Thursday, August 29, 2019

Civil War Lecture Draws Crowd

Mark Christ speaks about Jacob Haas, a Civil War soldier,
during Pen to Podium on Aug. 20 at the Department of
Arkansas Heritage in Little Rock. 
Young men who signed up to serve during the Civil War faced a brutal reality, said local historian and author Mark Christ during a recent lecture at the Department of Arkansas Heritage. The grittiness of the war was captured in the diary of Jacob Haas, a 22-year-old German immigrant.

“The Jacob Haas diary is one of the most comprehensive, first-person accounts of a common soldier's experience in the Trans-Mississippi, including military activities in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and the Indian Territory, which is now modern-day Oklahoma,” Christ said.

More than 50 people turned out Tuesday, Aug. 20, to hear Christ discuss his book, “This Day We Marched Again: A Union Soldier’s Account of the War in Arkansas and the Trans-Mississippi” during the Pen to Podium: Arkansas Historical Writers’ Lecture Series. Christ’s book follows Haas who enlisted with the Union Army.

The diary was kept in Haas’ family and transcribed into English by a family member. The family eventually contacted Christ, who expanded the story by researching Haas’ accounts. The lecture included historical maps and old photos of Haas.

“We’ve heard Mark talk about the Civil War before,” said Gwen Moritz, of North Little Rock. “He’s such an expert.”

The Arkansas State Archives' Pen to Podium lectures are meant to give residents a unique experience in Arkansas history. Authors have the chance to talk about their research and their books, attendees hear stories and little-known historical facts about Arkansas and the Friends of the Arkansas State Archives host a reception that brings people together.

Several attendees at Christ’s lecture said they were impressed by how expressive and detailed the diary and Christ’s research were. Attendees lined up after the speech to buy a book.

“For those of us who are interested in history, how else would you get this kind of experience?” asked Moritz about Pen to Podium. The lecture series is a chance to hear experts’ thoughts, she said.

Other attendees wanted to hear the personal stories, such as those Christ uncovered during his research. Haas wrote about the earth exploding around him, about men whose gums bled from scurvy, about endless marching and hunger and about freeing African Americans from slavery.

“I loved that it was a personal account ­– I loved that,” said Jan Badeaux, of Little Rock.  She said it was interesting how Haas talked about fields and flowers in Arkansas but then wrote that even beauty becomes mundane after a while.

George Grayson, another audience member, said his family recently emigrated from Croatia to the U.S., so he related to Haas’ accounts. Grayson is the first in his family to be born in United States, he said.
Christ’s lecture presented a historical account that was fascinating on multiple levels, Grayson and Badeaux said. 

“We want to learn about the place we live because it’s rich in history and colorful people,” Badeaux said. “We want to be a part of that.”

The next Pen to Podium event will be Tuesday, Nov. 12, and will feature Joe David Rice, a native Arkansan and former tourism director. He is the author of “Arkansas Backstories, Volumes 1 and 2,” which highlights lesser-known aspects of Arkansas history.

For more information, contact the State Archives at or at 501-682-6900.