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From: Louis Reitzammer <>
Subject: The Napoleon Cutoff
Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2000 21:38:18 -0600


"...Early in 1863, the Union Navy was having a great deal of trouble
in the vicinity of Napoleon. The citizens of the town were always glad
to harbor Confederates who desired to set up an ambush for Union boats.
The rebels would fire at the enemy vessels from one side of the narrow
neck of Beulah Bend, and then hustle their guns across the neck and fire
at the same boat again when it had rounded the bend.

"In the spring of 1863, Lt.Com. T. O. Selfridge of the U.S. Navy made
a welcome proposal to Admiral David D. Porter, commander of the Union
fleet. If a cutoff could be constructed across the neck of Beulah Bend,
Selfridge said, the rebels would no longer be able to use the area for
the harassment of the Union boats. Given permission to try the plan,
Selfridge put his men to work and succeeded in opening up the new
channel in April 1863.

"...The Union vessels had no further difficulties with the rebels at
Napoleon after the cutoff. The navigation channel was shortened about
ten miles, and a small Union garrison was able to defend the mouths of
both the Arkansas and theWhite Rivers.

"What was good for the U.S. Navy was not necessarily best for the town
of Napoleon, Arkansas, of course. The cutoff changed the course of the
lower Mississippi and subjected the town to an attack by currents that
caused its waterfront to crumble into the river. One by one its streets
and buildings disappeared into the muddy Mississippi. By 1882, the town
was no longer shown on river maps."

(Excerpts from a 1985 program entitled NAPOLEON CUTOFF IN DESHA COUNTY,
presented at a meeting of the Desha County Historical Society, and used
by permission of the Army Engineers.}

Louis Reitzammer at Jackson, Tennessee < >

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