Bridge seen as major draw
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
___ "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.