If you do a Google search for the last battle of the Revolutionary War, you’ll get page after page of links to the siege of Yorktown in 1781. What it won’t tell you is the last battle of the Revolutionary War took place in 1783. The real last battle was also one of two Revolutionary War battles that took place west of the Mississippi River and the only battle that took place in Arkansas.
One of the most lucrative enterprises in early colonial days was the fur trade. The English, French and Spanish vied with each other to gain new fur trading territories. In 1686, Frenchman Henri de Tonti established a fur trading post on the Arkansas River. Tonti began trading with the local Quapaw Indian tribe, but the venture was not successful due to English fur traders. Tonti left the post in 1699.
In 1720, the French re-occupied Tonti’s abandoned post as a military post and agricultural area, but once again the efforts failed and the post was mostly abandoned. Several settlers used the post on and off. Part of the problems with the early post was constant flooding of the Arkansas River and conflicts with the Chickasaw Indians.
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In 1751, a new post was built further north on the river and closer to the Quapaw village and further from the Chickasaws. The new fort became part of the French defense of the French claims of the Mississippi Valley.
After losing the French Indian War in 1763, France ceded part of Louisiana to Spain and at the time, Arkansas was part of Louisiana, so the fort along the Arkansas River now belonged to Spain.
In 1779, the fort was moved by the Spanish back to the original location of 1687 and named the new post Fort Carlos III after Spain’s King Charles III. At this time, America was in the midst of the Revolutionary War and Spain had sided with the Americans.
On this day April 17, 1783, nearly two months after a preliminary peace treaty with Great Britain had been signed and two days after Congress had ratified the Paris Peace Treaty ending the war with Great Britain, British Captain James Colbert attacked Fort Carlos III. The fort was commanded by Captain Jacobo Du Breuil. He had only 30 Spanish soldiers, a small number of French settlers and 4 Quapaw Indians to ward off 60 British troops which were accompanied by about 12 Chickasaw Indians and several blacks.
In a bold move, Du Breuil told his men to act like Indians attacking an enemy. One of the Quapaw Indians ran out of the fort towards the British and angrily buried his tomahawk in the ground, which was considered to be a notice for battle. With the rest of the Spanish troops whooping and sounding like Indians, Colbert and his British troops fled in fear, thus ending the only Revolutionary War battle in Arkansas and the last battle of the Revolutionary War.
In 1800, Spain ceded the Louisiana Territory back to France who then sold it to President Thomas Jefferson in 1803.
Today, the location of Fort Carlos III is at Gillett, Arkansas where it is preserved as the Arkansas Post National Memorial.
Sources for the above includes: Last Battle of the Revolutionary War, The Last Battle of the Revolution; Colbert launches raid on Fort Carlos, Arkansas; Arkansas’ only Revolutionary War battle discussed at DAR meeting; Colbert’s Raid: The only Revolutionary War Battle in Arkansas; Arkansas Post National Memorial Gillett, Arkansas.