Society member Paul Knapp showing a piece of pottery to visitors during the Leetown site Open House.
The 2018 Arkansas Archeological Society (AAS) and Arkansas Archeological Survey (ARAS) Summer Training Program was held at Pea Ridge National Military Park in Northwest Arkansas. The park commemorates and interprets the Civil War battle that took place on the site in 1862. Some 16,000 Confederate soldiers from Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, and Louisiana fought 10,500 troops from Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana for control of northwest Arkansas. The battle earned the nickname “the Gettysburg of the West,” not only for the fierceness of the fighting, but also for the strategic implications of the battle―by losing at Pea Ridge the Confederates effectively ceded control of Missouri (and all-important St. Louis) for the duration of the war. Safeguarding St. Louis opened the door for U.S. campaigns down the Mississippi River that would split the Confederacy in two and establish the reputations of Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman.
Between June 9th and 24th, over 100 volunteers from the Arkansas Archeological Society worked alongside the staff of the Arkansas Archeological Survey to investigate several sites around the park―including portions of the battlefield and farmsteads that were occupied during the battle. The dig was co-directed by Drs. Jamie Brandon (ARAS-UAF) and Carl Drexler (ARAS-SAU). Additionally, the the Summer Training Program happened in conjunction with the 2018 University of Arkansas archeological field school (May 29–June 29) directed by Dr. Drexler.
The 2018 training program was part of an ongoing cooperative research endeavor between the Arkansas Archeological Survey and the National Park Service. Over the past three years collaborative research has been conducted at several important battlefield sites―including Ruddick’s Field and the so-called “broad ridge.” We have also investigated domestic sites that would have been occupied during the battle―such as the nineteenth century hamlet of Leetown.
Visitors had an opportunity to tour the lab and visit an excavation site during our open house, which was held on Saturday, June 16. The open house provided the public an opportunity to learn about the annual training program and the ongoing research. Visitors toured the field lab, seeing many of the artifacts that were recovered, and receive a day-pass to the park to visit the Leetown site.