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

    Fort Smith

    National Historic Site AR,OK

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    Traveling West on I-40? To avoid construction delays, do not take Exit 7 (I-540 S). Stay on I-40 west and take Exit 1 Dora. Stay on Hwy 64D for 6 miles and follow signs to Fort Smith. After crossing over the river, turn right on 4th ST & right on Garland. More »

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?

Trail of Tears Routes

The Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, (Muscogee) Creek and Seminole Indian tribes were forcibly moved to Indian Territory on what became known as the Trail of Tears. The Arkansas River served as a water route to Fort Smith where they received supplies before crossing the river into Indian Territory.