Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Arkansas River - 3

The further I dig into the history of the Arkansas River, the more interested I become. The navigable segment of the river ceases to be just a 444-mile stretch of water, but takes on character and personality. While it’s just a slight glimpse into the lives of those that came to and developed the lands along the river, I know the experience of paddling the river will become that much richer.

The attack on Arkansas Post on 11 Jan. 1863, by Union ironclads
and 33,000 infantry and cavalry.
Photo credit:
In 1682, Henry de Tonty (or Henri de Tonti) became friendly with the Native Americans around the confluence of the Arkansas with the Mississippi, and built a fort he named “Poste Aux Arcansas,” the first white settlement in the Louisiana Territory, and which is now Arkansas Post. There were technically four Arkansas Posts, as the forts were moved about to positions more defensible from attack. An Arkansas State Park is now at the location of the original fort. The only skirmish of the Revolutionary War to occur west of the Mississippi, took place at Arkansas Post in 1783. In 1819, Arkansas Post would become the capital of the Arkansas Territory. Arkansas Post figured again in the Civil War when Fort Hindman was built there. Military operations from there were successful enough in disrupting Union communications and supply lines that it warranted a Union attack on January 11, 1863, as a prelude to the attack on Vicksburg. The Confederate forces were forced to surrender, and the fort was destroyed, unfortunately along with all remaining structures from the French and Spanish historical periods.

After the Revolutionary War, George Washington was especially concerned with the possibility of Britain, Spain and France trying to lay claims to the rivers and thus the surrounding lands in the Western Territories. He created what became the basis for our navigable waterway laws with the Ordinance of 1787. This stated that “the navigable waters leading into the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence shall be common highways and forever free, as well to the inhabitants of said territories as to the citizens of the United States, without any impost, tax, or duty.”


No comments:

Post a Comment