Battle of Reed's Bridge - Aug 27,1863

Civil War Battlefield, Historical Preservation, Arkansas Heritage, Campaign on Little Rock, Military Road, Trail of Tears, ReEnactment, Indian Movement

Arkansas in the American Civil War

The state of Arkansas was a part of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War, and provided a source of troops, supplies, and military and political leaders for the fledgling country.  Arkansas had become the 25th state of the United States, on June 15, 1836, entering as a slave state. Antebellum Arkansas was still a wilderness in most areas, rural and sparsely populated.  As a result, it did not have early military significance when states began seceding from the Union.  During the secession crisis, but before Arkansas declared its secession and before the onset of any fighting, the Federal Arsenal in Little Rock became a potential flash point.  The small Federal garrison was forced to evacuate after a demand by Arkansas Governor Rector that the arsenal be turned over to state authority.

At the beginning of 1861, the population of Arkansas, like several states of the Upper South, was not keen to secede on average, but it was also opposed to Federal coercion of seceding states.  This was shown by the results of state convention referendum in February 1861.  The referendum passed, but the majority of the delegates elected were conditional unionist in sympathy, rather than outright secessionist.  This changed after the Confederacy attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, and Abraham Lincoln called for troops to put down the rebellion.  The move toward open war shifted public opinion into the secessionist camp, and Arkansas declared its secession from the Union on May 6, 1861.  Despite its relative lack of strategic importance, the state was the scene of numerous small-scale battles during the Civil War.


Arkansas Confederate/Union army contributions:  Arkansas formed some 48 infantry regiments for the Confederate Army in addition to numerous cavalry and artillery battery units to serve as part of the Confederate Army.  The 1st Arkansas Mounted Rifles, and the 1st, 4th, and 6th Arkansas Infantries would go on to see considerable action as a part of Major General Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee.  Including those stated above, all but one infantry regiment and all of the cavalry and artillery units served most of the war in what was known as the "Western Theater", where there were few battles that were on the scale of those in "Eastern Theater".  That one infantry regiment, the 3rd Arkansas, served in the East where most of the major battles were fought, for the duration of the war, thus making it the state's most celebrated Confederate military unit.  Attached to General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, the 3rd Arkansas would take part in almost every major Eastern battle, including:  Battle of Seven Pines, Seven Days Battle, Battle of Harper's Ferry, Battle of Antietam, Battle of Fredericksburg, Battle of Gettysburg, Battle of Chickamauga, Battle of the Wilderness, and the Appomattox Campaign.

Though it was with the Confederacy that Arkansas sided as a state, not all Arkansans supported the Confederate cause.  Beginning with the fall of Little Rock to Union forces in 1863, Arkansans supporting the Union formed some eleven infantry regiments, four cavalry regiments, and two artillery batteries to serve in the Union Army.  None of those saw any heavy combat actions, and few took part in any major battles.  They served mostly as anti-guerilla forces, patrolling areas that had heavy Confederate guerilla activity.  Another significant event brought on by the fall of Little Rock was the relocation of the state capital. Initially state government officials moved the capital offices to Hot Springs, but it remained there for only a short time, being moved deeper into Confederate occupied territory, in Washington, Arkansas, where it would remain for the rest of the war.  By the end of the war, many of the Arkansas regiments were serving with Bragg's Army of Tennessee, and most were with that Army when it surrendered on April 26, 1865, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

 Noted Arkansas commanders and local campaignsArkansans of note during the Civil War include Confederate Major General Patrick Cleburne. Considered by many to be one of the most brilliant Confederate division commanders of the war, Cleburne is often referred to as "The Stonewall of the West." Also of note is Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman, a former United States Representative, who commanded Confederate forces at the Battle of Cane Hill and Battle of Prairie Grove. Brigadier General Albert Rust, through his political influence, helped to form the 3rd Arkansas Infantry Regiment, and until his promotion to general commanded that regiment.  He later commanded forces at the Battle of Pea Ridge and the Battle of Shiloh, ultimately serving under General Sterling Price. Colonel Van H. Manning took over command of the 3rd Arkansas following Rust's promotion, and was commended for bravery in several engagements, most notably at the Devil's Den during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Due to Arkansas having no real strategic importance, short of being a gateway into Texas, few major battles were fought there.  The Camden Expedition (March 23 May 2, 1864) was the most important military campaign in Arkansas.  Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele and his Union troops stationed at Little Rock and Fort Smith were ordered to march to Shreveport, Louisiana.  There, Steele was supposed to link up with a separate Federal amphibious expedition which was advancing up the Red River Valley.  The combined Union force was then to strike into Texas.  But the two pincers never converged, and Steele's columns suffered terrible losses in a series of battles with Confederates led by Maj. Gen. Sterling Price and Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith.  When the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, Union forces were in occupation of northwestern Arkansas.  Local Union commanders, who had been aggressively enforcing the Confiscation Acts to grant freedom to slaves of rebel owners, put the proclamation into effect immediately, freeing many slaves in the area.,  The Fort Smith Council was a series of important meetings held at Fort Smith in September 1865 that were organized by the United States government for all Indian tribes east of the Rockies.  The purpose was to discuss the future treaties and land allocations following the close of the Civil War. Under the Military Reconstruction Act, Congress readmitted Arkansas in June 1868.


Other Battles in Arkansas:

Battle of Arkansas Post January 9-11, 1863
Battle of Bayou Fourche September 10, 1863
Battle of Cane Hill November 28, 1862
Battle of Chalk Bluff May 1, 1863
Battle of Devil's Backbone Sept 1, 1863
Battle of Elkin's Ferry
Battle of Helena July 4, 1863
Battle of Hill's Plantation Dec 7, 1863
Battle of Jenkins' Ferry April 26-30, 1864
Battle of Marks' Mills April 25, 1864
Battle of Old River Lake
Battle of Pea Ridge March 6-8, 1862
Battle of Pine Bluff Oct 25, 1863; July 2, 1864
Battle of Poison Spring Apr 18, 1864
Battle of Prairie D'Ane Apr 9-10, 1864
Battle of Prairie Grove Dec 7, 1862
Battle of Saint Charles June, 1862
Battle of Whitney's Lane 

Battle of Reed's Bridge Aug 27-28, 1863

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