Thursday, September 21, 2017

Invading Arkansas

"Invading" Arkansas
Crystal Bridges Museum
Bentonville, AR

Arkansas is known today for having given us Bill Clinton and Walmart.  The state is mad about their razorbacks.  The world class Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art ( opened up in Bentonville in 2011.  It will blow your mind!

"Invading" Bentonville
But Arkansas has a rich military history for it is a state that has been invaded many times.  This is an extract from the Arkansas chapter of America Invaded: A State by State Guide to Fighting on American Soil (

"Humans have inhabited the area we know today as Arkansas for a very long time.  The Mississippians built mounds around Arkansas in AD 1300 that are still visible today.
Many Native American tribes made their homes in Arkansas, including the Osage, Caddo, and Quapaw. Arkansas is, in fact, a Siouan word derived from Acansa—the name of a Quapaw village in southeastern Arkansas.

De Soto
First European in Arkansas

The Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto crossed the Mississippi River on June 28, 1541, into what is today Arkansas, searching for gold. His “invasion” of Arkansas lasted about a year and was the  first visit to this area by Europeans. De Soto died on the banks of the Mississippi, near or in Arkansas, of natural causes in 1542.

In 1673, coming from the opposite direction, French explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet came south on the Mississippi, getting as far as an area inhabited by Quapaw, near where the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers meet, before heading north again.

Robert de La Salle explored Arkansas for the French in 1681. In 1686, Henri de Tonti, a Neapolitan serving Louis XIV, established the Arkansas Post.  This was an important trading post on the banks of the Arkansas River. A number of forts were constructed around the post to provide security against Native Americans.  The French formed an informal alliance with the local Quapaw tribe, supplying them with arms and trading furs.

In 1738, the French, with local allies, launched a campaign against the Chickasaw.
The 1762 Treaty of Fontainebleau gave Spain control of the Louisiana Territory, including Arkansas. During the American Revolution, the British and their native allies attempted to seize Arkansas Post from the Spanish.  They were defeated on April 17, 1783, at the Battle of Arkansas Post. Spain would control Louisiana until 1800, when it ceded it to Napoleonic France in the  Third Treaty of San Ildefonso...
He sold us Arkansas

In 1803, all of Arkansas was included in the Louisiana Purchase, which consummated the sale of territory by Napoleon to the United States.

And in 1804, American explorers Dr. George Hunter and William Dunbar traveled up the Ouachita River to Hot Springs.

More American settlers would soon arrive, bringing slavery with them. Fort Smith was first established by the US military in 1817.

In 1817, the US government established a Cherokee nation in Arkansas. Many other Arkansas tribes perceived this as an “invasion” of their territory.

Eventually, the familiar process of Native Americans being dispossessed would take place. For instance, in 1824, Quapaw ceded the rest of their land south of the Arkansas River. In 1828, the Cherokees left their northwest Arkansas territory and moved westward.

Arkansas played a role in the Texas Revolution as a base for rebels and a source of volunteers.
 The Arkansas Territory joined the Union as the twenty-fifth state in 1836.

Construction of the Arsenal Barracks began in Little Rock in 1840.  The Barracks were built mainly to protect settlers and travelers from potential attacks by Native Americans.
Capital Guard
"Lest We Forget"
Little Rock, AR

On May 6, 1861, Arkansas voted to secede from the Union with other Southern states. Support for the Union remained, however, especially in the Ozark Mountains.  Thousands of Arkansans would serve in gray during the Civil War, though some would  fight in blue as well. Over 5,000 ex-slaves from Arkansas would  fight in the Union Army.
General Van Dorn
Pea Ridge National Military Park
In early 1862, Confederate hopes were high. General Van Dorn, a great-nephew of Andrew Jackson, hoped to advance through Arkansas and seize St. Louis, Missouri.

Pea Ridge: the most important Civil War battle fought in Arkansas

The Battle of Pea Ridge, fought near Bentonville from March 7–8, 1862, was likely the most important Civil War battle fought in Arkansas ( An outnumbered Union force commanded by Major General Samuel Curtis repelled attacks by Confederate forces led by Major General Van Dorn. Confederate ranks were augmented by Native American cavalry that was commanded by Brigadier General Albert Pike, a Little Rock newspaperman. Van Dorn was forced to withdraw his forces across the Mississippi, leaving Arkansas largely undefended.

A second attempt by the Confederates to reestablish control of Arkansas was mounted by Major General  Thomas C. Hindman, who moved into the northwest of the state in the autumn of 1862. At the Battle of Prairie Grove on December 7, Hindman was confronted by Union troops under Brigadier General Herron. Although outnumbered three to one, Herron managed to detain Hindman by ordering immediate attacks until reinforcements under Brigadier General Blunt arrived. Hindman was thwarted. Largely due to his weak artillery and poor supply situation, he was forced to withdraw.

Confederate Soldier
Pea Ridge National Military Park
Although Prairie Grove was on balance a tactical draw, it was a strategic victory for the Union. Never again would the Confederates be able to make a serious attempt to recover control of Arkansas.
In the Battle of Arkansas Post, fought January 9–11, 1863, an overwhelming Union force of around 33,000 led by Major General John McClernand defeated a smaller Confederate force, about 5,000, led by Brigadier General Thomas Churchill. Most of the Confederates, mainly dismounted Texas cavalry, surrendered to the superior Union Army near Fort Hindman.

After the fall of Vicksburg in 1863, the Confederacy was effectively cut in two along the line of the Mississippi River.  e western portion of the Confederacy, including Arkansas, was no longer able to supply vital livestock to the South...

Soon after the Civil War ended, another war hit Arkansas. Well, sort of. The 1874 Brooks-Baxter War saw a close gubernatorial election turn into a literal battle for power as militias supporting each contender clashed. Brook’s militia initially ejected Baxter from the Arkansas Capitol building. Militia supporting Baxter counterattacked, and eventually US troops stepped in and restored Baxter to power.

Arsenal Barracks
Douglas MacArthur
Museum & Birthplace
Little Rock, AR
In 1880, Douglas MacArthur was born in the Arsenal Barracks, which had been renamed the Little Rock Barracks in 1873, to a military family.  is distinguished graduate of West Point would serve in France in World War I. MacArthur eventually became a five-star US general who famously “returned” to liberate the Philippines in World War II. As Commander of UN forces, he planned and executed the successful invasion of Inchon during the Korean War. MacArthur Park and MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History can be found in Little Rock today, near his birthplace (

MacArthur Museum
Little Rock, AR
Arkansas was not, of course, invaded during World War II. However, more than 23,000 German and Italian prisoners of war were held at bases in the state, such as Fort Smith and Camp Robinson.

Sam Walton's office
Walmart Museum
Bentonville, AR
Travel notes: Loved the 21C hotel in Bentonville (!  Usually I mistrust hotel restaurants but The Hive is a wonderful exception.  Bentonville is a happening town.  Outstanding coffee at the Onyx Coffee  Great beers at Core Brewing  Oven and tap has nice  Not to mention the incredible Crystal Bridges Museum (  All in all a very fun town.

Signed copies of America Invaded: A State by State Guide to Fighting on American Soil can now be found at the Pea Ridge National Military Park ( or

Regular copies may be purchased from

Or on

1 comment:

Steve Day said...

Commander and Major,

Damned Arkansans probably deserved it. I hope they did not shoot at you this time Major.

I am glad you hit my home state and my old neighborhood. Robert E. Lee (not the one on ESPN) had his headquarters in Fayetteville, AR for a few minutes. By the way, Texas is really not worth taking….

Thanks for visiting in NC. David Ansell was a student here….