Fort Smith National Historic Site preserves what remains of the historic fort that defended the frontier for more 50 years along with structures associated with the Judge Isaac C. Parker and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. Parker was known even in his lifetime as the "Hanging Judge" of Fort Smith and the deputies who operated under his jurisdiction brought law and order to the Old West and inspired such films as John Wayne's "True Grit" and "Rooster Cogburn" and Clint Eastwood's "Hang Em High."
Largely because the Parker years generate so much interest, many people do not realize today that the old fort played a key role in the Civil War. Both Union and Confederate troops occupied it at various stages of the war and it was a strategic focal point for both armies as they struggled to control both western Arkansas and the Indian Nations of what is now Oklahoma.
Over the next few posts, I will focus on Fort Smith and its role in the Civil War so I hope you will check back every day or so to learn more about one of my favorite cities and favorite historic sites in the nation. You can also learn more any time at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fortsmith.