One hundred and fifty years ago, things were heating up again in Arkansas. As Confederate forces near Tulip, Arkansas were surprised by an attack by Federal forces under Powell Clayton, the Confederate force under the command of General Marmaduke planned a multi-pronged attack on the garrison at Pine Bluff. The Yankees had been making themselves at home in the Arkansas River valley community since September 14, 1863 and were poorly supplied and under manned. It was the perfect opportunity for an attack.
As Confederate forces neared Pine Bluff in the early morning on October 25, 1863, shots began to ring out as Federal pickets were driven in my the main column. The Battle of Pine Bluff began. The 5th Kansas Cavalry and the 1st Indiana held off the Reb advance all morning as the downtown courthouse square became a makeshift fortification made of cotton bales. As buildings and cotton bales were set ablaze by Marmaduke’s Confederates, the Contraband (freed slaves) formed bucket brigades and extinguished the fires, saving the day for the Federal Army.
Clayton’s 800 soldiers held back Marmaduke’s 2,000, resulting in 56 US casualties and 40 Confederate casualties.For the duration of the war, Pine Bluff remained in Federal hands and remained an important river port for supplying the Federal garrison.