Thursday, April 10, 2008
Arkansas Post, Part Seven
This is part seven of a series on Arkansas Post National Memorial.
When the Navy resumed its bombardment of Fort Hindman at 1 p.m. on January 11, 1863, the Union army pushed forward against the line of Confederate rifle pits. The Federal soldiers immediately ran into sharp resistance from the Confederate defenders, who opened on them from their entrenchments with musket and field artillery fire.
Union troops came within 100 yards of this section of the Confederate lines, but were driven back twice by intense Southern fire. At 3 p.m. the 120th Ohio was ordered to storm Fort Hindman itself. The soldiers advanced to within pistol shot of the fort only to find themselves pinned down for more than one hour by troops firing from the earthworks.
Finally, to break the stalemate, Union officers ordered forward field artillery and began to shell the shallow Confederate rifle pits. The Union gunboats soon joined in the bombardment of the infantry positions and The men in the right or east section of the line began to surrender. Colonel James Deshler's Confederates along the sector stretching from the center to Post Bayou, however, refused to give in.
While a Union landing party, including Admiral Porter himself, took position of the wrecked Fort Hindman by climbing through an embrasure, Deshler continued to hold his position and even argued face to face with Union General Steele who was demanding his surrender. It was not until Churchill appeared in person and ordered Deshler to surrender that the Alabama colonel and his Texas troops gave up the fight. His stand was one of the most impressive of the war and would lead to his promotion to brigadier general after he was exchanged later in the year.
Brigadier General James Deshler was killed by an artillery shell during the Battle of Chickamauga. He was 30 years old at the time of his death.
The surrender of Deshler's men ended the Battle of Arkansas Post. Fort Hindman was in ruins and the town of Arkansas Post was in flames. The strongly built old bank building, used as a hospital by the Confederates, had been demolished by artillery fire.
The Union forces lost 138 killed, 898 wounded and 29 missing. The Confederates suffered a loss of 60 killed, 80 wounded and 4,800 captured, as well as the loss of the fort.
Although his claimed victory, Union General John A. McClernand drew the wrath of his commander, General Ulysses S. Grant, for taking 32,000 men off into the Arkansas swamps on what Grant considered a "wild goose chase." McClernand was demoted following his victory at the Battle of Arkansas Post.
Our series on Arkansas Post National Memorial will conclude tomorrow. Until then, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/arkansaspost to read more.