THE HISTORIC ARKANSAS MUSEUM (HAM) and the Central Arkansas Library in downtown Little Rock hosted the seventieth annual conference of the Arkansas Historical Association, April 14-16, 2011. Dana Simmons and Jamie Brandon co-chaired the conference committee and coordinated local events. Blake Wintory served as program chair for a second year. With its theme, "A Gathering Storm: Arkansas Goes to War," the conference continued the AHA's gaze back at the Civil War.
On Thursday evening, early arrivals gathered at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History for a reception hosted by the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Friday morning, the trip downtown was slowed for many by the previous night's storms, which had left downed trees and flashing streetlights. At the HAM, the Department of History at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) hosted a reception with coffee and pastries. In HAM's Ottenheimer Theater, Bill Worthen, the museum's director, and Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS), welcomed everyone to the conference.
Roberts remained in the Ottenheimer Theater to moderate the conference's first session: "Soldiers & a Community." Carl Moneyhon of UALR opened the session with an analysis of Arkansas's 1861 volunteer soldiers, while Ronnie Nichols examined Arkansas African Americans who enlisted in the Union army. Josh Williams of Historic Washington State Park discussed the politics of secession in Washington. The University of Arkansas Press hosted the break in CALS' Darragh Center after the session.
Concurrent sessions in the Ottenheimer Theater and Darragh Center followed the break. John Kirk, chair of the history department at UALR, moderated the session "Two Urban Centers & Plantations" in the Ottenheimer Theater. C. Fred Williams of UALR began the session with an examination of how the Civil War transformed Little Rock. Thomas DeBlack of Arkansas Tech University looked at the coming of the Civil War in the plantation country of Chicot County through the journal of a Wisconsin teacher. Judy Byrd Brittenum, a landscape architect at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, concluded the session by telling the story of Samuel Fordyce and his impact on Hot Springs after the Civil War.
Meanwhile in the Darragh Center, Bryan McDade of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center moderated the session "Health & Geography." John Svendsen of Little Rock spoke on the role Arkansas's water resources played during the war, while David Sesser of Henderson State University examined disease and health in wartime Helena.
AHA Vice President Tim Nutt, filling in for Laura Miller, who had to attend Bill Clinton's dedication of the Clinton Birthplace National Historic Site in Hope, welcomed everyone to the luncheon and business meeting at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. Nutt delivered Miller's annual report to the members, followed by Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Williams' financial report. The membership elected two new trustees to the AHA board: Johanna Miller Lewis of Little Rock and Jajuan Johnson of Little Rock. Trustees Jamie Brandon, Vince Chadick, Mark Christ, Cherisse JonesBranch, and Peggy Lloyd were re-elected to second terms. To conclude the lunch, Paul Shackel, an anthropologist at the University of Maryland, delivered the keynote: "Is it Déjà vu All Over Again?: Commemoration and the Civil War."
Following lunch, attendees had several options for filling their afternoon. Russell Baker presented a genealogical workshop on research methods in Civil War era records. Guided tours of Mount Holly Cemetery and Oakland-Fraternal Cemeteries in downtown Little Rock were also available. A bus tour of central Arkansas Civil War sites led by Mark Christ proved to be popular. It traced the Union army's advance on Little Rock in 1863, including the Brownsville skirmish site, Bayou Meto (Reed's Bridge) battlefield, the point where the Federals crossed the Arkansas River, the Fourche Bayou battlefield, and the old U. …