The Battle of Chalk Bluff, May 2, 1863
Photos by Tina Easley
The photos below are from the park at Chalk Bluff at 2 miles north of St. Francis , Ark. The markers tell the history of Chalk Bluff.
Admission Fees: Free.
Open to Public: Daily: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Visitor Services: Camping; trails; rest rooms; handicapped access.
Regularly Scheduled Events: June: Civil War encampment.
Directions: Take U.S. 62 to St. Francis; turn west from town for 1.5 miles; then turn north for 1.25 miles to Chalk Bluff site. There are signs from St. Francis.
Battle of Chalk Bluff
142nd Anniversary of the Battle of Chalk Bluff,
2/0/05 The beautiful Chalk Bluff State Park (10 miles north of Piggott, AR on the AR-MO border) is again having an annual Civil War Weekend, featuring the Battle of Chalk Bluff both days. It will take place on the hallowed ground of the actual battle site, an increasingly rare event these days.
Registration is free, no pre-reservation is required and walk-ons are permitted. All participants (infantry, artillery & cavalry) will receive the usual free firewood & water, with the addition of hay, straw, black powder and a free meal Sat evening.
Some might consider this great event a "sleeper" that so far is not well known outside of NE Arkansas. The setting is in a pristine easily accessible location. Parking is 100 yards from camps.
Sponsored by Clay County, the NE Arkansas Civil War Heritage Trails Committee, Jonesboro SCV and Military Order of the Stars and Bars
Contact: Cpt John Malloy
After CS General Marmaduke's unsuccessful raid into southeast Missouri in April, US Brigadier General William Vandever and US General McNeil pursued the retreating Confederates toward northeast Arkansas. On May 1-2 at Chalk Bluff, the Confederates constructed a crude floating bridge across the flooded St. Francis River and entrenched on the commanding heights while a rear guard skirmished with the approaching Federals. Marmaduke's main force crossed the river and escaped, but 250 Texas cavalrymen were trapped on the Missouri side when the bridge supports were cut. They swam with their horses across the river into Arkansas.
The Union invasion of Arkansas began on July 19 when a reconnaissance force of fifty Missouri horsemen swam the St. Francis River at Chalk Bluff. The Yankee cavalrymen captured a pair of Rebels and occupied the high ground at Chalk Bluff as Col. Lewis Merrills First Brigade of Davidsons First Cavalry Division laid a pontoon bridge for the remaining troopers to cross over. Merrill sent the First Missouri Cavalry (U.S.) to Gainesville further down Crowleys Ridge on July 20, with plans to move the rest of his command in their support the next day.Col. S.G. Kitchen retreated before them, reporting that their entire force is estimated at 12,000, with some twenty pieces of artillery and 800 infantry.
As the Yankee horsemen began descending Crowleys Ridge, Theophilus Holmes turned command of the Confederate army in Arkansas over to Sterling Price on July 22.
The new commander of Confederate troops in Arkansas, fearing that the movements on Crowleys Ridge presaged a move on Little Rock, immediately began shifting the limited forces he had at his disposal. Price ordered Brig. Gen. Daniel Frost to bring his artillery to Little Rock from Pine Bluff, Brig. Gen. James F. Fagan to move his infantry division from Searcy and Des Arc to Bayou Meto east of Little Rock, Marmaduke to set up base at Jacksonport and harass Davidsons column, and Brig. Gen. L.M. Walker to set up a screen of cavalry scouts outside of Helena.Price also commenced construction of strong earthworks on the north side of the Arkansas River about two and a half miles east of Little Rock, but reported that while I should attempt to defend Little Rock, as the capital of the state and the key to the important valley of the Arkansas, I did not believe it would be possible for me to hold it with the forces then under my command.
By late July, the Confederate horsemen in northeast Arkansas were certain that Davidsons incursion was no mere feint. A paroled Rebel cavalryman of John Q. Burbridges command took advantage of his captive tour of Bloomfield, Missouri, and Chalk Bluff to count not less than 10,000 Federals this side of Saint Francis, and about 2,000 infantry . . . 250 wagons and eighteen large field pieces . . . [with] 8 horses, and not under 24-pounders. Davidsons troops were in force at Gainesville by that time, leaving Burbridge satisfied that this is no raid of the enemy, but that it is their intention this time to march to Little Rock.
By the evening of July 24, a Union regiment had driven as far down the Ridge as Jonesboro, and the Yankee horde was destroying all the corn and wheat, feeding it to their horses.
Following the collapse of Confederate forces east of the Mississippi, Wittsburg would witness one of the final acts in Civil War Arkansas. On April 30, 1865, Maj. Gen. Grenville M. Dodge sent Lt. Col. Charles W. Davis of the Fifty-first Illinois Infantry to Arkansas to seek the surrender of Brig. Gen. M. Jeff Thompson, commander of Confederate troops in the northeast portion of the state.Davis, arriving at Chalk Bluff on the St. Francis River, sent messages to Thompson requesting a meeting. The officers met on May 9 and Thompson requested 48 hours to confer with his officers. On May 11, the Confederate agreed to surrender all troops in the district, picking Wittsburg and Jacksonport as the sites where his 5,000 soldiers would gather to receive their paroles. These men will come in without a morsel to eat, and I would therefore recommend that 50,000 rations be sent to the points designated to feed them while being paroled and while they are returning to their homes.
Davis returned to St. Louis on June 20, 1865, reporting that 193 officers and 1,964 enlisted men were paroled at Wittsburg and 443 officers and 4,854 enlisted men surrendered at Jacksonport. General Thompson had no transportation, except 300 or 400 dugout canoes, and no public animals or property of any other description, except $4,821 C.S. money, Davis reported. Most of the men that we paroled were without food, and I issued them about 28,000 rations. They seemed highly pleased at the surrender, and said that all they wanted now was to be allowed to live at home. The war in northeast Arkansas was over.
This stone is located at the park
John D. Walker D. Mar. 19, 1903
Sarah E. Walker D. Feb. 4 , 1900
Della (Walker ) Carson
D. Jan. 28 , 1900