After a stormy night, the sun rose joyously over a sleepy Little Rock as I walked this morning. Old Man North Wind tried to spoil the fun, but failed. It is, as with every sunrise, a good day to be alive.
The terminus of my walking was the park across the street from our condominium. It houses the Tower Building, the only surviving remnant of the Little Rock Arsenal. Constructed in 1840, it is one of central Arkansas’s oldest structures.
The building saw the birth of General Douglas MacArthur on January 26, 1880. His father was stationed at the Arsenal at that time. Baby Douglas was christened at a church a few blocks away and spent the first six months of his life here, hence the name given to MacArthur Park.
It was from this site that, on March 23, 1864, Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele marched a combined 8.500-man force of infantry, artillery and cavalry south to join other forces and drive the Confederate forces from east Texas. It was a campaign that ended with a fraction of his force limping back here in defeat on May 3rd of that year.
On January 8, 1864, a bitterly cold day when the Arkansas River was frozen solid, 17-year old David Owen Dodd, the so-called “Boy Martyr of the Confederacy was hanged on the grounds of his former school, St. Johns', just east of the Little Rock Arsenal. His charge? Spying on federal troop emplacements.
Today, the Tower building houses Little Rock’s MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. It is a function that honors duty and sacrifice, not war. Renovated after tornado damage in the 1990s, the building remains a source of pride for the neighborhood, the city, and the state.
Today, the old girl basked in all her glory, festooned with newly planted tulip beds blooming for the first time. I find it quite remarkable that small patch of ground on our planet—one developed originally for purposes of warfare—can offer such a peaceful place to relax and enjoy earth’s beauty for a moment.