The Arkansas Post Story
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Chapter 20:

Arkansas Post never recovered from the ill-effects of war and reconstruction. The Federal assault inflicted irreparable damage on buildings and post residences. Shelling by Union gunboats demolished the former bank building, used by the Confederates as a hospital, "knocking it hither and yon." Reportedly, some houses in the town were torched by "Yankees."

Reconstruction at Arkansas Post was especially difficult. When peace returned to Arkansas in the spring of 1865, properties were extensively damaged, slaves emancipated, and the planters were broke. Crops failed in 1866. Conditions worsened so that by April 1867, the county court ordered that $5,000 be appropriated to purchase corn for those in need. James H. Lucus, St. Louis banker and former post resident, learned of the plight of the inhabitants and generously shipped $300 worth of supplies to be billed to his personal account. Many inhabitants, unable to pay taxes, lost their lands. By 1900, Arkansas Post had become a small farming community with less than 100 citizens living a short distance north of the present historic site. [1]

During the early part of the twentieth century, Arkansas Post fought yet another battle—the foe, more destructive than McClernand's soldiers, was the Arkansas River. Year after year, successive rises of the river claimed a little more of the friable bank and the history it preserved. By 1880, the site of the confederate fort had entirely disappeared. In 1903, the Arkansas River temporarily changed course one half mile south of Arkansas Post, a change that became permanent in 1912. In 1927, a particularly damaging flood covered the entire site, and the murky waters swallowed many old buildings in the town.

Today, little remains of Arkansas Post—but the site is rich in history. In the early days of colonization, Arkansas Post was the first European settlement in the lower Mississippi Valley and helped establish the claim of France to the greatest waterway on the continent. From Arkansas Post, traders made their way up the Arkansas River and forged alliances with numerous interior Indian tribes. The tiny Arkansas establishment became a center of the Indian trade. As a river port, Arkansas Post provided a midway point for convoys traveling between St. Louis and New Orleans. In this capacity, Arkansas Post played a role in the development of both cities.

Under the control of Spain, Arkansas Post became one link in the Spanish barrier to prevent Anglo-Americans from reaching rich Mexico. The isolationist policy of Spain prompted this nation to aid the Patriots in their effort to gain independence from Britain. With American independence, reasoned Spanish officials, Spain need not fear British aggression. Arkansas Post played an active part in the Revolutionary War drama, both as an intelligence center, and battleground. James Colbert and pro-British partisans attacked Arkansas Post in what was probably the final battle of the conflict. After the Patriots gained independence, Spain confronted a new republic even more aggressive than Britain. Spain attempted to stop the westward advance of the Americans by establishing relationships with Indian tribes between Spanish and American frontiers, and by settling Louisiana with agricultural families. Spanish policy, however, was never tested. Spain entered a transaction with France that inadvertently placed Louisiana in American hands.

As an American community, Arkansas Post participated in the growth and expansion of a nation. The Arkansas River became one avenue of westward expansion and Arkansas Post soon grew into a bustling frontier town. Arkansas Post became the territorial capital of Arkansas from March 2, 1819, to June 1, 1821. By the middle of the nineteenth century, cotton had become the major cash crop of Arkansas, and Arkansas Post a major river port and center of cotton production. But war loomed on the horizon and the decade of the 1860s brought drastic changes to Arkansas Post. Under Confederate occupation, a defensive earthwork was constructed at Arkansas Post to guard the approach to the upriver capital of Little Rock. On January 11, 1863, Arkansas Post fell to Federal troops following a 3-day engagement. The village of Arkansas Post never recovered from the devastation.

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Last Updated: 13-Feb-2006