Civil War Connections Continued
The hot springs had been set aside for federal property, but oversight was non-existent until the 1870s. In fact a Confederate capital briefly occupied Bathhouse Row under then-governor, and staunch Confederate, Henry M. Rector. When Little Rock seemed in danger of falling to the Union, in mid-1862, he came home to the bathhouse and “kitchen” he owned here. By wagon train from Dardanelle, he brought 7 to 9 tons of state archives, funds, and other supplies out of Little Rock. His sudden departure caught the Capital City off-guard, although his popularity had waned for other reasons since his election in 1860. Soon after returning to Little Rock, Rector was voted out of office.
Veterans of both sides flocked to Hot Springs after the war, some to bathe their war wounds. Many bathed in the pay bathhouses and others, without money, bathed on the hillside above, in the “dugout pools” of hot water. This led to the first Free Bathhouse for the indigent. Other veterans came to settle; some were returnees who, while assigned to the area during the war, had thought it a beautiful place. Still other veterans arrived to build and operate the bathhouses—Samuel Fordyce (USA), George Latta (CSA), Dr. Algernon Garnett (who had served aboard the ironclad C.S.S. Virginia), and others joined former Governor Rector on Bathhouse Row. Physicians, like Prosper Ellsworth (USA), George Lawrence (CSA), James Keller (CSA, and uncle of Helen Keller), and Evander Ellis (CSA) moved here to practice. Ellsworth and Lawrence had an office together on the Row prior to 1878. Other veterans, L.Q.C. Lamar (CSA) and John W. Noble (USA), have their names preserved in architecture on the Row. General P.T. Beauregard (CSA) and free-thought orator Robert Ingersoll (USA) stopped at Hot Springs after the war. The Reservation’s first three superintendents were Civil War veterans. Many less famous veterans visited and settled here, too. Not all was well, of course: there were Jim Crow laws and lynchings (the last in 1922, near the corner of Central and Ouachita streets).
A large hospital resulted from Illinois senator (and former Union general) John A. Logan coming to bathe under the guidance of Dr. Garnett, who told fellow veterans about it. These veterans invited the senator to a special dinner at the Palace Bathhouse, where the Fordyce is today. They made a pitch to Logan to put a federal Army and Navy General Hospital here. The facility opened behind Bathhouse Row in 1887. Its successor became the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center in 1960—almost one full century after the Civil War began.
Did You Know?
On June 10, 1936, President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Hot Springs National Park and toured the Fordyce Bathhouse as part of the Arkansas centennial celebration. FDR used the baths at Warm Springs, Georgia, on a regular basis to relieve his polio. He never bathed in Hot Springs.