By Dr. Curtis Varnell
Traveling in Arkansas prior to the Civil War was a tenuous and difficult task. To travel anywhere in Arkansas, it was necessary to consider the geology, geography, and biology of the region. Early settlements occurred along the various rivers and streams that crisscrossed the state and were primarily accessed by steam or keel boats and those were the primary means of transportation of people and goods.
In 1860, only 38 miles of railroad track existed in the state and even Little Rock was not connected to any national railway system. The Delta region still retained many of the features created during the New Madrid earthquake, which made overland travel difficult but the few roads that existed were exceptional in comparison to the trails and paths of the Ozarks and Ouachita’s.
Military travel required the transport of goods and supplies by wagon and thus necessitated travel over the few existing roads that could be traversed by these vehicles. Many of these roads, deemed military roads, were built during early settlement days to transport soldiers and supplies to the series of military posts used to police the Indian reservations.
An old road ran from Helena, northwest to Clarendon, to Conway, Morrilton, and to Old Dwight Mission. There the road branched, with the southern part following the old Military Road through Dardanelle, Paris, and then to Fort Smith.
Other old roadways ran from Fort Smith south to Greenwood, where it branched to the east and travelled through Booneville, Danville, and thus to Hot Springs. Continuing south, it proceeded to Waldron and southward. Present day highways that correspond to these civil war roads are state Highways 65, 22, 71, and 10.
The Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, formed by Act 635 of the Arkansas General Assembly, was organized to expand our understanding of the Civil War and to preserve the historical and educational sites located around the state. A very successful effort, road signs and markers were placed at these sites to remind us of our heritage and to increase understanding of this great struggle. It also reminds us of our commitment to promote unity of our country and our state.
As the monument at Haguewood Prairie states, Not North or South, East or West; WE ARE ONE!!!