Near Campbell in Dunklin County, Missouri — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
The Battle at Chalk Bluﬀ
A State Divided
—The Civil War in Missouri —
Marmaduke was a week into his southeastern Missouri raid when he decided to attack the important Federal supply depot at Cape Girardeau. He found the town too well defended by the Federal force under McNeil and withdrew to Jackson. Pursued by Union troops, the Confederates left Jackson for Bloomfield on April 27.
Nearly constant skirmishing occurred all the way to Bloomfield and their retreat was hindered by persistent rain, muddy roads and high water. After sharp fights at the bridges on the Whitewater and Castor rivers, the Confederates destroyed both of the bridges during their retreat, this forced the Union troops to rebuild them in order to continue their pursuit. Marmaduke intended to fight at Bloomfield,
The Confederates established a strong defensive position about a mile farther toward Chalk Bluff at Gravel Hill. With Marmaduke's men concealed behind crude breastworks constructed of logs and brush, the 3rd Missouri Cavalry Regiment (Union), charged into the ambush and received severe fire from the Confederates. Unable to withstand the punishment, the regiment fell back until the Union artillery and reinforcements could be brought forward. Although full of fight by this time, McNeil's men accomplished little before darkness fell.
During the night on May 1, the Confederates began withdrawing across the St. Francis River, one brigade at a time, to the high ground at Chalk Bluff on the Arkansas side. The fragile bridge supported only a single file of troops. Horses had to swim the swirling river and several drowned in the process. Thompson, in charge of crossing the artillery, disassembled the guns and sent the parts over the river on a raft. By daylight on May 2, Marmaduke's entire command, except pickets and a few stragglers, had crossed the river, with the Federals totally unaware of the movement. The Confederates cast off the bridge and raft and then let them drift away downstream.
Later that morning, McNeil's brigades moved toward the river, hoping to destroy the Confederate command. The rebels on the Arkansas shore greeted them with heavy fire that unhorsed McNeil and his aide and killed and wounded several
Marmaduke scored a tactical victory at Chalk Bluff by avoiding a major engagement with his back against the river, thereby saving his army. But strategically his raid had been a failure. He could not maintain a presence in Missouri and gained only enough recruits to replace his losses. His men remained poorly armed and fed. The raid did not divert the Federals from moving into northern Arkansas. Gen. U.S. Grant initiated his final campaign for Vicksburg on May 1 by defeating the Confederates at Port Gibson, Miss. This was the same day that Marmaduke fought a delaying action to avoid disaster on the St. Francis River.
On April 18, 1863, Marmaduke entered southeast Missouri in two columns. He led about 5,000 men including nearly 1,200 unarmed and 900 afoot due to a shortage of weapons and mounts. Colonels John Q. Burbridge, Colton Greene, and Joseph O. Shelby commanded three brigades of Missourians and Arkansans; Col. George W. Carter commanded a brigade of Texas troopers. Missouri and Texas artillery batteries totaling eight guns accompanied the expedition.
After stampeding the small garrison at Patterson on April 20, Marmaduke targeted Gen. John McNeil, a man despised by Confederates for executing prisoners in northeast Missouri in 1862. McNeil commanded the garrison at Bloomfield. Marmaduke dispatched Carter's Texas Brigade to drive McNeil from Bloomfield to Fredericktown where Marmaduke planned to entrap the Yankee and his command. McNeil escaped Bloomfield before Carter arrived but, instead of marching toward Fredericktown, rode rapidly
Erected by Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Marker series. This marker is included in the A State Divided: The Civil War in Missouri marker series.
Location. 36° 29.115′ N, 90° 9.233′ W. Marker is near Campbell, Missouri, in Dunklin County. Marker is on County Route 228, on the left when traveling west. Touch for map. Located in a parking area uphill from public access boat ramp on the St. Francis River. Marker is in this post office area: Campbell MO 63933, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 5 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Chalk Bluff in the Civil War (approx. 0.6 miles away in Arkansas); Chalk Bluff Crossing and Town (approx. 0.6 miles away in Arkansas); a different marker also named Chalk Bluff in the Civil War (approx. 0.7 miles away in Arkansas); a different Chalk Bluff in the Civil War (approx. 0.7 miles away in Arkansas); Chalk Bluff (approx. 0.7 miles away in Arkansas).
More about this marker. The marker displays portraits of Gens. McNeil, Vandever, Marmaduke and Thompson. In the sidebar is a map showing the routes taken by Marmaduke's command during the raid.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. The Battles around Chalk Bluff
Categories. • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 20, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 3,083 times since then and 94 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on April 20, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on April 21, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.