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American Civil War: Battle of Arkansas Post

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Battle of Arkansas Post - Conflict:

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

Armies & Commanders:

Union

Confederate

  • Brigadier General Thomas Churchill
  • 4,900 men

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.

Selected Sources

  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Military History
  4. Conflicts & Battles
  5. Battles & Wars: 1800s
  6. Civil War
  7. Civil War in the West
  8. Battle of Arkansas Post - Civil War Battle of Arkansas Post - John McClernand

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