November 15, 2023
Friends of Honey Springs Battlefield Receives $8,953 Grant from Oklahoma Humanities
CHECOTAH, Okla. — The Friends of Honey Springs Battlefield is pleased to announce it has received an almost $9,000 grant from Oklahoma Humanities. The grant will assist in funding a traveling exhibit entitled “Encountering John Brown,” provided through Overland Exhibits from North Newton, Kansas. The exhibit will explore the history of the man who helped ignite the American Civil War. The display will also provide important historical connections between John Brown and those who later fought at the Battle of Honey Springs on July 17, 1863. The exhibit will be displayed inside the Honey Springs Visitor Center from January 9-March 2, 2024. “Encountering John Brown” was developed, designed, built and toured by Overland Traveling Exhibit. Founding institutions include the Watkins Museum of History in Lawrence, Kansas.
An abolitionist, John Brown spoke out against the institution of slavery and slaveholding in hopes that all people, no matter their race or background, would eventually share freedom equally. Brown also led a group of fellow abolitionists in armed conflicts against pro-slave Missouri border ruffians prior to the outbreak of the Civil War with the assistance of James G. Blunt, William Addison Phillips, Josiah Hinton and others who would later organize one of the most culturally diverse U.S. armies (Army of the Frontier) ever formed in the entire Civil War. These same Brown men led this army, which consisted of three Union Native Home Guards and the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which was the first African American Unit to see combat in the entire Civil War. Additionally, these regiments consisted of many Freedmen who had self-liberated themselves from present-day Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas. They would fight for their freedoms and homes at the Battle of Honey Springs and the Civil War in Indian Territory.
The exhibit will also provide historical narrative, firsthand accounts and vivid illustrations of Americans, from widely recognized to largely unknown, whose lives were altered by their encounters with Brown. Utilizing expressive portraits by artist Brad Sneed, the exhibit explores Brown’s story from childhood to his execution for his role in the raid on Harpers Ferry. From his abolitionist roots in Ohio to his role in the violence of Bleeding Kansas to his plan to start a slave insurrection beginning with the taking of Harpers Ferry, “Encountering John Brown” follows America’s most prominent abolitionist from cradle to grave and beyond.
“Fewer people are as intrinsically linked to the sectional crisis of the American Civil War than John Brown. Through his actions in Kansas at Pottawatomie Creek in 1856 and then, three years later, his raid at the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Brown forced Americans to question the moral consequences of enslavement and the role of the government in perpetuating the institution. The ‘Encountering John Brown’ exhibit at Honey Springs Battlefield offers a unique opportunity to explore not only John Brown’s life and legacy but also his influence on the Civil War in Indian Territory,” said Dr. Jennifer Murray, the primary historian for this exhibit, a Civil War historian and professor of history at Oklahoma State University.
Funding for this program is provided in part by a grant from the Oklahoma Humanities (OH) and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of OH of NEH.
The Battle of Honey Springs was the largest of approximately 107 documented Civil War military engagements in present-day Oklahoma. The engagement took place on July 17, 1863, just two weeks after the famous Battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Approximately 9,000 Union and Confederate troops, mostly American Indians and African Americans, were involved in the Battle of Honey Springs. Of those, approximately 200 total casualties were suffered. After a decisive Union victory, Confederates lost control of Indian Territory north of the Arkansas River. The Union victory also ensured Federal control of Fort Gibson in Indian Territory and Fort Smith in Arkansas.
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Honey Springs Battlefield is located east of US Highway 69 between Oktaha and Rentiesville. The Visitor Center is located on a hill near the Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame in Rentiesville. Take the second left after reaching the Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame Museum (driving from the west).
Honey Springs Battlefield and Visitor Center is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.
Oklahoma Humanities (OH) is an independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen communities by helping Oklahomans learn about the human experience, understanding new perspectives, and participate knowledgeably in civic life through humanities disciplines such as history, literature, film studies, art criticism, and philosophy. As the state partner for the National Endowment for Humanities, OH provides a free educational magazine, Smithsonian Institution exhibits, reading and discussion groups, and other cultural opportunities for Oklahomans of all ages. OH engages people in their own communities, stimulating discussion and helping them explore the wider world of human experience.
Editor’s Note: Photos of Honey Springs Battlefield and Visitor Center are available upon request.