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British Captain James Colbert launches raid on Fort Carlos, Arkansas

About 2 a.m. on the morning of April 17, 1783, British Captain James Colbert, along with a group of 82 British partisans, launches a surprise attack on the Arkansas post of Fort Carlos (modern-day Gillett, in Desha County), located on the banks of the Arkansas River. The “Colbert Raid” was the only Revolutionary War action to take place in Arkansas.

Colbert launched the British attack on the Spanish-controlled fort in response to Spain’s decision to side with the Americans during the revolution. Forty Spanish soldiers defended the fort with help from their Quapaw Indian allies. After a six-hour battle, Spanish Commander Jacobo Du Breuil ordered a sortie, which forced the retreat of the British contingent.

The raid took place nearly two months after America’s preliminary peace treaty was signed with Great Britain, but word of the peace treaty did not reach either the British or American troops located in the Mississippi Valley until well after the raid. The area did not become part of the United States until 1803; in 1800, the Spanish ceded it to France and the French in turn sold it to Thomas Jefferson as part of Louisiana Purchase three years later.

The first European to recognize the value of this location, at the intersection of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers, had been a French trader, Henri de Tonty. In 1686, he established the Poste de Arkansea near a Quapaw Indian village in the area.

The state of Arkansas now maintains the fort and it surroundings as the Arkansas Post Memorial and Arkansas Post Museum State Park.

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