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The Fayetteville Confederate Cemetery in Fayetteville (Washington County) is the final resting place of Confederate soldiers who died throughout northwestern Arkansas. Closely associated with the activities of the Southern Memorial Association (SMA) and its efforts to commemorate Southern war casualties, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 3, 1993.
The SMA of Washington County was established on June 10, 1872, when several women met in answer to a notice in the June 6 Fayetteville Democrat calling for establishment of a “Confederate burying ground.” SMA president Lizzie Pollard noted twenty-five years later, “Out of the many who answered this call, there were but thirty-eight enthusiastic enough to undertake the task to which we that day pledged ourselves.” The organization held its first meeting on June 18, 1872, at which it adopted a constitution, by-laws, and the name “Southern Memorial Association.”
The SMA began raising funds and, on April 11, 1873, was able to pay Charles W. and Serena Walker $150 for a 3.48-acre site on the western slope of East Mountain, also known as Mount Sequoyah, adjacent to the Walker family cemetery plot. The SMA also began locating Confederate graves in Washington County and adjacent areas of northwestern Arkansas.
The SMA contracted with J. D. Henry in March 1873 to begin gathering Confederate dead at the Pea Ridge battlefield in Benton County for reinterment in the Fayetteville cemetery at a cost of $1.40 per body. Confederate remains from the Prairie Grove (Washington County) battlefield and other locations in northwestern Arkansas were carried to Fayetteville and reburied for $2.50 each.
The Confederate Cemetery was dedicated on June 10, 1873, the SMA’s first anniversary. Approximately 300 Confederate war dead were buried there at that time; the number eventually grew to about 800 burials. “Our first year was one of marvelous success at the end of it, and as the result of tireless labor we were able to dedicate to the memory of the soldiers whose bodies were to rest there this cemetery, well enclosed, and three hundred bodies already interred there,” Pollard remembered twenty-four years later. “The grounds, the fence, the removing of bodies, clearing and improving cemetery, cost us in round numbers $1,200. The money for all this was raised by our own labor, by giving suppers, bazaars, theatrical performances, etc.”
The burials are organized into separate areas for casualties from Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, and Louisiana. Sandstone head and foot markers were installed in 1876; they were replaced with marble markers in 1903.
The cemetery buried its highest-ranking officer in 1880, when the remains of Brigadier General William Yarnell Slack were removed from the Roller Cemetery at Moore’s Hill, northwest of Gateway (Benton County), to rest at the head of the Missouri section of the Confederate Cemetery. Slack, a Mexican War veteran, was wounded at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek on August 10, 1861. He recovered from his wounds but was shot again as he led his Missouri volunteers at the Battle of Pea Ridge. Carried from the field and moved three times to avoid capture by Federal troops, Slack succumbed to his wounds on March 21, 1862, one of three Confederate generals who died from injuries sustained at Pea Ridge. While records show that a few commissioned officers are buried in the Confederate Cemetery, most of the remains there are of private soldiers.
The original wooden-plank fence was replaced beginning in 1885, when donations were solicited by the SMA for the project. The cut-stone wall was finished by 1890. The native-stone entrance gate, designed by an architect named Dinwiddie, was added in 1926–27 at a cost of $682.
In 1896, the SMA decided to install a monument in the center of the cemetery, and the organization again began fundraising activities. “People of Cane Hill, Bentonville, Prairie Grove, Cincinnati, Springdale and other northwest Arkansas towns gave active support to the monument enterprise,” a later SMA president recalled, including lectures and recitals, song tournaments, card and Parcheesi tournaments, poetry readings, and distributions of cards with enough spaces for dimes to total $1 when filled. By February 16, 1897, all but $511 of the $2,500 monument cost was raised.
Sixteen designs were submitted for the memorial, and a committee of the SMA met on October 13, 1896. It selected one from the F. H. Venn Company of Memphis, Tennessee. The cornerstone of the monument was dedicated on May 1, 1897, and “in that cornerstone that May Day was [sic] placed several contemporary records, among them a list of the soldiers buried in the cemetery, also a roll of the A.I.U. (Arkansas Industrial University) students who gave to the monument fund. The first silver dollar contributed...was placed with these records in a strong metal box.”
The monument’s official dedication was held on June 10, 1897, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the SMA of Washington County. Included in the procession to the dedication ceremony was a float “containing a number of our handsome girls representing the Southern states,” a group of Confederate veterans led by General E. I. Stirman and preceded by the Fort Smith (Sebastian County) drum corps, SMA members in carriages (“the ladies were loudly cheered”), university cadets, Odd Fellows and other fraternal societies, uniformed Knights of Pythias, and representatives of the Fayetteville fire department.
The SMA maintains the picturesque cemetery in the twenty-first century.
For additional information:“Confederate Cemetery of Fayetteville Feasibility Study.” Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Arkansas State Parks Division, Planning and Development Section, May 1992.
Confederate Cemetery. http://www.arkansas.com/attractions/detail.aspx?id=24697 (accessed April 14, 2015).
“Fayetteville 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/!userfiles/WA0425.nr.pdf (accessed April 14, 2015).
Galloway, Rowena. “They Builded a Monument.” Flashback 2 (May 1958): 3.
The Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northwestern Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.
Harp, Chandler. “Confederate Cemetery, Fayetteville, Arkansas, An Approach to Preservation.” Research Report. Bentonville, AR: Benton County Preservation Project, 1991.
Montgomery, Don. “Confederate Cemetery in Fayetteville Research Report.” Prairie Grove, AR: Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, November 28, 1990.
“Unveiling of the Confederate Monument.” Fayetteville Sentinel, June 15, 1897, p. 2.
Mark K. Christ Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Last Updated 4/29/2015
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