Arkansas Post is, literally, where Arkansas began. Located south of Gillett, the National Park Service facility commemorates the first permanent European settlement (1686) in the lower Mississippi River valley. Established by French explorer Henri de Tonti, the site was the first European colony in the Mississippi River Valley. Due to the settlement’s proximity to the Arkansas River, Arkansas Post was an important part of Arkansas’s history, becoming the first capitol of Arkansas Territory. By the early 1800s, Arkansas Post was a thriving river town and selected capital of the Arkansas Territory. The Post also played an important part in Arkansas’s Civil War history. Confederates built Fort Hindman, a massive earthen fort, to help protect their hold on the area and the confluence of the Arkansas and White Rivers. However, during the January 1863 Battle of Fort Hindman (also known as the Battle of Arkansas Post), Union forces were able to defeat the Confederate troops and destroy the fort. The defeat and subsequent surrender cost the Arkansas Confederates one-fourth of its armed forces…nearly 4800 soldiers were taken prisoner and sent to POW camps within days. Inside the park, visitors take a self-guided tour of the area, including a layout of the town and the remnants of the Confederate trenches and the 1863 battlefield.
Arkansas Post was also the location of the only Revolutionary War skirmish to take place in what is now Arkansas. This weekend, Arkansas Post National Memorial is hosting Colonial Kids Day. The event takes place Saturday, July 21, and focuses on what life was like for youngsters living in the area during the 1700s, including their chores, their pastimes and their favorite games. Musket and cannon demonstrations will also be part of the day’s events. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, phone Arkansas Post National Memorial at 870-548-2207 or log on to www.NPS.gov/arpo.