March 11, 2013Kathy Dickson
Oklahoma Historical Society405-522-5231
Honey Springs Battlefield Designated National Historic Landmark
The Honey Springs Battlefield is designated as one of 13 new national historic landmarks announced by the Director of the National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. The Honey Springs Battlefield is owned by the Oklahoma Historical Society and is one of several 19th century military sites important in Oklahoma history.
“This designation by the National Park Service is the latest piece of a broad partnership to share the tremendous significance of Honey Springs,” said Ryan McMullen, State Director of Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We’re excited to continue our partnership with the Oklahoma Historical Society in developing the community facilities needed to share such a significant historic site with the public.”
“This designation is the result of the work of many dedicated people who have worked toward this goal since the first piece of the battlefield was purchased for preservation in 1964,” commented Bob L. Blackburn, OHS Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer.
The Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) owns the majority of the property included in the nomination and is currently building a new interpretive center at the site with the support of the Friends of Honey Springs and the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Program.
Dr. Blackburn, Lynda Ozan, SHPO National Register Coordinator, and Mary Jane Warde, historian, attended the November 7-8 meeting of the Landmarks Committee of the National Park System Advisory Board in Washington, D. C., to present the Honey Springs nomination and address questions from the Committee.
The Battle of Honey Springs was the largest engagement of the American Civil War fought in Indian Territory, and it had far reaching impact on Indian Territory, American national development, and the future State of Oklahoma. The Battle of Honey Springs (also called Elk Creek) was a turning point for the war in the Trans-Mississippi West. Prior to the battle on July 17, 1863, the Confederate forces were in full control of the areas below the Arkansas River and the areas north of the Arkansas River were in dispute. After the battle the Federals controlled the area north on the Canadian River and the area between it and the Red River were placed in dispute. The Confederate loss at Honey Springs led to the loss of Fort Smith and Western Arkansas. Honey Springs was the largest battle in which Indians, Blacks, and Whites fought with and against one another. It was the first major engagement where Black troops carried the day and perhaps the first major engagement where ex-slaves fought against their masters.
The commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Honey Springs will take place this summer, and a battle reenactment is planned November 9 and 10.
National historic landmarks are nationally significant historic places that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. The program, established in 1935, is administered by the National Park Service. Currently there are 2,540 designated national historic landmarks.
The National Park Service works with preservation officials and other partners interested in nominating a landmark. Completed applications are reviewed by the National Park System Advisory Board, which makes recommendations for designation to the Secretary of the Interior. When selected, property ownership remains intact but each site receives a designation letter, a plaque, and technical preservation advice.