Chalk Bluff Re-Enactment This Weekend

Thursday, May 2, 2013
The sounds of cannon fire will echo across the fields around Chalk Bluff once again this weekend. This photo of a cannon crew in action was captured at the 2008 re-enactment.

The 150th anniversary of the battle of Chalk Bluff will be marked with a re-enactment Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 3, 4 and 5. The event is sponsored by the Clay County Chalk Bluff Re-enactment Committee and is sanctioned by the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.

The public is invited to visit the park, and battle site, during any of the activities and demonstrations. There is no charge for admission.

The battle of Chalk Bluff was fought May 1 and 2, 1863 as Confederate forces under Major General John Sappington Marmaduke withdrew from their second Missouri raid. The soldiers held off the Union pursuit and escaped back into Arkansas by way of a makeshift floating bridge across the St. Francis River.

A portion of the Arkansas side of the river now makes up the Chalk Bluff Natural Area and Battleground Site. The park boasts thousands of visitors each year, and has hosted a total of eight re-enactments in the past decade. The encampment, and re-enactment, will be held adjacent to the park. It is located northwest of St. Francis, on County Road 368.

The schedule for this year's event begins with sign-in by re-enactors and living historians from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, May 3. The following morning, Saturday, May 4, the event will open to the public at 9 a.m. with a camp life demonstration. At 9:30 a.m. officer's call will be held. At 11 a.m. the first cannon demonstration will be staged. And, at noon Jeannine Thompson and Bobbie F. Barnett will co-host the annual ladies tea and demonstrations of the refugee camp.

At 2:30 p.m. the battle will be re-enacted, followed by the grand review parade of troops returning to camp. At 3:30 p.m. the ladies will again provide demonstrations of the refugee camp.

Sunday, May 5 at 10 a.m. the grounds will be opened to the public. That will be followed at 10:30 a.m. by officer's call, and at 11 a.m. there will be a church service on the grounds. At 1 p.m. a special memorial service is planned to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of General Stonewall Jackson. At 2 p.m. the battle re-enactment will be held, followed by the grand review parade of troops.

Throughout both days there will be other demonstrations of living history provided by the Ladies in Refuge.

All branches of the military and period impressions are welcome. Amenities include powder for artillery, cavalry and infantry; water, firewood and hay and a meal on Saturday evening for those contacting organizers at least four days in advance.

The event is hosted annually by Clay County with assistance by the Northeast Arkansas Civil War Heritage Trails Committee; SCV Shaver Camp #1655 of Jonesboro and the Gen. James F. Fagan Chapter #280, Military Order Stars and Bars, of Jonesboro.

Artillery is welcome, but must be set-up on site prior to 10 a.m. the day of the event. Those interested in bringing artillery are also required to contact organizers in advance. There is no registration fee for re-enactors or living historians, but walk-ons must be on site and registered at least two hours before any listed events.

Visitors to the re-enactment will also have the opportunity to have their Civil War Sesquicentennial Passport stamped at the park on Saturday. The Piggott Area Chamber of Commerce office in the depot building is the official stamping site for Chalk Bluff, but volunteers will be stamping passports at the park during the event. Blank passports will also be available.

The passport program continues throughout the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, with over 20 battle sites included. Those visiting each site during the observance, and having their passports stamped, may redeem them for a commemorative coin.

Those wanting more information on artillery may contact Tom Bird at 501 388-3805 or by email at wtbird77728@yahoo.com; for information on cavalry contact W. Danny Honnoll at 870 926-2985 or by email at danny@honnoll.com And, those wanting information about infantry may contact Louis Riggs at 573 -717-0909 or by email at louisr@centurytel.net

A Boston butt sale was held recently to purchase powder for the event, and organizers note some "fresh off the grill" butts will be available for purchase Saturday morning at the park. Those attending were also reminded to bring lawn chairs, as seating is not provided at the park.

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