Confederates defended Littlle Rock from Union advance
147 years ago, Central Arknasas was the scene for several Civil War battles.
They were the first shots fired to defend Little Rock.
On August 27, 1863 the Confederates stood in the way of a Union advance just south of Jacksonville at Reed’s Bridge.
On this day, several Civil War history buffs have come here to re-enact this historic battle.
"Yeah, I mean this was one of several major encounters here in Arkansas." The battle at Reed’s Bridge is significant to Steve Shore.
In fact, he’s one of several people who are working hard to make improvements at the historic sight.
Shore explains about the battlefield, "It starts on the east side of Jacksonville, And the cavalry spread out of each side of the road 700 yards. And it sweeps back over here down about two blocks from here to Cloverdale Road. And that’s where the Confederate artillery batteries were set up."
Four thousand Confederate troops fought to keep Union General John Davidson and his cavalry division of 6,000 men from crossing the Bayou Meto and making their way into Little Rock.
It was a full day of fighting, with the air full of bullets and heavy smoke. But by sunset — Union forces decided to withdraw.
"It’s always easy for me to think I’m going home on Sunday night. But those men had to do it for four years." Marvin Boyce is from Dardanelle, and like the rest of the re-enactors he came for a weekend of activities that included the battle.
And just like the soldiers of the Civil War, he camped under the stars at night. It’s an experience that he says brings visitors a step closer to history.
Boyce says, "In a museum everything that you look at is behind a glass case. You don’t get a chance to touch it and see it and smell it with the gun smoke and the noise of what a little bit of experience of what the battlefield was like."
"You can read all you want to about that. But until you put a 40 pound pack on your shoulders, shoulder a 10 pound musket and walk 20 miles on an August day in these civil war shoes with the big studs on the bottom of it, you get an appreciation for what those guys went through," says Tom Ezell, who has been re-enacting civil war battles for 13 years.
He says it’s not unusual for someone to spend a couple thousand dollars to buy or create an authentic uniform. Weapons can cost $500 to a thousand dollars. But it’s the hardships of Civil War life that fascinates him the most.
Ezell says, "You read period diaries and letters that people kept at the time. The 28th Wisconsin, they talk about robbing corn fields out past where Lonoke is, and finding sweet potatoes in between the rows. And that’s what they lived on."
Once a year folks from the Jacksonville Museum of Military History re-enact the battle of Reed’s Bridge — where the sight’s, sounds and smells of 147 years ago — may leave you Amazed by Arkansas.
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