Arkansas Post – Part 8

Day 2 – Assault
After a tiresome morning of more preparation the ground forces were finally prepared. Porter was informed that as soon as his fleet opened the assault would begin. At 1300 six of the Union gunboats began pounding the fort. The Union batteries along the line joined in. Across the river Colonel Lindsey, at Smith’s Plantation, seeing no threat from upriver, repositioned two 20-pound Parrotts and two 3-inch rifles on the tip of the peninsula formed by the sharp turn of the river. These guns also joined in the bombardment of the Confederate positions. The overwhelming barrage form three directions silenced the enemy guns at the fort by 1600. Nearly every gun was destroyed or dismounted. Porter accepted the surrender of the fort at 1630 when the Confederate sailors displayed white flags on the works. Before giving up they had badly damaged the DeKalb and caused 31 casualties on the Federal boats. Porter took advantage of the unprotected waterway by sending the Rattler, Glide and Monarch up the river. The small boats picked up the 7th Kentucky at Smith’s Plantation and moved about 10 miles upstream where they destroyed a ferry. Low water beyond this point stopped any further action on the river.

In front of the fort the Union artillery was supposed to fire for thirty minutes but the lack of response allowed Sherman to begin the attack on the Confederate left several minutes early. Hovey’s men were arranged in three lines. The 17th Missouri acted as skirmishers, the 3rd Missouri and 76th Ohio formed the primary assault wave, and the 31st and 32nd Iowa made up the second wave. The first resistance came in the form of snipers located across Post Bayou that enfiladed the entire line. They proved enough of an annoyance to demand special attention. The 17th Missouri was pulled away from the skirmish line and posted along the near bank of the bayou. These two groups conducted a private small arms battle while the main attack pressed forward. The belief that the enemy artillery had been silenced proved false when a pair of 10-pound guns opened on Hovey’s advance. Hovey was slightly wounded by a piece of shrapnel. Colonel Charles Woods, of the 76th Ohio, designated a portion of his command to act as sharpshooters concentrating on the crews of these guns. The work of driving them away from their pieces was done in short order.

Deshler’s Confederate line, although harassed, had survived the artillery fire intact and stood ready to meet the advancing blue line. On Hovey’s left Thayer’s brigade advanced in regimental columns. The unnecessary maneuvering proved difficult and offered an extended look at his dispositions to the defenders. Thayer’s lead elements, 26th and 30th Iowa, marched to within 100 yards of the fully prepared 10th Texas before they were greeted by a deadly volley. The two regiments fell back. Although not repulsed like Thayer, Hovey’s advance was altered when they were met with the same treatment. The 3rd Missouri and 31st Iowa veered away from the pressure of the deadly fire looking for a way to bypass the Confederate left. They were stopped in this effort by the companies of the 19th Arkansas sent out by Churchill. The primary Union attack was stalled.

In the center Stuart’s division belatedly joined the attack when Sherman ordered them to advance at once. The confusion created by the premature advance on the right. Stuart was waiting for the conclusion of the thirty minute pre-assault bombardment. The advance, like those on the right, was short lived. Colonel G. A. Smith’s brigade was brought to a halt by the 17th and 18th Texas cavalry (Dismounted) and Hart’s Arkansas Battery of 6-pounders. The dropped to the ground while selected men from the 6th Missouri, 8th Missouri, and 57th Ohio crawled forward to target the gunners. The guns were silenced. Cole T. K. Smith’s brigade moved up but no general attack was ordered. Instead a line of artillery comprised of the 1st Illinois Battery A and the 4th Battery Ohio Light was ordered into advanced positions. The Federal infantry remained stationary as these guns pounded Garland’s Texans.

The Confederate leaders used this pause to again adjust their defenses. Garland sent half the 24th and 25th Texas Cavalry (Dismounted) and two companies of the 6th Texas Infantry to Deshler. In front of Garland’s thus weakened line MG Morgan massed three brigades. Burbridge was ordered to clear a group of huts being used by enemy snipers with the 23rd Wisconsin. Colonel Guppey led his men into the clearing but the pesky enemy riflemen fled back to the main line before the action could commence. Burbridge’s men were joined by the lead regiments of Landrum’s brigade (77th Illinois, 97th Illinois, and 19th Kentucky). The battle for the center devolved into a static gunfight.

On the Union left Osterhaus deployed four guns of the Chicago Mercantile Battery to silence the Confederate line. The guns apparently accomplished their objective and the 120th Ohio was ordered to assault the east face of the fort. The bold charge was stopped by a ravine and a renewed fire from the Confederate line. Frustrated all along the line and with darkness only a short time away a desperate final assault was ordered. A preparatory barrage of thirty minutes further deteriorated the already desperately thin Confederate position. Just as the Union attack was set to begin white flags began to appear in the line of the 24th Texas Cavalry (Dismounted). A stunned Garland could not get the flags removed before the Federals were in the rifle pits collecting weapons. From right to left the surrender moved down the Confederate line. By dark 4791 Confederates were taken prisoner. Just like that the fort was won.

Arkansas Post (Campaign Series)


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