Monday, January 5, 2009
Battle of Arkansas Post - Part One
Arkansas Post National Memorial preserves one of the most fascinating historic sites to be found anywhere in the Mississippi River Valley.
First settled by the French in 1686, the "Post de Arkansae" was the first permanent European settlement in the Mississippi Valley. Occupied by the French and Spanish until the time of the Louisiana Purchase, the post was relocated several times due to severe floods.
A key base for French fur trappers who hunted and explored vast regions of the American West, the post was the site of a series of forts held by French and Spanish forces (depending on which country held possession of the region).
Although a number of places claim the distinction of having been the location of the last battle of the American Revolution, the real "last battle" of the war was fought here at Arkansas Post. On April 17, 1783, well after the dates of all of the other "last battles," British partisans attacked Fort Carlos II at Arkansas Post. A bold counter-attack by the Spanish garrison (Spain was allied with the American colonists during the Revolution) resulted in the retreat of the attackers and the last battle of the American Revolution, like the war, ended as an American victory.
American troops took possession of Arkansas Post in 1804 following Thomas Jefferson's successful negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase and in 1819 the growing town at the site was named as the first territorial capital of Arkansas. The first newspaper in the territory, the Arkansas Gazette was published at Arkansas Post during the same year.
Although the town eventually gave way to Little Rock, Arkansas Post remained an important riverboat port and cotton shipping point until the outbreak of the Civil War. Tens of thousands of bales of cotton went out from the plantations of the Arkansas Delta to the factories of the North and Europe from the landing at Arkansas Post.
The eruption of the war between North and South brought Arkansas Post back to the forefront of governmental attention, but this time because of its strategic military location. The location of the bluff on a sharp bend of the lower Arkansas River made it an ideal location for defensive works to protect the upriver plantations and, in fact, the entire Arkansas River valley. To reach Little Rock, Fort Smith and the Indian Territory by water, Union forces would have to break through at Arkansas Post.
As our series continues, we will look closer at the fortifications erected by the Confederates to defend Arkansas Post and the Arkansas River Valley. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/arkansaspost.