Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Walls of Fort Smith, Arkansas

We will spend some time this week exploring Fort Smith National Historic Site, one of the key Civil War sites and heritage tourism destinations in Arkansas.
Fort Smith, the military post for which the modern city was named, was an important supply point for the U.S. Army and the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) during the years before the Civil War. Realizing that occupation of the fort was essential if they hoped to control Northwest Arkansas and the Indian Nations, State Militia troops seized Fort Smith in the spring of 1861, arriving outside the walls just hours after most of the garrison left.
The state troops quickly took possession of the works and Fort Smith remained a Confederate post until 1863 when it was evacuated on the eve of the Battle of Devil's Backbone. It was then occupied by Union troops and remained in Federal hands for the rest of the war.
The site of the fort is now preserved by the National Park Service as Fort Smith National Historic Site. Although the original walls were demolished years ago, a small section (seen here)has been reconstructed. Despite their formidable appearance, the walls were not particularly effective as defenses. The plan of the fort had been altered during its construction and it functioned more as a supply post than a defensive bastion.
Our look at Fort Smith will continue.

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