Reed’s Bridge gives visitors a glimpse into the late 1800s

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published July 4, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated July 3, 2013 at 10:02 a.m.
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Nick Hillemann

Tommy Dupree, who has lived in Jacksonville for 75 years, has been involved with the Reed’s Bridge Preservation Society Inc. since 1999. Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Heritage Park has an 1860s-era homestead, as well as a walking trail with narrative historic markers highlighting the Civil War battle fought at the site.

— Although Jacksonville has gone through some changes in Tommy Dupree’s 75 years in the city, he’s doing his part to keep Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Heritage Park looking like it hasn’t changed since 1863.

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas states that the Action at Bayou Meto, also known as the Action at Reed’s Bridge or the Battle of Reed’s Bridge, was a Civil War battle fought on Aug. 27, 1863, as Confederate troops sought to hinder the advance of Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele’s Union Army toward Little Rock.

Dupree said he became involved with the Reed’s Bridge Preservation Society Inc. in 1999.

When he joined the club, its members were working on restoring Civil War Heritage Trails.

Dupree said the club was in the process of placing informational panels throughout Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Heritage Park. Dupree said the panel effort began with one initial panel, showing where the battle had occurred.

“There are [now] 16 of these panels, and they’re about the battle and the Trail of Tears,” Dupree said.

The project to get the informational panels for the park was an effort by the society, and the first half of the panels were paid for by the state.

“Local contributions paid for the second half,” Dupree said.

He said a 1/8-cent tax was used to pay for the first half of the panels.

“There are about 3,300 acres in the actual battlefield,” Dupree said. “There are 412 acres in the core area.”

The battlefield is also an official Trail of Tears site, Dupree said.

Dupree, along with the Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society Inc., is working to preserve and improve the park that sits beside Bayou Meto.

“We have people come through every day taking pictures,” Dupree said.

Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Heritage Park features an 1860s-era replica homestead, along with the historical panels scattered across the park.

Although the houses that accompany the park aren’t part of the original battlefield, Dupree said, they were taken on as a project by the club, and a member had the idea to build the homes.

“Steve Short drew them up and built them,” Dupree said. “There are three houses and a barn.”

The Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society helped construct the 1860s-era homestead on the field.

Visiting Reed’s Bridge gives tourists and Arkansans a view into what life was like in the 1800s, but Dupree said the park also gives people a feel for the basis on which the United States was founded.

“The historical aspect of this is what this country is about,” Dupree said. “People need to know that this government is not a cut-and-dried thing, and it has to be protected.”

On Sept. 6-8, Dupree said, a Civil War re-enactment will take place at Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Heritage Park in Jacksonville to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the battle.

“We get folks out of the Old Statehouse to be re-enactors,” he said.

The re-enactors will give spectators a glimpse of what someone might have seen at the Battle of Reed’s Bridge in 1863, Dupree said.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501)244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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