Mark Christ with the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program will be at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church tonight to discuss options to preserve the Devil’s Backbone Battlefield in Greenwood. The church is located at 2701 Old Greenwood Rd.
According to Donna Goldstein with the South Sebastian County Historical Society, the Civil War Trust is seeking $40,000 to acquire the battlefield site at Devil’s Backbone Mountain Ridge adjacent to a portion of the site they already own.
“There appears to be a high probability that there will be construction on the site and the land will be lost as battlefield property,” said Goldstein. “Interested parties are invited to the meeting to gauge the level of interest in preserving the site and to discuss options”.
A historical marker was placed near the Stroud Cemetery in October of 2017. The marker tells the story of the battle that happened there. Greenwood Mayor Doug Kinslow and Park Ranger Cody Faber from the National Historic Site spoke briefly before the unveiling of the new marker.
Most people are of the opinion that not much happened in Arkansas during the Civil War according to Larry Puckett, past commander of the Sons of Union Veterans. But in fact Arkansas was the site of more than 700 skirmishes, one of which happened right here in Greenwood. The Battle for Devil’s Backbone Mountain took place on the rocky ridge and was the deciding battle for nearby Fort Smith. The fight put the city back under Union control for the remainder of the war.
It all took place in September of 1863 when the Union Army returned to the river valley. Confederates had controlled Fort Smith since 1861 after the fort was evacuated and became a Confederate stronghold and staging area for other battles throughout the state of Arkansas and Missouri.
The Confederates sent General WL Cabell to Fort Smith to protect it and lure the Federals away from their pursuit of Confederate forces in Indian territory. Colonel William Cloud and General James Blunt of the Union Army moved their forces to meet Cabell.
Cabell knew that he would not be able to defeat the Union troops so he headed South toward Jenny Lind with his force of 1,400 where Cabell had set up an ambush south of Greenwood.
Blunt and Cloud’s force numbered 2,100 and doggedly pursued Cabell until they rode into the ambush that was set for them.
After several hours of fighting many of the rebel troops left the area not wanting to surrender to the Feds. After that Cabell headed to Waldron. The battle resulted in an estimated 30 casualties.
In his official report Cloud reported that he had suffered 14 loses while the enemy had lost between 15 to 20.
Approximately 80 Confederate deserters that were being held captive were set free and fled into the woods south of Greenwood.
The next day Cloud returned to Fort Smith and assumed command.
According to Puckett, although the Union claimed victory the ambush worked to delay them from taking a Confederate supply train from Fort Smith.