Renowed Civil War Historian Presents Helena's Gen. Patrick Cleburne

October 18, 2018 6:00 PM to October 18, 2018 9:00PM

Old State House Museum - 300 Markham, Little Rock AR

Additional Event Details


Old State House Museum’s Annual Supper:  

Renowned Civil War Historian Speaks on Helena’s Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne




Edwin Bearss, distinguished National Parks Historian Emeritus will be the guest speaker at the Old State House Museum's (OSHM) Annual Supper on October 18. Bearss will engage the audience with a fascinating talk on Helena's own adopted son, Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne, also known as "the Stonewall Jackson of the West."

This special presentation will be held from 6 to 9 p.m., and is to begin with a reception on the front lawn of the museum, followed by supper and program in the museum's historic 1885 House of Representatives Chamber. Seating is limited. Tickets are $125 per person. Early purchase of tickets is encouraged. To purchase tickets, or for more information about this event, contact Sammye Johnston, OSHM executive director, at 501.664.1879, or visit 

 Honored by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of "35 Who Made a Difference," Edwin Bearss is a WWll veteran who has written prolifically on Civil War events and places. He is a noted Civil War battlefield tour guide and has served as a commentator on several Civil War television documentaries. During this event, Bearss will give dinner guests an up close look at the life of one of the Civil War's most brilliant soldiers. Helena natives who may also love Civil War history, won't want to miss his telling of the General's war years.

A native of Ireland, Patrick Cleburne was 22, when he moved to Helena. And despite which side of the Civil War one believes was right, or which was wrong, if you're a true Civil War buff, you'll recognize that the legend of Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne and his military feats were unparalleled. On May 6, after learning that Arkansas had seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America, Cleburne wrote his brother, Robert, from Camp Rector, “I am with the South in life or death, in victory or defeat.”

At the battle of Shiloh he proved that his abilities had not been overestimated, and during the reorganization of the army at Tupelo he brought his brigade to a very high state of discipline and efficiency. He had that valuable combination of qualifications for command which enabled him to enforce discipline and at the same time secure the esteem and confidence of his troops.

Again, at Chickamauga Cleburne made a charge in which his men-- by desperate valor-- won and held a position that had been assailed time and again without success.  At Missionary Ridge, in command at the tunnel, he defeated Sherman, capturing flags and hundreds of prisoners, and when involved in the general defeat, he made a heroic fight at Ringgold gap and saved Bragg's artillery and wagon train.

In recognition of this gallant exploit, the Confederate Congress passed the following joint resolution: "Resolved, that the thanks of Congress are due, and are hereby tendered to Maj.-Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne, and the officers and men under his command, for the victory obtained by them over superior forces of the enemy at Ringgold gap in the State of Georgia on the 27th day of November, 1863, by which the advance of the enemy was impeded, our wagon trains and most of our artillery saved, and a large number of the enemy killed and wounded."

As awe-inspiring as his heroism was considered to be during that time, here are a few things about Gen. Cleburne's life as an adopted son of Helena, which most may not know. And, it is also interesting that some of those names in his close social circle have descendants who reside in Helena today.  Many had surnames that are still recognizable by current day residents of Helena.

But back then, when Cleburne strolled Helena's by-ways, there was the Grant and Nash Drugstore, among others.  Like other mid-19th-century drugstores, Grant and Nash was a combination pharmacy and dry goods store. It sold medicinal chemicals including quinine, iodine, citric acid and morphine.  And its advertisements listed cream of tartar, ipecac, rhubarb and cayenne powder under “drugs and medicines.” Patrons could also purchase spices, essential oils, dyes, paint, surgical instruments, and perfumes.

Nash told Cleburne that they needed a competent prescriptionist who could take charge of the entire shop. In a month, Cleburne had brought order to and become the manager of the Grant and Nash Drugstore, for which he received $50 a month, a room at the rear of the shop, and his meals, which he took with Dr. Grant.

Cleburne entered wholeheartedly into Helena’s social life. He joined a debating society formed by Helena’s young men, where he met Mark W. Alexander who later became his law partner. He formed a chess club and later became an active member of St. John’s Episcopal Church (which is still in Helena), on Pecan Street. Modest and friendly, Cleburne was well liked and made friends easily. During his time in Helena he counted John J. Hornor, Millinder Hanks, Thomas C. Hindman and James C. Tappan, among his friends. The young Irish immigrant had found a home in Helena.

In late 1851, Grant decided to sell his interest in the drugstore and Patrick Cleburne was able to make a cash down payment of $350, with a deed of trust on his half interest in the store as security for payment of the $1,150 balance within twelve months. On January 1, 1852, the store became Nash and Cleburne.

But shortly thereafter, Cleburne decided that he was ready for a new challenge. In April 1854, he and his partner Charles Nash sold the drugstore and Cleburne used his profits to enter into the study of law. He studied under attorneys Mark W. Alexander and Thomas B. Hanley, spending two years at their firm.

In February 1855, weeks before his twenty-seventh birthday, Cleburne became a naturalized citizen of the United States. That year he helped his stepmother, half-sister Isabella, and half-brothers, Robert and Christopher, immigrate to the United States. They settled in Cincinnati, where Cleburne’s sister, Anne, and her family lived.

Cleburne’s life in Helena was not without it sorrows and troubles. In April 1856, a sailboat he was piloting on the Mississippi was struck by a steamboat and his good friend James T. Crary and two others were drowned. A month later, he was nearly killed on Front Street when Thomas Hindman’s ongoing feud with "Know-Nothing" candidate, W.D. Rice, erupted in violence.

When the Civil War began in April 1861, he wrote to his brother, Richard, “I am with Arkansas in weal and woe.” That spring, Patrick Cleburne and 115 other men marched off to war. Before boarding the steamboat for Camp Rector about sixty miles upriver, Cleburne addressed his men and hundreds of the citizens of Helena at the Methodist Church, a frame building located on Porter Street at Walnut.

In the war's awful carnage at Franklin,TN, on November 30, 1864, Cleburne gave his last battle order. Within twenty paces of the Union line, pierced by three wounds, he fell, and on the battlefield expired. His death was a disheartening blow to the army of Tennessee, and was mourned throughout the whole South. Major General Patrick Cleburne's grave site is located in Helena's historic Confederate Cemetery. 

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