Blue and Gray Fight on the Grand Prairie
DeValls Bluff's status as an excellent riverport and the head of the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad made it an important base for both Confederate and Union forces. Hoping to block Federal ships from moving up the White River, Major Gen. Thomas C. Hindman fortified the site in June 1862 with two 8-inch guns, 1,000 infantrymen and 250 cavalry. Union troops skirmished with Confederate horsemen near DeValls Bluffs on July 6, but did not enter the town.
After the battle of Arkansas Post in January 1863, a joint Army-Navy expedition steamed up the White River to attack Confederate positions. They arrived at DeValls Bluff on January 16 and captured the two 8-inch guns, 25 prisoners, dozens of new Enfield rifles, and other Confederate equipment. The Union troops burned the depot, several railroad cars and two railroad bridges.
On August 10, 1863, another Union flotilla approached DeValls Bluff, surprising 12 Confederates who fled, leaving their equipment behind. Major General Frederick Steele's Union army occupied the town on August 23, and DeValls Bluff remained under Federal control for the rest of the war. Because of the concentration of Union troops there and on the adjacent prairie, Confederate cavalrymen who continue to attack Union targets — including the railroad — well into 1864.
Activity around DeValls Bluff
(Left Image Caption)
- July 6, 1862: Skirmish between Aberdeen and DeValls Bluff
- January 16, 1863: Skirmish
- December 1, 1863: Skirmish south of DeValls Bluff
- December 11-13, 1863: Skirmishes
- May 22, 1864: Affair
- August 21,23,24, 1864: Skirmishes
- September 6, 1864: Skirmish
- October 16-17, 1864: Expedition from DeValls Bluff to Clarendon
- October 21, 1864: Skirmish
- November 2, 1864: Affair at Hazen's Farm near DeValls Bluff
- November 9-15, 1864: Scout from DeValls Bluff to Searcy and Clinton
- November 16-18, 1864: Scout from DeValls Bluff to West Point
- November 22-24, 1864: Scout from DeValls Bluff to Augusta
- December 7-8, 1864: Expedition from DeValls Bluff to Augusta
- December 13-15, 1864: Expedition up the White River from DeValls Bluff
Frederic E. Davis was a young sailor aboard the U.S.S. Cincinnati
and participated in the January 1863 raid up the White River. On January 19, he wrote home from DeValls Bluff:
"We arrived here on Friday last, and found that the Rebels had fled. As soon as they saw our smoke coming up the river the[y] ran, leaving behind them two 8 inch guns, 200 muskets; 4 railroad cars and
several [illegible] we took prisoner. ... Our Army have all left this morning, and we are here alone. Our Engineers and men are ashore now destroying the cars, burning the building &c."
Courtesy, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Book Library, Emory University.
(Middle Image Caption)
Brig. Gen. Willis A. Gorman, a former territorial governor of Minnesota, proposed the raid up the White River and led the army troops during the expedition. "I should have gone direct to Little Rock if it had been practicable to cross the sea of mud and water intervening between that place and DeVall's Bluff, but this is impossible at present," he reported.
Courtesy, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.
(Right Image Caption)
Lieutenant-Commander John G. Walker led the naval component of the January 1863 expedition up the White River aboard the U.S.S. Black Hawk
Courtesy, U.S. Naval Historical Center.
To defend the sprawling base at DeValls Bluff from Confederate attack, Union troops constructed strong defenses including three large redoubts like the one pictured here.