SCOTT - The likeliest reason to make the 10-mile drive from Little Rock to Scott is lunch at Cotham’s, the assertively ramshackle eatery famed for its gargantuan Hubcap Burger.
Cotham’s is often packed at noontime, and it figures to be besieged on Saturday. That’s because nearby Scott Plantation Settlement will be hosting its third Civil War re-enactment.
The sweaty rumble is being organized by nonprofit Scott Connections, the citizens’ group that supports the settlement. It will be staged about as close to Little Rock as any such mock battle during these four years marking the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States (known still to a smattering of Southerners as the War of Northern Aggression).
The skirmish in question, known as Ashley’s Mills, took place on Sept. 7, 1863. Part of the site is now occupied by the settlement’s collection of some 15 old-time buildings that evoke life on the area’s working plantations before the advent of mechanized farming. The property was once part of Illallee, the Arthur Alexander plantation.
In the 1863 encounter, Union troops advancing on Little Rock under Maj. Gen Frederick Steele engaged a brigade of Confederate cavalry commanded by Col. Robert C. Newton.
It was a success for the North, with one reported Rebel death along with three wounded and two captured. There were no recorded Union casualties, as Steele’s men drove the Southerners back and then bivouacked on the site. Three days later, the Yankee forces marched triumphantly into Little Rock.
Saturday’s program will start at 9:30 a.m. with the hoisting of the Confederate flag on the site’s flagpole. Anne Crosby, vice president of Scott Connections, reports that uniformed re-enactors will “set up an authentic camp, engage in ‘conflicts’ and answer any questions visitors may have.”
The former Scott train depot, now the settlement’s visitor center, will be the venue starting at 10 a.m. for three talks by local historian Paul Fray on the action and other aspects of the Civil War in central Arkansas. His spouse, Mary Lee Saunders, will discuss challenges that soldiers’ wives faced during the conflict.
Re-enactment of the 1863 skirmish will begin at 1 p.m., with two dozen to three dozen uniformed participants expected. Following the replay of the Federal success, the Confederate flag will be replaced on the pole by the Stars and Stripes. Activities will wrap up around 3 p.m.
During the day, framed copies of the area’s historical markers can be viewed at the depot. A handmade quilt will be on display with squares showing symbols of the so-called Underground Railroad that helped escaped slaves reach freedom in the U.S. North or Canada before and during the Civil War.
Saturday’s visitors also can take a free guided tour of the buildings transplanted to the settlement, for which there is normally a charge. Along with the erstwhile rail depot, the structures include a plantation owner’s home, a working blacksmith shop, a one-room schoolhouse, a hewn cypress corn crib, several tenant houses, a wash house, a smokehouse and a plantation bell tower.
Also in Scott is the Plantation Agriculture Museum, operated by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Its exhibits complement those of Scott Plantation Settlement, starting inside a main building erected in 1912 as a general store and converted to a museum in the 1960s by planter Robert L. Dortch.
Housed in a separate building is a cotton gin built for Dortch’s company in 1919 and used until 1938. A former warehouse has been restored to its 1948 appearance, with exhibits that describe the processing of Arkansas’ main seed crops.
It’s not too much of a stretch to consider Cotham’s a museum as well. Built as a general store in 1917, the waterside structure has also served as a military commissary and a jail for local miscreants awaiting trial by a circuit-riding judge. In 1984, a small dining area was opened to serve lunch to local farmers - and the rest is big-burger history.
Should the wait for a table at Cotham’s stretch too long on Saturday, another popular lunch spot lies eight miles to the southeast in Keo. Charlotte’s Eats & Sweets, best known for its pies, serves a variety of other rib-sticking fare - though nothing that equals the grandeur of Cotham’s Hubcap.
Scott Plantation Settlement, 15525 Alexander Road, Scott, is open from the third Saturday in March through the third Saturday in November. Visiting hours are 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Large groups are asked to arrange a tour in advance. Guided tours, which are free this Saturday, normally cost $3 ($1 for children 6-17).
On Oct. 5, the settlement will host its yearly High Cotton on the Bayou Festival, featuring demonstrations of such rural skills as butter and sorghum making, music and children’s games of yore. Call (501) 351-5737 or visit scottconnections.org.
For information on the Plantation Agriculture Museum, call (501) 961-1409 or visit arkansasstateparks.com.
Weekend, Pages 36 on 09/12/2013
Print Headline: War re-enactors might break for Hubcap Burgers