From Staff Reports
The Seventh Annual Civil War Symposium presented by the Jefferson Historical Society and Museum this weekend has exceeded all expectations, with a record number of people attending.
This year’s annual symposium attracted over 150 attendees demonstrating that interest in this area of history is growing.
Jefferson Historical Society and Museum president, John Taylor, and board members Weldon Nash, Jr., and Mitchel Whitington, were upbeat about the symposium which began with a meet and mingle reception at the Excelsior House Hotel in downtown Jefferson. Taylor, Nash and Whitington were honored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy with the Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal award.
Titled “Defending and Supplying the Trans-Mississippi Department,” the event continued through the day Saturday and highlighted the key role Jefferson played in the development of the military and industrial Trans-Mississippi Department.
Four noted speakers discussed key factors relating to the history of the Trans-Mississippi Civil War, and various exhibitors and vendors added value. There was a speakers’ reception, and attendees received a book published by the museum that was dedicated to the event.
Designed to give perspective to the Jefferson Civil War, the symposium highlighted several earth-shattering events that should never be forgotten. These included details of the major Red River Campaign that ranks as the largest civil war engagement west of the Mississippi River, a remarkable account of medical services during the civil war, a rare look at naval activities during the conflict and the story behind the brave men who escaped capture at Arkansas Post in 1863 and went on to play a vital role in Louisiana’s Red River Campaign in 1864.
While many troops were supplied by Jefferson and Marion County, many members of the cavalry also came from Jefferson. Their achievements are legendary. But while battles at Pleasant Hill, Mansfield, and those that occurred during the Red River Campaign are reasonably well-known, there are many aspects they don’t consider. For instance, a lot of people think about engagements on the east coast together with Gettysburg, that is generally considered by many to be the most important engagement of the American Civil War, Taylor, Nash, and Whitington firmly believe that most people are not aware of what happened in “what we call the Trans-Mississippi Department, which is everything west of the Mississippi River.” This is primarily why the annual conference is dedicated to educating people about the Trans-Mississippi Department and how it contributed to the history of the town Jeffersonians can enjoy today.
The president and board members are careful to ensure that the symposium is relevant. While there are a range of opinions about the one-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally in Thomas Jefferson’s hometown, Charlottesville, VA, the organizers of this year’s event are quick to say that this is not a Confederate symposium. Rather, it is a Civil War symposium that presents both sides of the conflict, North and South, their battles and their struggles in the Trans-Mississippi Department.
The approach of the organizers differs from year to year, in an endeavor to present a balanced view. One presentation this year was about battle strategy and another involved providing a medical presentation about battle-field medicine. In a previous symposium, there was a presentation that showed how horses played a valuable role in battle. For civil war history buffs, if you didn’t make it to the symposium you can visit the Jefferson Museum year-round where you can see some incredible displays showing some of the relics of battles discussed at the symposium.
►Watch Dr. Bill J. Gurley, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ College of Pharmacy, present an excerpt from “I Acted From Principle. The Civil War Saga of Dr. William M. McPheeters, Conferderate Surgeon in the Trans-Mississippi.”
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