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Program AR Post Colbert's Raid 07
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Colbert's Raid: The only Revolutionary War Battle in Arkansas
Before the year 2000 the National Park Service (NPS) began to organize a
program called "Lighting Freedom's Flame", to commemorate the events of
the Revolutionary War and to publicize the events 225 years after the fact
from 2000 to 2008.
Why? Anniversaries of historical events provide an opportunity to cause
reflection about the past, the meanings of events, and the sites associated
with them. There is little awareness or understanding among the general
public especially including young people. of the Revolutionary War. The
Revolutionary Parks and adjacent lands and resources are being increasingly
threatened. The Paoli Battlefield is a good case in point. The land about 22
acres belonged to a Malvern Preparatory School and they needed more
financial aid and despite the fact that the battlefield had remained intact and
was still used as a corn and grain field as it was in September 1777. They
felt compelled to sell it to a developer. There was a TV story re: this
situation on NBC on the 4th of July 1998. I was told about it and since I
knew about the battle, I called the Pennsylvania State Regent and got her
permission as well as the permission of the Historian General of DAR. A
packet was made up and every State Regent was sent information about the
situation. Because of the pressure put on Congress, by the DAR and others,
Congress finally appropriated the funds (with matching funds) to buy the
field.
The "Lighting Freedom's Flame" initiative's purpose is to use the 225th
anniversary of the Revolutionary War to raise awareness of the meanings
and legacy of the Revolution. To expand research, to identify partners for
the project etc. To do so, included creating a logo, (Show pin) better
communication between parks in the Revolutionary War area. There has
been a great increase of information about the battles of the war as well as
archeology done at the sites. This all was incorporated into new and updated
programs. Re-enactors need were updated. Parks need to use current
educational methods and technologies in order to reach young audiences.
Partners include: Council of America's Military Past, Council of American
Revolutionary Sites; Sons of the American Revolution, National Association
for Interpretation, Society of Cincinnati and Daughters of the American
Revolution .
Program AR Post Colbert's Raid 07
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After that introduction, let me tell you the story of Colbert's Raid 225th
anniversary will be April 17, 2008.
First of all, Arkansas Post was more than just the first permanent settlement
of, and the first Capital in Arkansas -it was a cross roads - in 1541, DeSoto.
in 1682, LaSalle; in 1686, DeTonti. Five flags have flown over the post the French monarchy; Spain, French Republic, Confederate and United
States.
At the time of the raid, Spain held title to the area having been awarded the
Louisiana Territory after the French and Indian War. The post gave
protection to the soldiers, civilians and Indians. The Quapaw Indians of the
area were friendly to the Spanish.
The post was situated on the south bank of the Arkansas River about 3
leagues above its mouth. There was a stockade in Quadrangular form, one
three pounder cannon was mounted on the flanks of each side. The
buildings within the fort were a barrick with three rooms for soldiers,
commanding officers house, a powder magazine, and a magazine for
supplies. Near the fort there were about eight houses.The Quapaw Indians
were divided into three villages and lived _____miles from the fort ,over
which served a chief and a great chief over them all. About six hundred
braves in all.
Even though later in the Revolutionary War, Spain entered on the side of the
Americans and French, most of the Spanish had not heard the "Shot Heard
Round the World". There had been fighting off and on, on the Eastern Side
of the Mississippi. However, the Chickasaws and English had begun to
harass the Spanish shipping on the Mississippi. To ascertain what the
situation might be, Chief Angaska was sent to spy out the river traffic and
also if any English had crossed the Mississippi.
Capt. James Colbert had been born and raised in Scotland about 1720. He
had fled to America to avoid reprisals against suspected Jacobites
(supporters of King James). Landing in Savannah, Georgia, he soon made
his way inland and adopting the ways of Indians lived among the
Chickasaws. He married into the tribe and had three Indian wives. He
advanced to a position of influence with the Chickasaws as did several of his
sons.
Program AR Post Colbert's Raid 07
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By early April 1783, he was ready to undertake an attack on Arkansas Post.
His force numbered: 11 mixed-bloods and Indians (many his sons and
nephews), five blacks, one Frenchman, and 64 British and Americans. They
boarded a keelboat and a bateau. They passed up the White River, passed
thru the cutoff and went on up the Arkansas River. They tricked the
Quapaws and so with muffled oars passed the sleeping Indian village. The
flotilla pulled into the north bank of the Arkansas at Red Bluff, a short
distance from the small village of Spanish settlers and others. Lt . deVillars
had moved his family out to one of the small houses in the village when the
new commandant, Capt. Dubreuil, arrived. Breaking down the door of the
cabin in which the deVillars slept, the attackers took them prisoners. Most
of the others were captured too except Sergt. Alexo Pastor who escaped to
the fort as did some of the women and children. Outnumbered the Spanish
were badly beaten.
At hearing the first gun shots, Capt. Dubreuil turned out the 40 man garrison
and they manned their positions at the fort and began shooting. They also
had the four 4-pounder cannons which they fired. This shooting caused no
casualties, but did prevent the attackers from fleeing with the booty they had
taken. The Spanish from the fort, then began ordering a sortie. When the
gate was opened they were to give a war whoop and dash toward the enemy.
But just as they were to go, they saw one of Colbert's officers advancing
with a flag of truce and Dona Marie Luisa deVillars. The officer fled and
Madamme gave a message from Capt. Colbert which demanded that the
Spanish capitulate. After delivering the message, Madamme deVillars
returned to the village. The Spanish then launched their sortie. Taken by
surprise Colbert's soldiers fled. Hounded by soldiers and Quapaw Indians
they ran to their boats taking their prisoners with them. At noon Chief
Angaska returned from a scouting party, and being told of the situation, he
gathered 100 of his braves and 20 Spanish soldiers and set out to catch up
with the English and retake the captives. Colbert decided to release his
prisoners all except four soldiers, a boy and three slaves. Later, when the
mail arrived, it told of the Preliminary Articles of Peace. (Keep in mind this
was six months after Cornwallis was defeated by Washington and
Rochambeau). So, the captives still held were released.
Enter the Arkansas State Society DAR.
Program AR Post Colbert's Raid 07
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On July 4, 1976 they held a dedication of a corner replica of the Fort San
Carlos III. This was on the site of the fort where the only Revolutionary
War battle in Arkansas took place on April 17, 1783. The AR State Society
DAR raised $15,000 to fund this venture. Gov. David Pryor dedicated the
commemorative and cutting the ribbon were: Mrs. James A. Marmouget,
state regent; Dr. Lily Peter, past state regent and Arkansas's Poet Laureate.
Representatives of Great Britain, France, Spain and the Quapaw Nation
participated.
The replica of a corner of Fort San Carlos is a stockade type with a capacity
of 20 standing people. It is located as close to the site of the original fort as
possible. It is of rough hewn lumber and originally had paintings depicting
the Colbert Incident with an audio message describing it. The four
interpretive paintings and audio aid helped to make the project cover all
three DAR objectives: Historical, Educational, and Patriotic. In 1981 there
was a rededication of the interpretive panels that had discolored and faded
and the Federal Government had had them replaced.
On November 12, 1990 the Arkansas Post and Grand Prairie chapters joined
together for a ceremony to recognize Revolutionary Soldier, Joseph
Stillwell. A large wreathe was placed near the replica of Fort San Carlos in
remembrance of the 26 soldier patriots buried in Arkansas.
On October 14, 1991, a Wayside Exhibit was dedicated to enhance the
partial stockade of the Fort San Carlos. The exhibit lists the names of 26
men (21 were new genealogy finds). Sixteen of those listed had fought at
Arkansas Post in the battle of April 17, 1783 - the Colbert Raid.
Participating in the ceremonies were: John L. Ferguson, state historian, who
gave the main address; the DeWitt Senior High School Band; Co. C
Detachment 1, 39th Support Battalion, AR National Guard served as color
guard; Mrs. Allen Bush, State Regent; Mrs. James Pollard, state project
chairman; Mr. Clark Dixon, AR Post National Park Service superintendent;
Mrs. John Simpson, regent, AR Post chapter; Mrs. Glenda Fread, regent
Grand Prairie chapter. Mr. Lynn Gaines, of the Bayou Bartholomew chapter
NSSAR and Federal Judge Morris Arnold were also there as well as several
descendents of the Revolutionary War Patriots were honored.
All these are listed in the book - "Arkansas Historical Markers, including
Revolutionary War soldiers." Better known as the "Marker Book" or "The
Book".