Civil War Arkansas Timeline

November 6, 1860 – Abraham Lincoln is elected president of the United States


February 8– The garrison of the United States Arsenal in Little Rock abandons in the face of mobs of pro-secession militias.

February 18 – Arkansas voters go to the polls and elect to hold a convention to consider whether or not to secede from the Union.

March 4 – The secession convention meets in Little Rock, but adjourns several weeks later without seceding.

April 13 – The U.S. garrison at Fort Sumter, S.C., surrenders.

April 15 – President Lincoln calls for volunteers to suppress the rebellion.

April 23 – State militias sent by Governor Henry Rector arrive in Fort Smith to seize the U.S. army post there, but find it is already abandoned.

May 6 – The secession convention reconvenes in Little Rock and passes an ordinance of secesssion from the Union.

August 10 – Arkansas troops participate in the Southern victory at Wilson’s Creek, Missouri.


Winter-Spring – Peace Society movement develops in Ozark region.

February 16 – A skirmish between U.S. and C.S. cavalrymen spills across Big Sugar Creek into Arkansas – the first combat in the state.

February 17 – Union General Samuel R. Curtis’s Army of the Southwest invades Arkansas.

March 7-8 – U.S. troops win a decisive victory at Pea Ridge in northwest Arkansas.

June – General Thomas Hindman authorizes formation of partisan bands to harass Union forces in Arkansas; many of these would degenerate into lawless bands of bushwhackers who would terrorize and steal indiscriminately.

June 17 – Battle of St. Charles, in which the “deadliest shot of the Civil War” incapacitates the U.S.S. Mound City and kills and wounds 149 of her crew.

July 7 – Federal forces win the battle of Hill’s Plantation.

July 12 – Federal troops occupy Helena, which will be an important Union river port and base of operations for the rest of the war.

August 12 – General Theophilus Holmes takes command of the Confederate Transmississippi Department; he will not prove up to the task.

November 15 – Harris Flanagin is sworn in as Confederate governor of Arkansas

November 28 – Union troops under James G. Blunt drive Confederates under John S. Marmaduke from the Boston Mountains in the battle of Cane Hill.

December 7 – The battle of Prairie Grove leaves Federal troops in control of the field and Confederates retreating to the Arkansas River line. Never again will northwest Arkansas be seriously used as a Confederate invasion route to Missouri.

December 28 – The Union victors of Prairie Grove drive the remnants of the Confederate army from Van Buren and Fort Smith.


January 9-11 – Overwhelming numbers of Union troops defeat the Confederate garrison of Fort Hindman in the battle of Arkansas Post.

April 7 – General Lorenzo Thomas arrives in Helena to begin recruiting regiments of Union soldiers from the escaped slaves who flocked to the Union post there; the First Arkansas Volunteer Infantry (African Descent) is organized the next day.

April 18 – Federal defenders turn back a Confederate attack on Fayetteville.

May 1-2 – John Marmaduke’s Confederates retreat into northeast Arkansas at Chalk Bluff after a failed raid into Missouri.

July 4 – A Confederate attack on Helena is repulsed with heavy casualties.

August 27 – A Union army approaching Little Rock is turned back temporarily after fighting on Bayou Meto.

September 1 – Union forces re-occupy Fort Smith; Confederates under James Cabell fight a rear-guard action at Devil’s Backbone.

September 10 – Union forces capture Little Rock after facing stiff resistance on Bayou Fourche.

October 25 – The Union garrison of Pine Bluff holds off a Confederate attack.


January 8 – Confederate spy David O. Dodd is hanged in Little Rock.

January 19 – A convention in Little Rock adopts a Unionist constitution that outlaws slavery and names Isaac Murphy as provisional governor.

March 23 – General Frederick Steele leads a Union army out of Little Rock to link with another Federal army at Shreveport, Louisiana.

April 4 – Steele’s army crosses the Little Missouri River at Elkin’s Ferry, despite fierce resistance.

April 9-12 – Union and Confederate forces skirmish on Prairie D’Ane; though the Confederates abandon the field, Steele diverts from the drive on Shreveport to seek supplies at Camden.

April 18 – A Union foraging party is ambushed and overwhelmed at Poison Spring; the First Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment suffers disproportionately high casualties. Isaac Murphy is inaugurated as governor of Arkansas.

April 25 – Another Union supply detail is crushed at Marks’ Mills with heavy losses.

April 30 – Steele’s men fight a rearguard action on the Saline River at Jenkins’ Ferry that allows his battered and starving army to escape back to Little Rock.

June 6 – The last major battle fought in the Civil War in Arkansas occurs at Ditch Bayou in southeast Arkansas, with the Confederates inflicting heavy casualties on Union attackers.

June 24 – General J.O. Shelby’s Confederate cavalry capture and sink the U.S.S. Queen City at Clarendon, the only U.S. gunboat captured by enemy ground forces in Arkansas.

July 27-August 2 – Confederate troops operate against the Federal garrison at Fort Smith.

September 19 – Sterling Price leads most of the cavalry in Arkansas on a raid into Missouri; most will be gone when the army returns on December 2.

September 22 – A special session of the Confederate legislature begins at Washington; it will last until October 2.


January 14 – A well-entrenched Federal force withstands an attack on Dardanelle; this and a Confederate attack on several steamers two days later at Ivey’s Ford are the last Confederate attempts to challenge Union control of the Arkansas River.

April 14 - The Arkansas General Assembly approves the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, bringing the end of slavery one step closer.

May 11 – Gen. M. Jeff Thompson officially surrenders the Confederate soldiers in northeast Arkansas.

June 2 – All Confederate forces in the Transmississippi surrender.

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