Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Rear Guard Buys Time

BG John S Marmaduke
The Battle of Chalk Bluff was fought on May 1st and 2nd 1863 in Arkansas and Missouri between Union Brigadier General William Vandever and Confederate Brigadier General John S Marmaduke.

After being defeated in the Battle of Cape Girardeau, Confederate Brigadier General John S Marmaduke began a retreat towards Helena, Arkansas on April 27th 1863.  His march took him on a road over Crowley’s Ridge a route that provided protection for his flanks.  Union Brigadier General William Vandever followed the Confederates through Missouri to Chalk Bluff, Arkansas.  This was where Marmaduke planned to cross the St Francis River.

Marmaduke placed a rear guard along the ridge, while his engineers and pioneers constructed a bridge over the river.  His first line was set up at Four Mile, with a second reserve line about mile back at Gravel Hill on the ridge above the St Francis River.  Vadever’s troops attacked on May 1st 1863, but were unable to drive the Confederates from the heights.  The fighting continued the next day.

Even though the Confederate rear guard suffered heavy casualties they held their line long enough for bridge to be built.  This allowed Marmaduke’s men to cross the river and return to his camps in Arkansas.

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