The Battle of Arkansas Post - Arkansas Post National Memorial in Gillett, Arkansas
Battle of Arkansas Post
A Confederate cannon silently
aims out in the direction of the
Union attacks at Arkansas Post
Fort Hindman Overlook
The site of Fort Hindman is now
under water, but this overlook
provides a view of the scene and
information on its importance.
THE BATTLE OF ARKANSAS POST
Arkansas Post National Memorial in Gillett, Arkansas
Flag of the Austin Rifles
The time-faded flag of the Austin
Rifles, a Confederate unit, is on
display in the visitor center at
Arkansas Post National Memorial.
Historic Bank Site
One of the oldest banks west of
the Mississippi stood on this site
until it was burned down by Union
soldiers after the battle.
The Capture of Fort Hindman
|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
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
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
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.
Confederate Rifle Pits
Barely visible today, the line of
Confederate rifle pits runs from
foreground to background through
the center of this photo.
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
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
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
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
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.
Arkansas Post National Memorial is located
at 1741 Old Post Rd., Gillett, Arkansas. The
grounds are open daily from 8 a.m. until dark.
Visitor Center hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The
park is closed New Year's Thanksgiving and
Christmas Days. The park is free to visit.
Learn more from the official National Park
Return to our main Arkansas Post page.
Plan of Fort Hindman
This 19th century diagram shows
the plan of Fort Hindman. It was a
compact and strong fort, but the
guns of the Union fleet proved to
be too much for the defenders.
Civil War in Arkansas
|Copyright 2015 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Latest Update: January 11, 2015