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Camp White Sulphur Springs, located in the community of Sulphur Springs (Jefferson County) two miles southwest of present-day Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), served as a staging and training facility for the Confederate army during the early parts of the Civil War. Later in the war, the camp and surrounding area functioned as a Confederate military hospital following a smallpox outbreak.
In the early stages of the war, Camp White Sulphur Springs served as a recruiting and staging area for volunteers who came from Pine Bluff and the surrounding towns to organize and assign troops to various units. Early in the war, the Ninth Arkansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment and Fagan’s Guard, which later became B Company of the Second Arkansas Infantry Battalion, trained near White Sulphur Springs. Most of the young men who joined the Confederate army at Camp White Sulphur Springs were deployed to engagements in the east, leaving Arkansas exposed to Union attacks. Following the Battle of Pea Ridge in 1862, Governor Henry Rector began stopping Confederate troops passing through the state from Texas and Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) to engagements in the north and east and rerouted them to Pine Bluff and Camp White Sulphur Springs in an attempt to defend southern Arkansas.
The troops from Texas and Oklahoma brought with them measles and smallpox. Many of the soldiers encamped at White Sulphur Springs were infected and eventually died. In an attempt to isolate the infected soldiers, the Sulphur Springs Hotel, female academy, and Methodist church were all converted into hospitals to house the ill soldiers. Civilian nurse Eliza Currie of the nearby Lee Springs community volunteered to care for the ill soldiers. The death rate among the infected was high; while the exact number of deceased is unknown, it is estimated to have been between 150 and 175, eventually including Currie. Those who died were either buried in the White Sulphur Springs camp, near the hotel, or in the various encampments in which they died.
In late 1862, the troops remaining at White Sulphur Springs were transferred throughout the area. Many were sent to either Arkansas Post (Arkansas County) or to defend Vicksburg, Mississippi. In September 1863, the Union army captured Little Rock (Pulaski County) and, shortly thereafter, Pine Bluff. The soldiers left in the hospitals at White Sulphur Springs were captured and the buildings burned.
On October 11, 1912, a monument was dedicated to those who died at Camp White Sulphur Springs and the surrounding area by the David O. Dodd Chapter No. 212, United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). The Pine Bluff Commercial reported the following morning, “In the presence of a large number of people from Pine Bluff and Jefferson County, including Confederate Veterans, sons of veterans and members of the U.D.C., of this city, a handsome granite boulder was unveiled Sunday afternoon at 3:30 o’clock at Sulphur Springs, to mark the graves of a large number of Confederate soldiers who died at Sulphur Springs while a Confederate command was camped there. These graves have been unmarked for nearly fifty years and the names of only a few of them have been secured by the ladies of David O. Dodd, U.D.C., under whose auspices the boulder was erected and unveiled.”
The cemetery went relatively untouched for several years until the mid-1980s, when the Major General Patrick R. Cleburne Camp, No. 1433, Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), of Pine Bluff in conjunction with the Dodd Chapter of the UDC began a project to restore the cemetery and identify those buried there. A dispute between the two groups delayed the placement of headstones until 1994. At that time, markers began to be placed by the SCV members on lots surrounding the original monument. In 1996, the SCV and the UDC reached an agreement to preserve and improve the cemetery by installing fencing, flagpoles, and historical markers. The cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 19, 2005.
For additional information:“Camp White Sulphur Springs Confederate Cemetery.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/JE0593.nr.pdf (accessed March 17, 2017).
Camp White Sulphur Springs Confederate Cemetery. http://www.civilwar.org/civil-war-discovery-trail/sites/camp-white-sulphur-springs-confederate-cemetery.html (accessed March 17, 2017).
Leslie, James W. Land of Cypress and Pine: Some Southeast Arkansas History. Little Rock: Rose Publishing Company, 1976.
Jacob WorthanHenderson State University
Last Updated 4/17/2017
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