“Boy Hero of the Confederacy”
In December 1863 and January of 1864, Little Rock was a Union-occupied town. During this period David Owen Dodd, a boy of 17, was involved in a series of events that led to his hanging as a spy. As a result he became known as the "Boy Hero of the Confederacy."
Dodd lived in Camden and came to Little Rock in early December to conduct family business. During his return journey Union soldiers discovered information regarding troop dispositions in Little Rock in his possession. Dodd was arrested, given a brief military trial, found guilty of spying and condemned to death by hanging. Believing that the information that convicted him was too detailed for Dodd to have obtained with out help, Union General Fredrick Steele offered leniency if he would identify his source. Dodd repeatedly refused. His hanging occurred on January 8 at a site on the grounds of St. John's College.
Reports from the time vary widely in the details of the hanging. Some reports claim that the hanging was conducted ineptly. There are no known photographs of the execution available. It is known that an elaborate scaffold was not used, but rather a hastily constructed gallows. The tail-gate of a wagon was used as the hanging platform. A reprint of an article in the Arkansas Gazette State Centennial Edition
, printed in 1936, stated in part:
"There were about 5,000 spectators present to witness the execution. Besides the spectators, there were present four Battalions of Union soldiers — so placed as to form a square, with the gallows in the center."
General Steele required that Dodd's funeral be conducted in a simple manner so as not to inflame the passions of the citizens of Little Rock. Early on January 9, a small cortege of mourners accompanied his body across town where he was buried in a donated grave in Mount Holly Cemetery.
The adjacent granite monument was erected in 1926 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to mark the hanging site. It was approximately 500 yards east of this location. In the early 1960's the monument was relocated because of Interstate construction. The interpretive panel a short distance to the north of you regarding the Little Rock Arsenal has a map which shows the hanging site and St. John's College in relation to this panel.
Inset "Do not weep for me for I will be better off in heaven. I will soon be out of this world of sorrow and trouble. I would like to see you before I die but, let God's will be done not ours."
David O. Dodd in a final letter to his family.
Bottom left: Know today as the Old Stage Coach House, it is located on the road that was the main route
to southwest Arkansas. It served as a Union outpost. After his capture, Dodd was initially confined and questioned here.
Middle top: David O. Dodd, Age 17
Middle: The hanging site was on the grounds of St. John's College, a Masonic school established in the 1850's. Notice the many white buildings that were constructed as military hospital wards.
Middle bottom: General Steele, fearing a public disturbance, directed that Dodd's funeral be kept simple. A brief service was conducted in this house that stood near the corner of Fifth and Rock Streets.
Inset caption: There are no known photographs of the Dodd hanging and there were varying reports in regard to the details. It is known that a hastily constructed gallows similar to the one shown above, was used rather than a more elaborate scaffold.
Bottom right: Dodd is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery located at 1200 Broadway in Little Rock. The cemetery is the final resting place of many Arkansas notables.