The Brooks-Baxter War

Lady Baxter Cannon

The Brooks-Baxter War is one of my favorite Arkansas history stories.  You can read all about it on the Old State House museum’s website, but the short story is that our gubernatorial election of 1872 was highly contested.

Joseph Brooks and Elisha Baxter were the two main candidates.  Brooks probably won the election, but Baxter’s supporters controlled the election machinery and declared Baxter the winner.  Brooks and his supporters appealed to the legislator, but they refused to hear the case.  Brooks tried to take his dispute to the state courts, but those appeals also failed at first.  Eventually, Circuit Court of Judge John Whytock looked at the case and declared Brooks legal governor.

Brooks marched to the State House with the sheriff and armed men and demanded Baxter leave the office.  Baxter left, but came back with 200 men and declared martial law from the Anthony House.

Brooks wasn’t having that, so he armed the State House. He barricaded windows and doors, had the state armory broken into to obtain ammunition and acquired two six-pounder artillery pieces to place on the lawn.  Baxter’s supporters dug up a buried Civil War sixty-four-pounder cannon (called the Lady Baxter Cannon) and aimed it at Brooks’s men.

Both men ended up with an army of about 1,000 each, and both stated that they would shed blood to defend “their office.”

Before too long, the federal government intervened and President Grant asked Attorney General Williams to chose a winner. He chose Baxter.  Brooks actually left without much of a fight, despite claiming that he wouldn’t accept the decision.

The Lady Baxter Cannon is the cannon you can still see on the Old State House Museum grounds.

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