn't be here today. We can thank the quick arrival of federal troops at the arsenal with saving the building."
Little Rock — the fourth Confederate capital to fall — surrendered two months after Union troops seized Vicksburg and Helena, key cities on the Mississippi River, and helped keep people on the frontier from supplying aid to the heart of Dixie, said Jan Sarna, president of the Civil War Roundtable of Arkansas. He proposed that, if Little Rock hadn't fallen, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Indian Territory could have provided food and other goods to the South even if troops couldn't cross the river.