Information

Battle of Arkansas Post, 10-11 January 1863


Battle of Arkansas Post, 10-11 January 1863

A brief interlude between Union attempts to capture Vicksburg, the most significant Confederate stronghold left on the Mississippi River by the end of 1862 (American Civil War).

The battle saw General John A. McClernand briefly rise to prominence. McClernand was a ‘political’ general (i.e. not a West Point graduate). A ‘War’ Democrat from Illinois, McClernand had convinced Lincoln that he could raise a new army capable of seizing Vicksburg if he was given command of the expedition. General Halleck was able get McClernand’s authority reduced to that of a normal corps commander, although he would still outrank Sherman through simple seniority. McClernand proved able to keep the first part of his promise, raising a series of new regiments in the north west, but his ability to command an army was as yet unproven.

At the end of 1862 Grant had launched his first attack on Vicksburg. While Grant advanced overland, Sherman was to launch a second attack from the Mississippi. McClernand had not yet arrived with the army, and so was unable to take command himself. Unfortunately, when Grant was forced to abandon his campaign, he was unable to get the news to Sherman in time to stop Sherman’s attack. This attack was repulsed with heavy losses (Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs, 29 December 1862). Sherman retreated to Milliken’s Bend, which was where McClernand joined him.

Although Union forces controlled most of the Mississippi, the Confederates still had some forces close enough to threaten the river. One such force was based at Arkansas Post, only fifty miles up the Arkansas River, which joined the Mississippi half way between Memphis and Vicksburg. Although only 5,000 strong, that force was large enough to pose a potential threat to Union communications during any attack on Vicksburg. Sherman was convinced that it was worth sending an expedition against this position, and was eventually able to persuade McClernand to approve the attack.

Once he was one over to the idea, McClernand moved his entire army of 32,000 men up the Arkansas River to attack the post. On 9 January the troops were disembarked downriver of the fort. On the following day Admiral Porter’s ironclads began to bombard the Confederate fort. Finally, on 11 January the army and navy launched a combined attack on the fort. After four hours of resistance the outnumbered Confederate garrison surrendered.

Union losses were surprisingly heavy considering their great advantage in numbers, at 134 killed, 898 wounded and 29 missing. Confederate casualties were lower, at 60 dead and 75 wounded, but they also lost 4,791 men captured. The fall of Arkansas Post also removed the Confederate’s best chance of interfering with an Union attack on Vicksburg.

Ironically, the aftermath of the battle saw the removal of McClernand, despite his initial lack of enthusiasm for the expedition. Before coming into full possession of the facts, Grant had written to General Halleck to complain about what he saw as McClernand’s wasteful diversion. Armed with Grant’s letter, Halleck was able to persuade Lincoln to allow him to issue an order giving Grant permission to remove McClernand from command of the Vicksburg expedition, and either appoint a new commander or take over himself. Meanwhile, Grant was receiving complaints about McClernand from both Sherman and Rear-Admiral David Porter. According to his autobiography, when Grant reached McClernand’s army it was clear that he had lost the confidence of both the army and navy. This gave Grant something of a problem. He would have preferred to give Sherman command of the army, but McClernand was the senior general. Grant’s solution was to take command of the Vicksburg himself, with McClernand and Sherman as Corps commanders.


American Civil War: Battle of Arkansas Post

The Battle of Arkansas Post occurred during the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Armies & Commanders:

Confederate

Battle of Arkansas Post - Date:

Union troops operated against Fort Hindman from January 9 to January 11, 1863.

Battle of Arkansas Post - Background:

While returning up the Mississippi River from his defeat at the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou in late December 1862, Major General William T. Sherman encountered the corps of Major General John McClernand. A politician turned general, McClernand had been authorized to make an attack against the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg. The senior officer, McClernand added Sherman's corps to his own and continued south accompanied by gunboats commanded by Rear Admiral David D. Porter. Alerted to the capture of the steamer Blue Wing, McClernand elected to abandon his attack on Vicksburg in favor of striking at Arkansas Post.

Situated at a bend in the Arkansas River, Arkansas Post was manned by 4,900 men under Brigadier General Thomas Churchill, with defenses centered on Fort Hindman. Though a convenient base for raiding shipping on the Mississippi, the principal Union commander in the area, Major General Ulysses S. Grant, did not feel that it warranted shifting forces from efforts against Vicksburg to capture. Disagreeing with Grant and hoping to win glory for himself, McClernand diverted his expedition through the White River Cutoff and approached Arkansas Post on January 9, 1863.

Battle of Arkansas Post - McClernand Lands:

Alerted to McClernand's approach, Churchill deployed his men to a series of rifle pits approximately two mile north of Fort Hindman with the goal of slowing the Union advance. A mile away, McClernand landed the bulk of his troops at Nortrebe’s Plantation on the north bank, while ordering a detachment to advance along the south shore. With the landings completed by 11:00 AM on January 10, McClernand began moving against Churchill. Seeing that he was badly outnumbered, Churchill fell back to his lines near Fort Hindman around 2:00.

Battle of Arkansas Post - The Bombardment Begins:

Advancing with his assault troops, McClernand was not in position to attack until 5:30. Porter's ironclads Baron DeKalb, Louisville, and Cincinnati opened the battle by closing and engaging Fort Hindman's guns. Firing for several hours, the naval bombardment did not cease until after dark. Unable to attack in the darkness, the Union troops spent the night in their positions. On January 11, McClernand used the morning meticulously arranging his men for the assault on Churchill's lines. At 1:00 PM, Porter's gunboats returned to action with the support of artillery that had been landed on the south shore.

Battle of Arkansas Post - The Assault Goes In:

Firing for three hours, they effectively silenced the fort's guns. As the guns fell silent, the infantry moved forward against the Confederate positions. Over the next thirty minutes, little progress was made as several intense firefights developed. At 4:30, with McClernand planning another massive assault, white flags began appearing along the Confederate lines. Taking advantage, the Union troops quickly seized the position and accepted the Confederate surrender. After the battle, Churchill firmly denied authorizing his men to capitulate.

Aftermath of the Battle of Arkansas Post:

Loading the captured Confederate on transports, McClernand had them sent north to prison camps. After ordering his men to raze Fort Hindman, he dispatched a sortie against South Bend, AR and began making plans with Porter for a move against Little Rock. Learning of McClernand's diversion of forces to Arkansas Post and his intended Little Rock campaign, an irate Grant countermanded McClernand's orders and demanded that he return with both corps. Given no choice, McClernand embarked his men and rejoined the main Union effort against Vicksburg.

Considered an ambitious dilettante by Grant, McClernand was relieved later in the campaign. The fighting at Arkansas Post cost McClernand 134 killed, 898 wounded, and 29 missing, while Confederate estimates list 60 killed, 80 wounded, and 4,791 captured.


The Confederate States Army constructed a large, four-sided earthwork fortification near Arkansas Post, on a bluff 25 feet above the north side of the river, forty-five miles downriver from Pine Bluff, to protect the Arkansas River and prevent Union Army passage to Little Rock. The fort commanded a mile view up and downriver. It was a base for disrupting shipping on the Mississippi River. The fort was named Fort Hindman in honor of General Thomas C. Hindman of Arkansas. It was manned by approximately 5,000 men, primarily Texas cavalry, dismounted and redeployed as infantry, and Arkansas infantry, in three brigades under Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Churchill. By the winter of 1862–63, disease and their life at the end of a tenuous supply chain had left the garrison at Fort Hindman in a poor state.

Union Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand was an ambitious politician and had permission from President Abraham Lincoln to launch a corps-sized offensive against Vicksburg from Memphis, Tennessee, hoping for military glory (and subsequent political gain). This plan was at odds with those of Army of the Tennessee commander, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. McClernand ordered Grant's subordinate, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, to join the troops of his corps with McClernand's, calling the two corps the Army of the Mississippi, approximately 33,000 men. On January 4, he launched a combined army-navy movement on Arkansas Post, rather than Vicksburg, as he had told Lincoln (and did not bother to inform Grant or the general in chief, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck).

Union Edit

Confederate Edit

January 9 Edit

Union boats began landing troops near at Notrebe's Plantation, 3 miles below Arkansas Post in the evening of January 9. The troops started up river towards Fort Hindman and Sherman's corps overran the Confederate trenches. The enemy retreated to the protection of the fort, [1] anchored on the east by the Arkansas River, and adjacent rifle-pits running west across the neck of land. By 11:00 am the following morning the remainder of the Union army had gone ashore. Churchill was stunned by the overwhelming size of the Union force and immediately requested reinforcements from his superior, Theophilus H. Holmes. Holmes advised Churchill to “. hold out till help arrived or until all dead.” [2]

January 10 Edit

On January 10 the Union army moved upriver to fully invest the Confederate garrison. Two brigades from Peter J. Osterhaus' division of George W. Morgan's corps were detached from the main movement of the army. Colonel Daniel W. Lindsey's brigade was put ashore on the riverbank opposite the fort and Colonel John F. De Courcey's brigade was held in reserve near the initial landing site. [3] Morgan advanced Osterhaus (accompanying his remaining brigade) along the levee of the river followed by his remaining division under Andrew J. Smith. Sherman followed with David Stuart's division along the river and sent his other division under Frederick Steele inland to find a flanking route, but failed due to swampy land and impassable roads. [3] The advance of Morgan's column overran the first line of Confederate trenches manned largely by dismounted Texas cavalry.

As McClernand's soldiers moved against the fort, Porter's gunboats Baron DeKalb, Louisville, and Cincinnati, moved against the fort. The Navy pounded the fort at a range of 400 yards. The Union tinclad Rattler moved in too close, ran aground and took heavy fire at point blank range from the fort. After several hours the Naval bombardment had inflicted heavy losses to the Confederate artillery. [4] Meanwhile, McClernand sent an army lieutenant up a tree to observe if Morgan and Sherman's troops were in place. The lieutenant reported they were in place and ready to assault, but Sherman's troops were still moving into position through muddy swamps. By the time the Navy's attack concluded it was too dark for the infantry to assault although some skirmishing had taken place.

January 11 Edit

On the morning of January 11 McClernand's forces were deployed in an arc facing Fort Hindman and its rifle-pits. Running West to East were the divisions of Steele, Stuart, Smith with Osterhaus anchored on the Arkansas River. Churchill's defenses were manned by Colonel James Deshler's brigade on the left and Colonel Robert Garland's brigade on the right. McClernand's infantry attacked around 1:00pm and made little progress at first. At the same time Porter's gunboats moved in to attack aided by Colonel Lindsey's brigade across the river. Within an hour the fort's east face was reduced to rubble and its artillery silenced. [5] Steele's attack on the west was led by the brigades of Brig. Gens. Charles E. Hovey and John M. Thayer with Francis P. Blair, Jr. in reserve. To the east Stuart supported with the brigades of Colonels Giles Smith and Thomas Kilby Smith against the rifle pits of Deshler's Arkansas and Texas soldiers. In the center A.J. Smith spearheaded his attack with Brig. Gen. Stephen G. Burbridge's brigade supported by Colonel William J. Landram. Burbridge's men became embroiled in small arms fight which caused more than 1/3 of all Union casualties. [4] Osterhaus advanced against the fort with Colonel Lionel A. Sheldon's single brigade.

At 4:30pm McClernand was planning to order one massive assault against the defenders when white flags of surrender began to appear. The battle ended with some confusion. [4] Porter's gunboats picked up infantry from Lindsey's brigade and ferried them across the river who climbed into the crumbling remains of Fort Hindman. Porter personally accepted the surrender of Colonel John Dunnington who was in charge of the fort's artillery. General Steele entered the rifle-pits under a flag of truce to discuss surrender with Colonel Deshler. As the two conferred, Deshler noticed Steele's men continually moving closer and demanded they be ordered to stop or he'd open fire again. General Sherman arrived on the scene to personally seek out Churchill. However, Sherman stood by as Churchill and Colonel Garland became involved in an argument over surrendering. Garland claimed he had been ordered to surrender while Churchill denied giving such an order. Colonel Deshler rode up from his front and declared to the group he had not surrendered at all and insisted on renewing the fight. Sherman ended the argument by pointing out the Union forces had all but occupied the Confederate's works. Some Union soldiers had even begun disarming the Confederates. [6] One final scene took place as a Union staff officer rode into the fort and demanded the Navy vacate, so A.J. Smith's infantry could take possession. However, the fort had already been surrendered to Porter. Colonel Dunnington, who had a background in the Navy, conceded a small satisfaction at being able to surrender to a fellow Naval officer instead of the infantry. [7]

The defeat at Arkansas Post cost the Confederacy fully one-fourth of its deployed force in Arkansas, the largest surrender of Rebel troops west of the Mississippi River prior to the final capitulation of the Confederates in 1865. [4] Union forces suffered 1,061 casualties, with 134 killed Confederate 4,900, almost all by surrender. Although Union losses were high and the victory did not contribute to the capture of Vicksburg, it did eliminate one more impediment to Union shipping on the Mississippi. Grant was furious at McClernand's diversion from his overall campaign strategy, ordered him back to the Mississippi, disbanded the Army of the Mississippi, and assumed personal command of the Vicksburg Campaign.


Battle of Arkansas Post, 10-11 January 1863 - History


In 1682, Henri de Tonti established a small trading post in the Quapaw village of Osotuoy. He called his establishment “Postede Arkansea” and it would become the first semi-permanent French settlement in the lower Mississippi River Valley. The area, later renamed Arkansas Post became a thriving port bustling with activity. In 1819 it became the capital of the Arkansas Territory.

After the Civil War broke out in 1861 the Confederate troops under General Thomas J. Churchill completed an earthen fortification known as Fort Hindman. This region was important to the rebels for several distinct reasons. First, the area dominated the Arkansas River and protected the capital of Little Rock from attack. Secondly, from Fort Hindman, at Arkansas Post, Confederates could disrupt Union shipping on the Mississippi River.

By the middle of 1862, Union forces commanded most of the Mississippi River. However, the Confederate strong holds on Vicksburg and Fort Hindman still held. Maj. Gen. John McClernand undertook a combined force movement on Arkansas Post to capture it. During the evening of January 9, 1863 Federal forces landed near Arkansas Post and began moving towards Fort Hindman. McClernand commanded a 32,000 man force known as the Army of the Mississippi. Union troops quickly overran the Rebel trenches and the men in butternut fled to the protection of the fort.

Rear Adm. David Porter moved his fleet to support McClernands men by bombarding Fort Hindman. The Confederates put up a good fight but were overwhelmed from the Union ironclads shelling the forts weak defenses. Some of Porter’s fleet sailed past the fort and cut off any retreat as General William T. Sherman’s ground troops attacked the fort head on. This combined effort sealed the fate of the forts defenders and the Confederates were forced to surrender on January 11, 1863.

The Union causalities (1,047 total) were very high but the overall results of the Battle of Arkansas Post were immediate. The success of Northern troops on January 9-11 eliminated one more impediment to Union shipping on the Mississippi and it gave them control of the Arkansas River. McClernand wanted to push up river and take Little Rock but General Ulysses S. Grant overruled him and the victors were ordered to join the Union advance on Vicksburg, Mississippi. For the Confederacy it was one of many Confederate setbacks in 1863 that would eventually lead to its downfall. Moreover, the South lost another 5,500 men killed wounded or captured which was a sign of things to come in July at Vicksburg.

This battle is part of my Forgotten Battles of the Civil War series. Too often as history and Civil War buffs we forget about some of the small battles that had big consequences. This series is dedicated to those battles and shedding some light on incidents that had enormous results. I hope that you are enjoying these contests and if there is anything that I can do to improve them then please email me or leave a comment.

Want to visit Arkansas Post? More information can be found at the following websites & publications:

Bearss, Edwin C. “The Battle of the Post of Arkansas.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 18 (Autumn 1959): 237�.
Kiper, Richard L. “John Alexander McClernard and the Arkansas Post Campaign.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 56 (Spring 1997): 56󈞻.
Surovic, Arthur F. “Union Assault on Arkansas Post.” Military History 12 (March 1996): 34󈞔.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 17. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1890�, pp. 698�.


This map illustrates the position of Fort Hindman at Arkansas Post on the Arkansas River. Depicted are the positions of Confederate defenses as well ships on the river. The 23rd Wisconsin Infantry and the 1st Wisconsin Light Artillery were both involved in the battle of Arkansas Post. View the original source document: WHI 90871

Location: Arkansas Post, Arkansas (Google Map)

Campaign: Operations Against Vicksburg (December 1862-January 1863)

Summary

The victory at the Battle of Arkansas Post gave Union forces control of the Mississippi River all the way to Vicksburg, Mississippi.

At the beginning of 1863, Confederate troops had a stronghold at Fort Hindman on the Mississippi River near the town of Arkansas Post, Arkansas. Constructed of earthworks reinforced with iron atop a 25-foot bluff, the fort housed more than 5,000 troops. Fort Hindman was used to carry out shell attacks on Union shipping, and prevented Union troops from advancing up the Arkansas River and into the interior.

On January 9, 1863, Union ships landed infantry and artillery about a mile downriver from Fort Hindman. The next day they overran Confederate trenches and eventually pushed the enemy back inside the fort. Union gunboats and artillery batteries across the river shelled the fort. The Confederates conceded on January 11, surrendering more than 5,000 prisoners. This victory gave the Union free rein to move soldiers and supplies down the Mississippi.

Wisconsin's Role

The 23rd Wisconsin Infantry was in the thick of the action all three days. Six men were killed and 31 wounded. Companies B, G, and K were in the advance that pushed Confederate troops back inside the walls of the fort on January 10. A section of the 1st Wisconsin Light Artillery bombarded the fort from across the river preventing the enemy's escape. Another section destroyed one side of the fort and silenced several Confederate cannons inside it.

Links to Learn More
View Original Documents

[Source: Report on the Nation's Civil War Battlefields (Washington, 1993) Estabrook, C. Records and Sketches of Military Organizations (Madison, 1914) Love, W. Wisconsin in the War of the Rebellion (Madison, 1866).]


Timeline Decline of Arkansas Post 1822-1900

Following the removal of the Territorial Capital to Little Rock, a flurry of activity returned to Arkansas Post in the fall of 1862 when Confederate forces constructed an earthwork fort to defend the Arkansas River and serve as a base of operations to harass United States forces operating on the Mississippi River . In the first week of January 1863, and combined force of United States Army and Navy forces ascended the Arkansas River with Arkansas Post as their intended target. A two day battle ensued, pitting 32,000 US troops and nine gunboats against 5,000-7,000 Confederate soldiers. Outnumbered nearly five to one, the Confederate forces surrendered on January 11, 1863, and nearly 5,000 Confederate soldiers were taken prisoner.

Following the Civil War, the old town site area was abandoned, and the community of Arkansas Post moved along the river's edge about one mile north. A small river-port town struggled to survive there in the final years on the 19th-century.

1822 John James Audubon, the famous naturalist-artist, visits Arkansas Post and while there painted, and documented the Traill's Flycatcher.

1824 The Quapaw Treaty was re-written by the Arkansas Territorial Government in Little Rock. All Quapaw lands were ceded to the Territory and the Tribe was "relocated" to northeastern Oklahoma.

1830 The population of Arkansas Post had dwindled to 114.

1832 Washington Irving visits Arkansas Post on his return from visiting the Indian Territory.

An unsuccessful effort is made to establish a Catholic Church at Arkansas Post by Father Edmond Saulnier.

1837 Washington Irving's Short story based upon his visit to the Post, The Creole Village, is first published.

A second effort is made to establish a Catholic Church at the Post. is made by Father Dupuy This effort was continued into 1838 by Father Donnelly, Dupuy's successor. This second effort likely failed to due the poor economic situation in the region.

1838 December 24 A branch house of the State Bank of Arkansas opened State Bank

1839 June 19 Proposals for the construction of a permanent building to house the branch of the State Bank were solicited in the Arkansas Gazette.

1840 April 4 Frederic and Felicite Notrebe sell an 80-foot lot to the State Bank as a site for the Arkansas Post branch bank. Construction on the new bank building begins shortly thereafter.

November The Arkansas Post Jockey Club established a racetrack to the north of the Post on a portion of Spanish Land Grant No. 2296. Races were held in 1840 and 1841.

1841 The State Bank building was completed by early February. The total construction cost for the two-story brick structure was $15,761.29.

1842 August The Sisters of Loretto establish St. Ambrose's Female Academy at Arkansas Post, following the closure of an academy at Pine Bluff. The founder of the academy was Sister Allodia Vessels. The academy likely only operated for one or two years.

1843 January 31 The State Legislature passed an act "to place the Bank of the State of Arkansas in liquidation." By the end of the year, all of the branches of the bank were closed, including the one at Arkansas Post.

1853 Three commissioners were elected to relocate the seat of Arkansas County. Arkansas Post had served as the county seat since the creation of the county in 1813.

1854 The new county seat was named De Witt, in honor of De Witt Clinton, former Governor of New York.

1855 September The seat of Arkansas County was officially moved from the Post to De Witt. The removal of the county seat was a deathblow to the community of Arkansas Post, which had been steadily declining since 1821.

1857 A visitor to the Post wrote that the old State Bank building was being used only for "holding elections and stabling horses.

1861 May Arkansas secedes from the Union and joins the Confederacy.

1862 September . Construction begins on a massive earthwork fort at the bend of the river near Arkansas Post. Known as Fort Hindman, it was constructed largely by the labor of approximately 500 slaves.

1863 January 3 Following a major defeat outside Vicksburg in late December, US Army commanders McClernand and Sherman meet with Admiral Porter to discuss an attack against the Confederate garrison at Arkansas Post.

January 9 The combined US Army and Navy fleets turn up the White River, and crossed into the Arkansas River through a cut-off. Confederate sentries alert General Churchill of the impending arrival of US forces in the area. Churchill orders the garrison of Fort Hindman to abandon their winter quarters, and retreat behind a defense line stretching west from the Fort to Post Bayou, approximately one mile in length. Work is begun to strengthen the defense line along its entire length.

January 10 US troops disembark from the transport fleet about six miles down river from the Fort, and begin to make their way towards the Fort Confederate outer defenses are abandoned during this time. In the late afternoon the three ironclad gunboats in the Naval fleet (The USS Baron de Kalb, USS Cincinnati, and USS Louisville) move within range of Fort Hindman and shell the both the fort and the Confederate forces there for two hours, before the sun sets.

January 11 During the morning hours Major General McClernand orders his three corps into position north of the Confederate defense line. Mid-day a two-hour artillery barrage commences, including both the gunboats and field artillery. Following this, a land assault on the Confederate line begins. The Confederates, including soldiers from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, hold out until about 4:30 in the afternoon, when soldiers in the middle of the defense line put up white flags. Nearly 5,000 Confederate soldiers are taken captive following the surrender.

January 12-15 United States forces remain in the area of Arkansas Post for several days. Organizing the nearly 5,000 prisoners, rounding up all ordinance stores and other useable equipment, burying the fallen US soldiers and rendering the fort non-functional are the tasks that occupy the attention of the troops. A Naval reconnaissance up the Arkansas River proves that water levels are too low for the fleet to proceed upriver towards Little Rock.

January 16 The combined US Army and Navy fleets depart Arkansas Post, and return to the Mississippi River. The Confederate Prisoners were taken first to St. Louis, and later to Camp Douglas, outside of Chicago. The Arkansas Post area remains quiet for the remainder of the war.

May Most of the Confederate Prisoners of War taken at the Battle of Arkansas Post are released, and sent to Eastern theatres of the War.

US Soldiers buried on the Battlefield at Arkansas Post are relocated to Pine Bluff, and later the National Cemetery in Little Rock.

1860s to 1880s

Following the end of the Civil War, southeast Arkansas, like most of the former Confederacy is hit by a major economic depression. During this time the community of Arkansas Post relocated about one mile north of the historic town site area. A small number of businesses, including the Fogee Store, serve area farms and are located near a steamboat landing.

Erosion of the river bend adjacent to Arkansas Post continues, and by the mid-1880s over fifty percent of Fort Hindman had fallen into the Arkansas River.

The first archeological work done in the area of Arkansas Post occurs at the Menard mound site. Field work was done by Edward Palmer under direction of Cyrus Thomas for the Smithsonian Institution.


Contents

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Map and plan of the fortification.

The Confederate States Army constructed a large, four-sided earthwork fortification near Arkansas Post, on a bluff 25 feet above the north side of the river, forty-five miles downriver from Pine Bluff, to protect the Arkansas River and prevent Union Army passage to Little Rock. The fort commanded a mile view up and downriver. It was a base for disrupting shipping on the Mississippi River. The fort was named Fort Hindman in honor of General Thomas C. Hindman of Arkansas. It was manned by approximately 5,000 men, primarily Texas cavalry, dismounted and redeployed as infantry, and Arkansas infantry, in three brigades under Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Churchill. By the winter of 1862󈞫, disease and their life at the end of a tenuous supply chain had left the garrison at Fort Hindman in a poor state.

Union Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand was an ambitious politician and had permission from President Abraham Lincoln to launch a corps-sized offensive against Vicksburg from Memphis, Tennessee, hoping for military glory (and subsequent political gain). This plan was at odds with those of Army of the Tennessee commander, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. McClernand ordered Grant's subordinate, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, to join the troops of his corps with McClernand's, calling the two corps the Army of the Mississippi, approximately 33,000 men. On January 4, he launched a combined army-navy movement on Arkansas Post, rather than Vicksburg, as he had told Lincoln (and did not bother to inform Grant or the general in chief, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck).


Battle of Arkansas Post, 10-11 January 1863 - History

The Battle of Arkansas Post
An important preliminary action to the Battle
of Vicksburg, the scene of the Battle of
Arkansas Post is now a national memorial.

The Battle of Arkansas Post was fought for
control of Fort Hindman, which stood at what
is now Arkansas Post National Memorial
near Gillett, Arkansas.

The engagement took place on January 10 -
11, 1863, during the Union campaign to take
Vicksburg, Mississippi. Fort Hindman is now
underwater, but much of the battlefield still
survives.

The settlement of Arkansas Post had been in
existence for 170 years when Confederate
officials decided to fortify the site in 1862. The
Arkansas River route to Little Rock was wide
open and it was hoped that a strong fort at
Arkansas Post would prevent U.S. Navy
gunboats from steaming up and capturing
Little Rock.

Southern engineers decided to build a full-
bastioned fort on a 25-foot bluff just down the
Arkansas from the remains of the historic
village. Each side of the fort was 300 feet in
length, the parapet was 18-feet wide and the
surrounding ditch or dry moat was 20 feet
wide and 8 feet deep.

Named for General Thomas Hindman, the
fort was armed with two 9-inch Columbiads,
one 8-inch Columbiad, four 3-inch parrott
rifles on field carriages and four 6-pounder
field guns. These cannon could completely
control the Arkansas River, especially after
the Confederates drove pilings from the
opposite shore to force passing vessels into
the mouths of the guns.

The fort did its job for a time, even serving as
a base for raids to capture Union supply
boats on the Mississippi River. Its fate was
decided, however, by a bizarre bit of political
wrangling in Washington, D.C.

Major General John McClernand (US) had
been a powerful Democrat Party politician
before the war and had fought well as a
division commander at Fort Donelson and
Shiloh. He convinced President Abraham
Lincoln to allow him to raise troops in the
Midwest and use them for a strike on the
Confederate Gibraltar of Vicksburg.

Union troops had thus far been blunted in
their efforts to take Vicksburg, so Lincoln and
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton gave
McClernand the authority he wanted. Likely
aware that their action was unusual, Lincoln
and Stanton simply did not inform Major
General Ulysses S. Grant of their plan.

Grant was the department commander
charged with taking Vicksburg and only
learned of McClernand's special authority
after Commander-in-Chief Henry Halleck
warned him that something strange was
taking place.

General McClernand met with Major General
William Tecumseh Sherman and Rear
Admiral David D. Porter aboard the U.S. Navy
command boat Black Hawk on January 4,
1863. Despite his promise to the President,
he immediately vetoed a move against
Vicksburg. Sherman then suggested an
attack on Fort Hindman at Arkansas Post, an
idea that had also occurred to McClernand
and the decision was made.

Admiral Porter was less than enchanted with
McClernand but at Sherman's urging agreed
to participate in the attack. Sherman also did
not approve of McClernand, but was not in a
position to question his new commander.

The 31,000 man force was formed into two
corps, one under Sherman and the other
under Brigadier General George W. Morgan.
In addition to its 1,000 cavalry, the army also
possessed 40 pieces of field artillery.

Loaded onto 60 transports, the force began
moving on January 5, 1863. The amphibious
army was led up the Arkansas River by the
ironclads Baron De Kalb, Cincinnati and
Louisville . The gunboats and rams Monarch ,
Lexington , Forest Rose , Glide , New Era and
Rattler also went along, as did the command
vessel Black Hawk .

The fleet reached a landing three miles
below Fort Hindman at about nightfall on
January 9, 1863. It was a stormy night, but
the landing of the army began and continued
well into the next morning. Brigadier General
Thomas J. Churchill, the Confederate
commander, had only around 5,000 men to
oppose the 31,00 man Union army and the
supporting gunboats and ironclads.

The attack began on January 10,1863. As the
Federal troops moved into position, Churchill
ordered his men into a prepared line of rifle
pits that ran from Fort Hindman on the
Arkansas River across the Arkansas Post
peninsula to Post Bayou. At 10:10 a.m., the
Union fleet opened fire.

Porter moved his vessels to within 400 yards
of Fort Hindman to support an infantry attack
that McClernand had promised would take
place that afternoon. It took the general
longer to get his troops into position than he
expected however, and the attack never took
place.

The heavy Confederate cannon pounded the
Union ironclads and gunboats, causing
damage and inflicting casualties. Porter
withdrew at dark and January 10 ended with
Churchill's Confederates still clinging to their
lines.

It was not until 1 p.m. the next day that the
Union army finally attacked. Porter's vessels
resumed their attack on Fort Hindman,
dismounting the heavy guns and turning the
ramparts into smoking heaps of earth.

The Navy also directed its fire on the rifle pits
held by the Confederates, blowing holes in
the line of defense. The combination of naval
fire with the frontal attack by an overwhelming
infantry force was too much for the Southern
defenders. White flags began to pop up
along their line.

Other parts of the Confederate force had not
taken part in the surrender and determined to
fight on, but the realization that they were
alone left them with no alternative but to
surrender as well.

Final casualties from the Battle of Arkansas
Post on the Union side included 134 killed,
808 wounded, and 29 missing in action.
Confederate officers reported 60 killed and
75-80 wounded

The battlefield is preserved today at the
Arkansas Post National Memorial. Fort
Hindman was washed away long ago by the
river but an overlook allows visitors an
excellent view of the Arkansas River and site
of the fort.

Trails lead along surviving sections of the
Confederate rifle pits to cannon displays and
interpretive panels.

The park is also the site of the last battle of
the American Revolution and features a
museum and visitor center, walkways that
lead through the ruins of the forgotten town of
Arkansas Post, reconstructed Revolutionary
War fortifications, a picnic area and more.


Battle of Arkansas Post, 10-11 January 1863 - History

Alarmed by Confederate activities on the Mississippi, General John A. McClernand expressed his concern to President Abraham Lincoln. Although an influential politician from Illinois, McClernand was abrasive, disliked West-Pointers, and to the consternation of his peers, was overly ambitious. McClernand was, however, a fearless man. His vigor and bravery in battle won him the support of President Lincoln. In October, 1862, Lincoln authorized the politician-general to raise a large force for a down-river expedition. [1]

McClernand soon arrived at Milliken's Bend brandishing orders giving him command of 32,000 troops stationed there. The politician-general knew of Blue Wing's fate and realized the threat that Confederate troops posed to Federal communication lines. McClernand decided to divert the troops idle at Milliken's Bend, following their repulse at Chickasaw Bayou near Vicksburg, and capture the Post of Arkansas. To the ambitious McClernand, Arkansas Post was a "boot of the right size." [2]

Figure 35. Northern General John A. McClernand. A brash glory-hunting ex-congressman from Illinois, McClernand considered Post of Arkansas a "boot of the right size." The Century Magazine Dec. 1884.

McClernand reorganized the entire force, calling it the "Army of the Mississippi." The glory-hunting general divided his army into two divisions—the XIII Corps to be commanded by Brigadier General George W. Morgan, and the XV Corps by William T. Sherman. Each corps had two divisions. Brigadier Generals Peter J. Osterhaus and Andrew J. Smith commanded XIII Corps divisions while Brigadier Generals Frederick Steele and David Stuart led the XV Corps divisions. McClernand knew that he would need the help of the navy if his bold undertaking was to be successful. For this he enlisted the aid of Rear Admiral David D. Porter.

On January 5, 1863, 32,000 Union troops on board 60 steamers departed Milliken's Bend with three of Porter's mighty ironclads and a number of lighter tinclad boats. Three days later the fleet steamed past the mouth of the Arkansas River as a deceptive measure and entered the White River. Twenty miles upriver the fleet crossed over to the Arkansas through the old cut-off channel, and approached Arkansas Post.

Figure 36. Rear Admiral David D. Porter. Porter provided amphibious support for the Federal assault on Post of Arkansas. The Century Magazine , April 1885.

The Confederates at Post of Arkansas expected an eventual assault against them but never by a force of this magnitude. Late in the afternoon of January 9, a "round eyed" courier reported to General Churchill that "half the yankees in the west" were coming. [3] The surprised general readied his forces to defend the post and fired-off a dispatch to General Holmes for last minute instructions. The reply Churchill received was: "hold out till help arrives or until all dead." Churchill planned to carry out his instructions "in spirit and letter." [4] As the amphibious force drew near, the greyclad soldiers occupied the rifle-pits. Five companies of infantry were advanced as skirmishers, taking position several hundred yards in front of the main line of defense. Churchill posted Captain William Hart and his six gun Arkansas Battery at the edge of the rifle-pits closest to Post Bayou.

On January 9 at 5:00 p.m., transports carrying Sherman's corps pulled into Frederic Notrebe's landing three miles below the Post of Arkansas. The vessels transporting Morgan's corps tied-up nine miles below at Fletcher's Landing.

On the morning of January 10, the Federal infantry moved up to invest the Confederate position. Sherman's corps landed first. Colonel Lionel A. Sheldon's brigade of Osterhaus' Division moved straight up the river road, followed by Smith's and Stuart's divisions. Colonel David W. Lindsey's brigade of Morgan's corps departed Fletcher's Landing and proceeded to Smith's plantation about two miles above the Post of Arkansas. Here the bluecoats wheeled a section of 10-pounder Parrott rifles into position to prevent southern reinforcements from approaching. Colonel J.F. De Courcy's brigade of Morgan's corps was left just above the landing as a reserve unit. Steele's division had orders to head inland from Notrebe's landing, flank the fort and approach from the opposite direction. After floundering in an impenetrable swamp, however, the column retraced its steps. Steele's Division met Morgan's corps at Notrebe's landing and joined the advance.

The vanguard encountered Confederate skirmishers at the first line of rifle-pits. Theirs was only a delaying action, and the Federal infantry soon occupied the entrenchments. With Sheldon's brigade as pivot, each following brigade fanned-out to the right, creating a scythe-like formation that when completed would confront the Confederate rifle-pits protecting the flank of the fort and extending west to Post Bayou.

Meanwhile, McClernand received an erroneous report that all troops were in position. At 5:30 p.m., he conveyed this information to Porter who initiated bombardment of the Confederate fort. Closing within 400 yards of Post of Arkansas, the ironclads Baron de Kaib , Louisville , and Cincinnati opened fire. Porter soon brought up tinclads Lexington and Black Hawk to augment the destructive shelling. The Confederate gunners gave a good account of themselves, but were no match for the gunboats. When Confederate fire slackened, Porter took advantage of the situation, sending Rattler upriver to enfilade the fort from the opposite side. The unfortunate tinclad became lodged against the piles scarcely 100-yards from the Confederate guns. Before she could disentangle herself, Rattler was raked by Confederate fire. Twilight soon ended the assault. Knowing that an infantry attack would not occur at this late hour, Porter ordered the gunboats to return to their moorings.

Figure 37. The gunboat Baron de Kalb . This craft participated in the battle of the Post of Arkansas. The Century Magazine , Jan. 1885.

By the morning of January 11, the infantry was poised and finally ready to advance. The troops faced the main line of Confederate defense. Union field artillery had been moved into strategic positions. Two 20-pounder Parrott rifles manned by Sheldon's brigade were emplaced only 800 yards from the Post of Arkansas. Lindsey's brigade had shifted two 20-pounder Parrots and two 3-inch rifled guns from Smith's plantation and wheeled them into position on Stillwell's Point opposite the fort. McClernand notified Admiral Porter that all was ready.

At 1 p.m., the navy resumed the bombardment. At the sound of the signal shot, the infantry moved forward. Ironciads Louisville , Baron de Kaib , and Cincinnati joined by tinclads Lexington , Rattler , and Glide steamed up the river and opened fire on the Confederate stronghold. Shelling by the Federal fleet continued relentlessly throughout the afternoon.

The First Wisconsin Battery of Sheldon's brigade opened fire immediately after the signal discharge. The two 20-pounder Parrotts enfiladed the northeast bastion of the fort. The big 9-inch columbiad emplaced there had hampered Porter's efforts the day before. Sheldon's fire was most destructive. After six shots from one of the pieces, the big columbiad fell silent.

By 3 p.m., Sheldon moved his men forward in support of the Chicago Mercantile Battery. Captain Charles G. Cooley of the Mercantile Battery had placed his guns in position behind a rise within 200 yards of the fort. Subjected to a storm of shot and shell, Confederate defenders were quickly driven from the parapet of the fort. Seizing the opportunity to end the battle, Osterhaus ordered the 120th Ohio to storm the fort. With a yell of determination the Buckeyes surged forward only to be pinned down by Confederate fire within pistol shot of the east face of the fort. They remained in this precarious position for the next hour.

Figure 38. Troop positions during the battle of the Post of Arkansas. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Small-arms fire cracked up and down the lines as Union infantry advanced toward the rifle pits. Two 10-pounder Parrotts in Hart's Arkansas Battery proved a firm obstacle to the Union advance. Taking cognizance of this threat, Colonel Charles R. Woods of the 76th Ohio deployed sharpshooters, who inched their way into position. Their deadly fire soon drove Hart's gunners from their pieces.

On the Confederate left, Deshler's line held fast. Twice, Union troops were allowed to advance within 100-yards of the entrenchments before being fired upon. Both times the bluecoats fell back with heavy losses. After two more unsuccessful advances, Brigadier General Charles E. Hovey, commanding the Second brigade of Steele's Division, ordered two 12-pounder Napoleans to the front. Confederate rifles were no match for these big guns. After only two rounds had been fired, white flags began appearing along the Confederate line to Deshler's right.

Figure 39. Bombardment of Post of Arkansas on January 11, 1863. The Arkansas History Commission.

By 4:00 p.m., Union troops had moved within 200 yards of the Confederate line of defense. The big guns in the fort had been silenced. Taking cognizance of this development, Admiral Porter sent two tinclads and the ram Monarch upriver to cut off the Confederate line of retreat. The ironclads began lobbing shells into the rifle pits. By 4:30 p.m., a number of white flags were visible above the Confederate works. Federal troops began crossing over to the enemy lines, disarming the greyclad soldiers. Admiral Porter himself ran the tinclads over to the fort and accompanied by a naval landing party and some infantry, clambered through an open embrasure. For all intents and purposes, the battle of Arkansas Post was won. Confusion still prevailed, however, in the sector defended by Deshler.

Having received no order to do so, Deshler refused to surrender. General Steele advanced to the Confederate line under a flag of truce. The two officers argued for several minutes when from the corner of his eye, Deshler observed that the Union troops had advanced within a pistol shot of his position. The Southern officer shouted at Steele: "If you do not command 'Halt', I will command 'Fire'." [5] Steele stopped his eager soldiers from advancing and the discussion continued. The stalwart Deshler would not surrender without express orders from the lips of General Churchill. It was not until Churchill personally commanded Deshler to surrender that he allowed the Yankees to cross Confederate breastworks.

The Federal attack on Arkansas Post lasted two days, resulting in a Confederate surrender. Union casualties numbered 134 killed, 898 wounded, and 29 missing. Among the Confederates, 60 were killed, 80 wounded, and 4,800 taken prisoner. Strategically, McClernand's campaign contributed little to the goal of capturing Vicksburg. He had at least, denied the Confederates continued use of Arkansas Post as a base for their attacks on Union shipping supplying the Mississippi. Major General Ulyses S. Grant was outraged that McClernand had disappeared into the western wilderness with a "Caesar's half" of the army. He further described McClernand's campaign as "a wild goose chase." McClernand was subsequently relegated to a corps commander and his "Army of the Mississippi" dissolved only two weeks after its constitution. The politician-general accepted the demotion poorly and complained to President Lincoln that "my success . . . is gall and wormwood to the clique of West Pointers who have been persecuting me for months." [6]


General Stephen Burbridge’s Report On His Brigade’s Action at the Battle of Arkansas Post

In January 1863, Major General John A. McClernand led a combined army-navy expedition up the Arkansas River to the Confederate garrison at Arkansas Post, or Fort Hindman. This fort, located 25 miles upriver from where it emptied into the Mississippi River, protected the capitol of Little Rock about 120 miles up the Arkansas from attack by gunboats. It also served as a base of operations for Confederate raids on Union shipping on the Mississippi. Major General Ulysses S. Grant had wanted McClernand to attack Vicksburg, Mississippi, but McClernand decided to attack Arkansas Post instead with his 13th Corps and Major General William T. Sherman’s 15th Corps, about 33,000 men. The naval part of the operation was under the command of Admiral David Porter and included nine gunboats and several transport vessels.

Fort Hindman was garrisoned by about 5000 Confederates, mostly Arkansans and dismounted Texas Cavalry under the command of Brigadier General Thomas J. Churchill. The Union attack began on January 10th with a destructive naval bombardment. This was followed the next day with an infantry assault. Thought vastly outnumbered, Churchill’s command put up stiff resistance to the Union assault and inflicted over 1000 total casualties, including 134 killed, before surrendering the fort on the afternoon of the 11th.

About a third of the Union casualties were suffered by the 1st Brigade of the 13th Corps’ 1st Division. This brigade, under the command of Brigadier General Stephen Burbridge, consisted of the 16th, 60th, and 67th Indiana, 83rd and 96th Ohio, and 23rd Wisconsin infantry regiments. Burbridge himself planted the first U.S. flag in the fort. Here is General Burbridges’ official report on his brigade’s action in the capturing of Arkansas Post.

HEADQUARTERS FIRST BRIGADE,
FIRST DIVISION, THIRTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
ARMY OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Post Arkansas, Ark., January 14, 1863.

I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my brigade in the engagement of the 10th and 11th instant, which resulted in the capture of Fort Post Arkansas, together with the whole contending force:

In compliance with orders to that effect my whole command, including the Seventeenth Ohio Battery, disembarked January 10 about 12 m. We moved up the road, having received orders to follow Major-General Sherman’s corps. Their finding the route impracticable returned, and we were ordered to follow the road leading up the river bank, which we did until we reached the first line of outer works of the enemy, which by that time had been evacuated thence we bore to the right through the swamps till within about half a mile of the fort.

About sunset I was ordered to throw my brigade into line of battle. I then found that owing to a misapprehension of orders only one regiment (Sixtieth Indiana Volunteers, commanded by Col. R. Owen) had followed. I immediately sent back orders for the rest of the brigade to move up, and becoming impatient rode back myself and brought them up at doublequick. I ordered the Sixtieth and Sixteenth Indiana to the right and front with the Twenty-third Wisconsin, Col. J. J. Guppey, in their rear as a reserve, with orders to the former two regiments to skirmish well to their front, I ordered the Sixty-seventh Indiana, Colonel Emerson, and Ninety-sixth Ohio, Colonel Vance, on the left, and the Eighty-third Ohio, Lieutenant-Colonel Baldwin, in their rear, with the same instructions as those given to the right of the brigade.

The command bivouacked in line almost in direct range of the guns of the fort firing on the gunboats, their shells frequently bursting in our lines and doing some execution. During the night the Sixtieth Indiana captured one company (60 men) of the enemy and sent it to the rear.

At daylight on the 11th instant I moved my command to the right directly in front of’ the fort and in rear of an open field, across which I was ordered to make the assault at the proper time. I formed my command in two lines, with the Sixtieth Indiana, Colonel Owen, on the right the Sixteenth Indiana, Lieutenant-Colonel Orr, center, and the Eighty-third Ohio, Lieutenant Colonel Baldwin, on the left, with instructions to feel well their way to the edge of the open field referred to (across which to the fort was about 400 yards), which they did in gallant style. I placed three pieces of Captain Blount’s (Seventeenth Ohio) battery on my left, having some earthworks thrown up there for its protection, and ordered the Ninety-sixth Ohio to support it.

About 12 m. at a preconcerted signal the gunboats and the batteries along the line opened and kept up a simultaneous and incessant fire, which drew upon us the enemy’s fire. It having been agreed that the signal for the assault should be musketry and cheering from Major-General Sherman’s corps, on our right, I awaited it. The numerical strength of my brigade was 2,400 men.

About 1 p.m. Colonel Parsons, aide to General McClernand, came with the information that the enemy were moving, in column closed in mass, up the river, and it was the impression that they were retreating, and that I should be ready for storming the works. Hearing the cheering and musketry on my right I ordered my front line to advance, which was done under a most murderous fire of musketry, shell, round shot, and grape and canister. Observing that my line was somewhat wavering under such a destructive fire, especially my right and left–the right having received an exceedingly heavy fire from one of our own regiments on my right–I marched up my other three regiments to their relief. The three front regiments refused to be relieved, and supported by the three relieving regiments the whole went forward with great resolution and most unflinchingly, driving the enemy from the houses in front of their works and maintaining that position themselves.

Finding there was an open space on my right, between my troops and those of General Sherman, I had it occupied by the Twenty-third Wisconsin, which most nobly held its position. On my left I extended the length of my line by throwing into that position the Sixty-seventh Indiana, under Colonel Emerson, who was wounded while gallantly leading and urging on his men.

The colonel (Lucas) of the Sixteenth Indiana being on the steamer J. C. Snow, too sick to go out, his regiment was commanded by Lieut. Col. John M. Orr, who was severely wounded in the head by a piece of shell while gallantly leading on his men, when they were within 30 yards of the outer works. After Lieutenant-Colonel Orr was wounded Colonel Lucas came out, and was in command of the regiment when the fort surrendered. Major Redfield deserves great credit for his skill and bravery displayed during the whole time, and particularly while in command a short time before Colonel Lucas arrived. Lieutenant Colonel Templeton, Sixtieth Indiana, was also wounded while in the heroic discharge of his duty.

Finding we were pressed hard on our right, I sent to Colonel Landram, commanding Second Brigade, First Division, asking for re-enforcements, his brigade being held in reserve. He promptly sent me the Nineteenth Kentucky and Ninety-seventh Illinois, commanded respectively by Lieut. Col. John Cowan and Col. F. S. Rutherford. I ordered the Nineteenth Kentucky to relieve the Twenty-third Wisconsin, which they did with the coolness and courage of veteran troops, almost silencing the fire of the enemy in the rifle-pits in their front. It is due to Colonel Cowan to say he handled his regiment in a manner which enlisted the heartiest praise from General Smith, Colonel Landram, and myself, all of whom witnessed the conduct of the regiment, as commanded by Colonel Cowan. The Ninety-seventh Illinois was held in reserve for awhile, but afterward fought most gallantly in front, though somewhat under protection of a clump of woods which lay close to the right of the fort.

My whole command was under heavy fire for three and a half hours, and the greater part had to make the assault through an open, marshy field, where the enemy had a full and fair range with grape-shot and musketry. I cannot say too much in praise of the officers and men under my command they all did all I could ask of them, and stormed one of the strongest of the enemy’s works like veteran regiments.

It is proper to say that but one of my regiments had ever been under fire. Colonel Landram was frequently with me during the day, and we often consulted together. In my opinion he managed his brigade with great skill, judgment, and bravery, being everywhere his presence was needed, rendering me great assistance by his counsel and promptitude in re-enforcing me at a critical time. Capt. A. N. Keigwin, acting assistant adjutant-general Lieut. T. J. Elliott, aide.de-camp, and Lieut. M. T. Kirk, Sixth Missouri Cavalry also Lieut. M. Whilldin, my ordnance officer, and Major Livingston, volunteer aide-de-camp, and now chief of police, Army of the Mississippi, rendered me great service, delivering orders to my regiments when shells, grape, and musket balls rained like hail in a storm. Capt. A. A. Blount, Seventeenth Ohio Battery, rendered great service, annoying the enemy and frequently diverting his fire from our advancing columns.

Before the surrender one of Captain Blount’s pieces was ordered to the front and did great execution, General Smith frequently sighting the gun himself. The Sixteenth Indiana was the first regiment in the fort, followed by the Eighty-third Ohio, who were the first to place their regimental colors on the enemy’s works. The balance of my command were soon within the works.

As I approached the entrance of the fort the guard presented bayonets and stated that they had not surrendered. I told him that they had fought gallantly, but were whipped, and I demanded a surrender. They dropped their arms and bid me enter, which I did, and hoisted the first national flag. The general commanding (Churchill) surrendered the fort to me in person. It is but justice to say that Major Montgomery, Sixth Missouri Cavalry, was next after me in the fort, followed by Colonel Lucas, Sixteenth Indiana Capt. A. N. Keigwin and Lieut. Thomas J. Elliott, both of my staff.

The list of killed and wounded of my command, which I herewith submit, shows that each of my regiments was in the hottest part of the fight and did its duty nobly. I may here mention that my escort (part of the Tenth Kentucky Cavalry) behaved well, and were never found wanting in the hour of need. I can say no more. It is sufficient that it was a hard-fought battle and a complete success. All I have to regret is the loss of the brave dead and wounded who fell gallantly fighting for our glorious old Union.

I remain, with great respect, your obedient servant,

S. G. BURBRIDGE,
Brigadier-General.

Lieut. J. HOUGH,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, First Division.

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume XVII, Part 1.

General Grant believed the Arkansas Post expedition was an unnecessary use of military resources at a time when he was focused on capturing Vicksburg. Nonetheless, the operation resulted in the capture of approximately 4700 Confederate soldiers and eliminated the strongest defensive point on the Arkansas River. Attacks on Union shipping on the Mississippi from the Arkansas were reduced.

General Burbridge had previously fought at Shiloh and would be in the field throughout the rest of the Vicksburg Campaign. A native Kentuckian, Burbridge was given command of the District of Kentucky in 1864. He was more successful commanding troops in the field than he was as an administrator his heavy handed, draconian rule made him a hated figure by the population of his home state. Burbridge was relieved of his command in January 1865.


Battle of Arkansas Post (January 9–11, 1863)

After the Union successes at the Battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, the Federals turned their attention to the Mississippi River. If the Union could gain control of the Mississippi, the Confederacy would be denied easy access to supplies from the Gulf of Mexico and territories in the American West. Admiral David Farragut captured the port city of New Orleans, Louisiana on May 18, 1862, closing down Confederate access to the Gulf. In June, the Union tightened its grip on the Mississippi River when Federal forces captured the river city of Memphis, Tennessee. Nevertheless, the South still controlled traffic on much of the river because of its strong fortifications at Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Vicksburg is located on the eastern side of the Mississippi, south of the mouth of the Yazoo River. The city was known as "The Gibraltar of the Confederacy" because it is situated on a high bluff overlooking a horseshoe-shaped bend in the river. The bluff upon which the city sits made it nearly impossible to assault from the river. Farragut made two attempts to do so in May and June 1862, but both efforts failed. To the north, nearly impenetrable swamps and bayous protected Vicksburg. To the east, a ring of forts mounting 172 guns shielded the city from an overland assault. The land on the Louisiana side of the river, opposite Vicksburg, was rough, etched with poor roads and many streams.

In July 1862, General Henry Halleck was called to Washington and promoted to chief of all Union armies, leaving Major General Ulysses S. Grant in charge of operations in the Western Theater. In December, Grant divided his Army of the Tennessee into two wings and launched his first attempt to capture Vicksburg. Grant ordered Major General William T. Sherman, commanding the right wing of his army, to travel down the Mississippi River and attempt to assault Vicksburg from the north. Sherman's 30,000 Federals were badly defeated by 13,000 Confederate defenders at the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou (December 26-29, 1862).

After the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou, Major General John A. McClernand replaced Sherman as commander of the right wing of the Army of the Tennessee. McClernand was a Democratic politician from Southern Illinois who raised a brigade of volunteers at the beginning of the Civil War and served under Grant during the early Union victories in Tennessee. McClernand was also an ambitious man who was well connected with fellow Illinoisan President Abraham Lincoln. In October 1862, McClernand used his political influence to gain authorization from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to raise an army for an expedition against Vicksburg. Because he had more seniority than Sherman, McClernand was able to take Sherman's command, combine it with the army he raised, and rename it the Army of the Mississippi.

After assuming Sherman's command, McClernand launched an attack on Fort Hindman, near Arkansas Post, rather than assault Vicksburg, as he had told Stanton he was going to do. The Confederates constructed Fort Hindman on the Arkansas River in 1862, to discourage an attack on the Arkansas capital at Little Rock and to serve as a base for disrupting Union traffic on the Mississippi River. Grant and other Union generals did not consider the fort and Brigadier General Thomas J. Churchill's 5,500-man garrison enough of a threat to distract them from their main objective of capturing Vicksburg. In late December 1862, however, Rebels operating out of Fort Hindman captured a Federal steamer on the Mississippi. McClernand, eager for a victory of any sort, considered that enough provocation to divert the 33,000 soldiers under his command, plus Flag Officer David D. Porter's Mississippi naval fleet, to subdue the fort.

On January 9, 1863, thousands of Union soldiers began disembarking from troop ships and advanced up the Arkansas River toward Fort Hindman. Led by Sherman, the Federals quickly overran the outnumbered Rebels, forcing them back into the fort. The next day, Porter's naval fleet moved into position and bombarded the fort. On January 11, McClernand's artillery joined in with another barrage, effectively silencing the defenders' remaining big guns. As the infantry prepared for an attack, Porter's fleet moved upstream to prevent a Rebel retreat. Hoping for reinforcements, Churchill ordered the Confederate garrison to defend the fort at all costs, but when McClernand's infantry advanced, some of the Rebels realized that their situation was hopeless. About 4:30 in the afternoon, defenders on one side of the fort began raising white flags of surrender. Unaware of the white flags, soldiers on the other side of the fort fired on Federals who exposed themselves in response to the flags of truce. Eventually, the situation was resolved inside of the fort and white flags were raised on both sides.

Losses at the Battle of Arkansas Post were moderate. The Federals suffered a little over 1,000 casualties, including 134 killed. On the Confederate side, 709 soldiers were killed and nearly 4,800 surrendered, almost one-fourth of the total Rebel armed forces stationed in Arkansas. In addition, the Union soldiers commandeered Confederate arms, ammunition and other supplies before razing Fort Hindman. The Battle of Arkansas Post contributed little, if anything, toward the success of the Vicksburg Campaign, but it did eliminate a minor impediment to Union shipping on the Mississippi River.

Ohio units that participated in the Battle of Arkansas Post included:

Infantry units:

  • 16th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 42nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 48th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 54th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 57th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 58th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 76th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 83rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 96th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 114th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 120th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Artillery units:

  • 4th Ohio Artillery Battery
  • 8th Ohio Light Artillery Battery
  • 17th Ohio Light Artillery Battery

City class ironclad ship:

After the battle, McClernand informed Sherman and Porter that he intended to mount an excursion up the Arkansas River to assault Little Rock. Grant, however, was unimpressed with McClernand's victory and considered it a diversion from the real task at hand. He countermanded McClernand's plans and ordered him to rejoin the Union campaign against Vicksburg. McClernand complied and was relegated to a corps commander throughout the remainder of the campaign after Grant disbanded the Army of the Mississippi and returned its troops to the Army of the Tennessee.


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