PRAIRIE GROVE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Some artifacts recovered from one of America’s most intact Civil War battlegrounds are in Prairie Grove, but they are now being moved across the state to Newport.
Long before Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park attracted tourists from all over, it was a place where Confederate and Union forces fought and sacrificed their lives.
“The civilians who suffered here in this town- men women and children who would’ve dealt with so much tragedy in this area but persevered and moved on to form the America that we now have…”I want to be able to tell their story and the story of thousands of other men like them,” said Prairie Grove Battlefield volunteer, Jim Spillars.
The Battle of Prairie Grove was the last major Civil War engagement in northwest Arkansas.
“A lot of families would find things from bullets to artillery shells,” Spillars said. “I’ve even seen there’s a reunion uniform from one of the soldiers who fought here.”
Since then, artifacts from that 1862 battle have been displayed at the state park, but they are now being moved to Jacksonport State Park in Newport, Arkansas.
“Right now, they are stored in an old residence,” said Communications Chief for the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, Melissa Whitfield. “It’s not a collections management facility that provides the correct lighting and the correct temperature. As the state, in possession of these important artifacts, we want to make sure that they are conserved and don’t deteriorate.”
Spillars said for his family, these are not just any artifacts. He had several ancestors fight in the Battle at Prairie Grove, on both sides.
“There’s a lot of history that happened here that’s all directly tied because these men are local men,” Spillars said. “Again, my family going back seven generations in the county, I find that family history very fascinating that they were taking part in this battle.”
Now, Spillars said he is calling on Whitfield and the state to find a way to keep the artifacts on their home territory by building a facility in Prairie Grove to safely store these artifacts where they belong.
“Not everyone can have that kind of facility,” Whitfield said. “The state will consider the best way to handle this.”
Whitfield said there is no set date to move these artifacts and the state is still determining which ones will need to move.