The Arkansas Post Story
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Chapter 11:

On June 19, De Villiers died in New Orleans following an operation to remove a tumor from his liver. Lieutenant Louis de Villars, a young officer temporarily stationed at Arkansas Post, assumed command until a duly appointed officer could be dispatched. Governor Esteban Miro selected Captain Jacobo Du Breuil for the job.

Captain Du Breuil, his wife, Inez, and their two young children landed at the post in January, 1783. The new commandant mustered the troops for inspection. Du Breuil counted 14 soldiers, the names of most of which have been recorded: Lieutenant Louis de Villars; Sergeant Alexo Pastor; Private First Class Josef Plaseras; Privates Second Class Lucas Perez and Sebastian Molina; and soldiers Marieno Barrios, Bruno Cuisasola, Antonio Longines, Antonio Lopez, Mariano Perez, Augustin Garcia, Pedro Clossin, and Antonio Longevas. The location of the fort, observed Du Breuil, is inadequate as "one could approach within pistol shot before being seen . . ." The village of the inhabitants, scarcely 100 steps away, could shield an enemy in the event of an attack. Du Breuil was not overly alarmed, however, since the possibility of being attacked at the time seemed remote. Preliminary peace treaties had already been signed. [1]

Scarcely three months after Du Breuil assumed command, James Colbert launched his long-threatened attack. On April 16, 1783, Colbert and about 100 partisans composed of his 11-half-blood sons, several Natchez rebels and Chickasaw Indians slipped up the Arkansas River. The group had little trouble passing by the Quapaw village near the mouth of the river. Colbert told the intoxicated Chief Angaska that he and 12 Americans came to shake the hand of the new commandant. In his befuddled condition, Angaska allowed the white-men to pass. Colbert's partisans approached within a short distance of the Spanish post. Leaving the boats in the care of seven men, the group made its way overland to the French village. [2]

At 2:30 a.m., Colbert and the partisans stormed the village. The first shot fired broke the lock on the door of the residence where Lieutenant De Villars and his family lived. De Villars, his wife, Dona Maria Luisa, and a number of other residents were captured without a struggle. The majority of the inhabitants, alerted by shots, took to the woods and made their way safely to the fort. [3]

At the sound of the first shots, the soldiers of the garrison rushed to the aid of De Villars. Two soldiers were killed in the ensuing skirmish, one losing his scalp. The Spanish, bested by Colbert's superior force, took refuge in the fort. Sergeant Pastor barely escaped his pursuers by running like a rabbit and diving into the fort through an open embrasure. [4]

After pillaging the residences, Colbert next turned his attack on the garrison. The Spanish defenses withstood Colbert's seige. Throughout the night, small arms fire was exchanged, and the Spanish fired more than 300 cannon rounds. The projectiles passed harmlessly over the attackers who were firmly entrenched in a ravine near the fort. At 9:00 a.m., the lieutenant's wife and a member of Colbert's band approached the fort under a flag of truce. The emissary "was shaking with fright" as he handed Colbert's demands to Captain Du Breuil. The note read: "M. Le Capitaine Colbert is sent by his superiors to take the post of the Arkansas and by this power sir, he demands that you capitulate." Du Breuil responded that he would never surrender to the "Captain of the Highwaymen" as he called Colbert.

Angered by Colbert's audacity, Commandant Du Breuil conceived a bold counterattack. Du Breuil selected a detachment of 10 soldiers and 4 Quapaw Indians to be led by Sergeant Pastor. He instructed them to yell like Indians as they rushed out to meet the firmly entrenched partisans. This unexpected sally routed the surprised attackers who, upon hearing the war-cries, believed that the entire Quapaw nation had arrived. As they retreated, Colbert's men were heard shouting: "Let's go! Let's go! The Indians are upon us." [5] The partisans fled to their boats with the Spanish in hot pursuit. Shots from Spanish muskets killed one member of the band and wounded another. In retaliation, one of Colbert's sons pointed a musket at Lieutenant De Villars' head and pulled the trigger. Fortunately for De Villars, the weapon misfired. When one of Sergeant Pastor's Indians inched near enough to throw a tomahawk into their midst, the attackers quickly departed. [6]

At 12:00, Chief Angaska finally arrived at the fort. Du Breuil reprimanded the Quapaw for allowing the British to enter the river unchallenged. To redeem himself, Angaska left in pursuit of Colbert with 100 warriors and soldiers. The Quapaw chief overtook the raiders south of the mouth of the Arkansas. Positioning his men around the enemy camp, the bold Angaska walked directly into the midst of the enemy, demanding that Colbert release all prisoners. By telling Colbert that he was surrounded by a superior number of Quapaw warriors, Angaska gained the release of all prisoners except four soldiers, the son of a post resident, and three slaves belonging to De Villars. These, Colbert kept to insure his safe passage back to Chickasaw country. [7]

Colbert's raid on Arkansas Post was probably the final revolutionary war engagement. Spanish casualties numbered two dead and one wounded. A total of eight persons were captured and taken to the Chickasaw country. Among the partisans, one man was killed and another wounded. Life at Arkansas Post soon returned to normal. Except for Du Breuil's request for "one cask of brandy to revive the troops," [8] there was little in the official records to indicate that anything had happened.

On September 3, 1783, a treaty ending the war was concluded in Paris. The United States emerged from the negotiations as an independent nation with much of its western border at the Mississippi River. Spain, largely dissatisfied by the proceedings in Paris, wished to confine the new United States of America to the eastern seaboard and the Appalachians. Now faced with a republic even more aggressive than Great Britain, Spain began a reassessment of her Louisiana policy. [9]

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Last Updated: 13-Feb-2006