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Chalk Bluff Natural Area I

"Indecisive Victory"

Official Records

I n the spring of 1863, John S. Marmaduke with Jo Shelby and Jeff Thompson made their second raid into Southeast Missouri. With Shelby at Fredricktown and Marmaduke at Bloomfield they were forced into a movement on Cape Girardeau. About April 27th, the Confederates started their retreat towards Chalk Bluff along the Crowley Ridge Military Road, which is a raised tract of land, that ran from near Cape Girardeau to Helena, Arkansas. The road was built over an old Indian trail and was surrounded by low swampy land most of the way. (Even today you can see the ridge is the about the only raised area along a vast flatland which is mostly farmland. )

During the retreat General Marmaduke had sent General Thompson back to Chalk Bluff to supervise construction of entrenchments on the bluff and to build a bridge to cross the St. Francis River. The Union division was commanded by General McNeil and General Vandever which pursued the Confederates to the town of Four-Mile, Missouri (Which no longer exists) where the Confederates put in three defensive positions about a mile apart back to the St. Francis River.

On the 1st of May, 1863, the Federals had to attack these positions in turn taking many casualties. On the evening of the 1st, they were concentrated at the third position about a mile back from the river. With both sides fighting into the evening, the Confederates decided to withdraw in the early morning hours of the second of May to the 4th position across the river, leaving behind a detachment to trick the Union into thinking the Confederates were still in position.

When the Federals did attack they only found the small detachment and pushed them back across the river. Arriving at the river the union troops were met by artillery and small arms fire from the intrenched confederates on the Bluff. The Union retreated to more secure positions. Then after bringing up there artillery, they made another attack, but this failed also. The Federals then pulled back and failed to take the Confederate position. McNeil and Vandever soon retreated back to their original positions at Bloomfield and Cape Girardeau. The Battle of Chalk Bluff was over.

The Park Entrance is located about 4 miles from St. Francis, Arkansas. Once you get to St. Francis, there are signs to the park. About half of the road at the time of my visit was gravel, but it is in the process of road construction. The park is a quiet little park with beautiful scenery. and some interpetive signs. Although thee are no distinct locations of the defensive positions noted that I saw. Sorry folks, I had no Guide.




Chalk Bluff in the Civil War
The Raids of March-April 1863

On March 10, 1863, Union cavaalry captured the ferry after a three-hour fight. They burned buildings and stores of corn in Chalk Bluff and destroyed a large uncompleted ferry boat. Two weeks later on March 24th Union Cavalry returned to Chalk Bluff and pursued the retreating Confederates as far as Scatterville south of present day Piggot.
On April 20 Confederate Cavalry surprised and routed a Union encampment across the river from Chalk Bluff.

Page II


Chalk Bluff Crossing and Town

Since Crowley's Ridge provided the only natural route for north-south travel across the lowlands of northeastern Arkansas, an Indian trail and later a military road crossed the river here. About 1840, Abraham Seitz established a ferry which was later operated by Timothy Dalton. The town which grew up near the crossing faded away after 1882 when the railroad bridged a crossing downstream at the new town of St. Francis.


Chalk Bluff in the Civil War
Battle of May 1-2, 1863

In April 1863, a Confederate army of 5000 men commanded by John S. Marmaduke advanced into Missouri. Forced to retreat before superior Union forces, the Confederates on May 1-2 fought a successful delaying action here while their army crossed a swollen St. Francis river on a makeshift floating bridge.



Four-Mile to Chalk Bluff

Arkansas Main Page

Civil War Traveler
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