• Rifle Regiment arriving at Belle Point, 1817. Artwork by Michael Haynes

    Fort Smith

    National Historic Site AR,OK

Reverend Francis Springer: Post Chaplain

photograph of Francis Springer standing

Rev. Francis Springer

Courtesy Don Montgomery

Reverend Francis Springer, Chaplain, U.S. Army of the Frontier, served as the Post Chaplain at Fort Smith during the Union occupation and early Reconstruction period. (September 1, 1863 through 1867) A native of Springfield, Illinois, he enlisted in the Army at the age of 51. During his posting at Fort Smith he served in a variety of roles within the military and the local community. He served not only as Post Chaplain but also as Provost Marshal and Commissary Officer.

Springer's involvement in the local community included being a member of the Freedmen's Bureau, teaching classes on the U.S. Constitution, preaching in local churches, and keeping detailed records of weather and crop reports. He was the co-editor of a local newspaper, Fort Smith New Era. He often wrote editorials under the pen name of Thrifton.

Springer's real passion was to aid the widows, orphans and freed slaves displaced by the Civil War. He secured homes for over 200 Northwest Arkansas orphans to his home state of Illinois.

A portion of Springer's journal has been edited by William Furry in his book, The Preacher's Tale, University of Arkansas Press, 2001.

Tom Iverson

Did You Know?

Park staff and volunteers demonstrating using lindstock and slowmatch to ignite the cannon's primer

The soldiers who came to Fort Smith in 1817 were still using some 18th century technology and drill. The cannon was discharged using a lindstock and slowmatch to ignite the primer, which originally was loose powder or a turkey quill filled with powder.