Fort Bankhead (1861-1862) - A Confederate U.S. Civil War Fort established in 1861 near New Madrid, New Madrid County, Missouri. Named Fort Bankhead after Captain Smith P. Bankhead. Abandoned and captured by Union forces in 1862. Also known as Fort Mardrid and Fort New Madrid.
Fort Bankhead was constructed in late 1861 or early 1862 to protect the east side of New Madrid at St. John's Bayou from Union attack. New Madrid sits at a strategic bow in the Mississippi River and Island number 10 sat below it in mid-river able to block all river traffic with a number of Confederate gun batteries and a large garrison.
The fort was just a strong parapet behind an abatis of brush and trees. The parapet was ten feet thick made of bags of shelled corn covered with earth. The fort was never fully complete or fully armed. Eventually, it came to mount seven cannons on wooden carriages during the siege of New Madrid.
Colonel Lucius M. Walker commanded Fort Bankhead and the three regiments garrisoned there.
The siege of New Madrid was short-lived. Brigadier General John Pope, commander of the Union Army of the Mississippi reached the outskirts of New Madrid on 3 Mar 1862, and laid siege to the city, bombarding Fort Thompson (6) and Fort Bankhead. Pope unexpectedly came over a torturous land route to appear behind the defenders. Four large 128 pounder Union siege guns arrived on the 13th and the Confederate defenders evacuated to Island Number 10, leaving the city to the Union attackers.
The Union capture of New Madrid on 14 Mar 1862 set the stage for Union forces to dig a 12-mile canal bypassing the Confederates on Island Number 10 and opening up that portion of the Mississippi. The canal started adjacent to Fort Bankhead and wound around to the Mississippi past Island No. 10. The Confederate garrison on Island Number 10 was trapped by this action and forced to surrender. The Confederates surrendered three generals, 273 field and company-grade officers, 6,700 privates, 123 pieces of heavy artillery, and a large supply of ammunition and small arms.
Located across the street from the New Madrid Historical Museum at 1 South Main Street are a number of monuments and reader boards including the reader board for Fort Bankhead, moved here because of flooding at its former location. Additional information is available in the New Madrid Historical Museum. A readerboard for New Madrid and Island No. 10 is at the Levee Overlook near the museum. The road from New Madrid to the Dorena/Hickman Ferry (WW) follows a portion of the Union canal that started at Fort Bankhead.
Visited: 9 Sep 2020