Arkansas Post Site of Westernmost Revolutionary War Battle

Jul 4, 2013

Colbert’s Raid on the Spanish fort at Arkansas Post on April 17, 1783.

On this Independence day it may surprise some that the effects of the Revolutionary War reached all the way to Arkansas in what was the westernmost battle of the war. It was one of two trans-Mississippi River battles. 

At the time Arkansas was a possession of the Spanish Empire, which sided with America in its war against the British. The British led by James Colbert, along with Chickasaw allies, attacked Spaniards, French settlers, and Quapaw at Arkansas Post, near the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers. 

Ed Wood, the superintendent of the park at Arkansas Post, explained its strategic importance. 

"Well, Arkansas Post of course was a major trading center. It provided a shipping point for all the fur trade and trapping that was taking place in the lower Arkansas River. And it was probably one of the only established communities so to speak [European] in Arkansas at that time," said Wood.

The skirmish did not last long and British backed forces failed to take the post. They retreated after Europeans at Arkansas Post took advantage of British fears of Indian warriors. The commander of the fort told his men to “yell like attacking Indians” to give the impression of a large Indian contingent. The deception worked. But they did manage to take a few prisoners, which were returned when a force of 100 Quapaw and 20 Spanish soldiers crossed the Mississippi and demanded their return. 

Wood said participants in the engagement weren’t aware of what had transpired back east.

"It's an interesting note that the battle that took place here, or the incident, actually took place after the war was over. But the communications were very poor in those days so Colbert didn't know it, and of course neither did the Spanish," said Wood.