Historic reenactors and history teachers will pull back the curtains of time at the Clayton House Saturday, May 23 with a packed day of activities entitled, "Civil War Days at the Sutton Mansion: An Earlier Clayton House Chapter."
Activities for all ages will fill the grounds and the parlors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. revealing the tale of wealthy merchant and Confederate William Bruce Sutton, who built the home in 1852, and of his home being turned into a U.S. General Hospital by the Union Army. The home was later purchased and doubled in size by William H. H. Clayton, U.S. Attorney, chief prosecutor of Judge Parker’s court. The event is sanctioned by the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, which is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in Arkansas.
Admission charge is $5 and includes outdoor activities of a turkey shoot, two Civil War-era crafts, live period music, interaction with Union hospital guards and patients, and a Civil War-era laundress demonstration. Four attractions indoors will be offered by speakers and reenactors. The home’s formal parlor will feature a portrayal of William Sutton by Marcus Woodward, Chaffin Junior High history teacher, and an exhibit of historic documents regarding Sutton’s business and home confiscation by the Union Army. Clayton House Interpreter Stephen Christian will share research on the home and Sutton’s career. Two brief "parlor talks" will each be offered four times during the day: David Alexander, who teaches history at Ramsey Junior High, will speak on the "Civil War in Fort Smith and Arkansas," and Cody Faber, park ranger of the Fort Smith National Historic Site, will speak on "Area Battles and Skirmishes." The times for these 25-minute talks are 10:30 and 11:15 a.m. and 1:15 and 2:15 p.m.
A highlight presentation will be "Civil War Medicine: Tools & Tenacity" by Doug Kidd of Tontitown, AR. Kidd, who has collected Civil War medicine-related artifacts for 35 years, will speak on the challenges of the Civil War surgeon as he portrays an actual surgeon in charge of the Sutton hospital. His collection will be displayed.
"War and the casualties of war have always the greatest university for the advancement of medicine," Kidd says. "The battlefield surgeons did an amazing job with what they knew and what resources they had. More was learned out of ‘have-to,’ and many things were stumbled onto basically by accident that have done so much good for humanity."
Kidd’s 30-minute program will be offered in the home’s servant quarters at 10:30 a.m. and 12:45, 2:00 and 3:15 p.m.
"We have scheduled these talks throughout the day to make them accessible to more people," Julie Moncrief, executive director of the Clayton House, says. "We hope a lot of our region’s citizens will come enjoy this day that includes the talent of so many great historic reenactment volunteers."
Susan Trisler has portrayed a Civil War-era laundress in historic events throughout several states and will exhibit and share her extensive period equipment. Floyd Robison has donated a custom-made "turkey shoot" that will be a highlight for youngsters and the young-at-heart. Members of the NW 15th Arkansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment will sport Union soldier attire and equipment and set up tents and hospital cots on the grounds. Local musicians John Spain and Barbara Griscom will perform the banjo and dulcimer, respectively.
A lunch of beans and cornbread cooked over a fire on the grounds will be available for $5. Cooking with period equipment are reenactors Rick Yates of the NW 15th Arkansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment and Jane-Ellen Ross and Janice Neighbor of Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park.
For more information, call the Clayton House at 783-3000 or visit its website, www.claytonhouse.org.