Washington State Park and Confederate Capitol of Arkansas
Constructed in 1836 and serving as the county seat for forty years, this building is best-known today as the home of the Confederate State Capitol from 1863–1865. Washington became the state capitol after Little Rock, Arkansas fell to Union forces in the American Civil War. For all practical purposes, the Union controlled Arkansas and Confederate leaders only met at this building a few times prior to the end of the war. The building served as the county courthouse until 1874 and is a National Historic Landmark.
Backstory and Context
Historic Washington State Park in Arkansas preserves the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras in this part of Arkansas. Washington County was originally settled by Native Americans, who were forced further west into present-day Oklahoma. The town of Washington is named in honor of George Washington and was founded in 1824.
Arkansas was a slave state and joined other slaveholding Southern states in seceding from the Union in 1861. However, many areas of Arkansas were home to Unionists and many others who simply hoped to avoid the war. During the Civil War, Washington served as the Confederate capital of the state following the surrender of Little Rock to Union forces. At that time, the Confederate government fled from Little Rock.
One of the most important battles in Arkansas during the war occurred in Washington County and is known as the Skirmish at Prairie D' Ane. This small engagement became the turning point of the Camden expedition.