Reed's Bridge seen as major draw

Reed's Bridge Battlefield stands to become a premier Civil War site in central Arkansas. It is not the most well-known but may be the best-preserved of the state's battlefield sites.

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

___Reed's Bridge Battlefield, located off South Highway 161 in Jacksonville, could become the premier Civil War site in central Arkansas.
___
That according to a preservation planners group out of Nashville, Tenn., commissioned to look at growth opportunities, management and preservation of the 412-acre battlefield.
___ Philip Thomason, with Thomason and Associates, spelled out how they would develop a plan for the battlefield at a public meeting Monday night at the chamber of commerce.
___ Thomason said there were just a handful of Civil War sites available for preservation work in Arkansas. He said Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove are probably the best known Civil War sites in the state, but that Reed's Bridge is the best-preserved site in central Arkansas.
___ "One of our jobs," Thomason said, is to get people off the interstate to visit the battlefield site and to tie in the battlefield with our attractions in the area such as the soon-to-be-opened military museum and the natural draw of Little Rock Air Force Base. Promoting it through area activities like the Wing Ding Festival is also a possibility.
___ The Wing Ding Festival will be honored at the end of the month with two awards from the Arkansas Festival Association. Thomason said there is federal money available to help preserve, promote and recreate Civil War battlefields.
___ "There has been a resurgence of interest in preserving this history. Many battlefields have been lost because of development." Reed's Bridge is in a unique situation as the Reed's Bridge Historical Society has, through the years, purchased or gained control of about 100 acres of the 412-acre battlefield.
___ The group believes it can, through easements, purchases and other agreements, bring about another 100 acres into the park. "One of the things we will do in our study is look at the owners of the battlefield property and prioritize which property should be put first either because of the historical significance or the fear of losing the property to development," said Thomason.
___ Tommy Dupree, with the Reed's Bridge Historical Society, said long-range plans call for connecting the battlefield to Dupree Park through bike and hiking trails.
___ The battlefield area abuts the south end of the city park. The Battle of Reed's Bridge in 1863 was an effort to slow down the Union march and eventual control of Little Rock. Confederate Major Gen. Sterling Price sent two of his top calvary units under the command of Brig. Gen. John Marmaduke and Brig. Gen. Lucius M. Walker out to Reed's Bridge just south of Jacksonville to slow the Union forces. On Aug. 26, 1863, the Confederate Calvary and Union forces collided along the Bayou Meto and Reed's Bridge.
___ The job of the Confederate troops was to simply hold out for as long as possible. During the battle, the Confederate troops set fire to the original Reed's Bridge. As Union troops ran to put out the flames, the Confederate troops opened fire, killing seven, wounding 38 and delaying the Union advance. But the battle was not all glory for the Confederacy. As they pulled back, closer to Little Rock, General Marmaduke supposedly accused General Walker of cowardice during the Battle at Reed's Bridge. The accusations were quickly settled during a duel in which Marmaduke killed Walker.
___ The Tennessee group plans to research old maps and historical accounts to come up with a clearer and more accurate account of the local battle. It will also check with the state to see if any archeological excavation has been done in the past and recommend the best spots for any future archeological work.
___ Monday night's meeting was to show the roadmap the group was going to be taking in developing a preservation plan for the battlefield. "In a few months we will come back with our specific ideas and suggestions," Thomason said.

 

Reed's Bridge Battlefield stands to become a premier Civil War site in central Arkansas. It is not the most well-known but may be the best-preserved of the state's battlefield sites.

 

The Reed's Bridge Battlefield on South Highway 161 where it crosses the Bayou Meto is considered a major Civil War historical site. It has been placed on the National Register of Historical Sites and may be considered for future archaeological digs.