Napoleon, Arkansas

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Napoleon is a ghost town in Desha County, Arkansas, United States, near the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers. Once the county seat, Napoleon was doomed when in 1863, a channel was cut through the soft land that inadvertently directed the river waters toward the town. It was finally submerged in 1874 when the banks of the Mississippi River burst through and destroyed the last of the once-thriving river port town. [1]

Desha County, Arkansas County in the United States

Desha County is a county located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of Arkansas, with its eastern border the Mississippi River. As of the 2010 census, the population was 13,008. It ranks fifty-sixth of Arkansas's seventy-five counties in terms of population. The county seat is Arkansas City. Located in the Arkansas Delta, Desha County's rivers and fertile soils became prosperous for planters under the cotton-based economy of plantation agriculture in the antebellum years and late nineteenth century. Still largely rural, it has suffered population losses and economic decline since the mid-20th century.

Arkansas State of the United States of America

Arkansas is a state in the southern region of the United States, home to over 3 million people as of 2018. Its name is of Siouan derivation from the language of the Osage denoting their related kin, the Quapaw Indians. The state's diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozark and the Ouachita Mountains, which make up the U.S. Interior Highlands, to the densely forested land in the south known as the Arkansas Timberlands, to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River and the Arkansas Delta.

A county seat is an administrative center, seat of government, or capital city of a county or civil parish. The term is used in Canada, China, Romania, Taiwan and the United States. County towns have a similar function in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, and historically in Jamaica.



In 1852, Bolivar County, Mississippi, established Wellington as its county seat, nearly opposite Napoleon, on the east bank of the Mississippi River. [2] There would have been a natural rivalry between business and civic leaders in Desha County, Arkansas, and Bolivar County for river-related commerce at the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers.

Bolivar County, Mississippi County in the United States

Bolivar County is a county located on the western border of the U.S. state of Mississippi. As of the 2010 census, the population was 34,145. Its county seats are Rosedale and Cleveland. The county is named in honor of Simón Bolívar, early 19th-century leader of the liberation of several South American colonies from Spain.

Mississippi State of the United States of America

Mississippi is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. Mississippi is the 32nd most extensive and 34th most populous of the 50 United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Alabama to the east, the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana to the south, and Arkansas and Louisiana to the west. The state's western boundary is largely defined by the Mississippi River. Jackson, with a population of approximately 167,000 people, is both the state's capital and largest city.

Prentiss, Bolivar County, Mississippi Ghost town in Mississippi, United States

Prentiss is a ghost town in Bolivar County, Mississippi, United States.

North of Napoleon, the river followed a sharp curve east into Mississippi along what was then called "Beulah Bend" (now Lake Beulah). During the American Civil War, Confederate soldiers would move east by foot from Napoleon, hide in a wooded area near the bend, and then fire on passing Union ships. The bend was so tight that the same cannon could be used on ships as they entered and then left Beulah Bend.

American Civil War Civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865

The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The most studied and written about episode in U.S. history, the Civil War began primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people. War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.

Confederate States of America (de facto) federal republic in North America from 1861 to 1865

The Confederate States of America, commonly referred to as the Confederacy, was an unrecognized country in North America that existed from 1861 to 1865. The Confederacy was originally formed by seven secessionist slave-holding states—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas—in the Lower South region of the United States, whose economy was heavily dependent upon agriculture, particularly cotton, and a plantation system that relied upon the labor of African-American slaves.

Following one such ambush in 1863, a Federal gunship led by William Tecumseh Sherman landed at Wellington and burned the town. Seeking to permanently avoid the ambush point at Beulah Bend, Union commander Thomas Oliver Selfridge ordered a channel dug across the peninsula around which Beulah Bend flowed. The soft land and strong river current enabled the "Napoleon Channel" to be cut in just a day. The Napoleon Channel improved the Mississippi River for shipping, as it removed 10 mi (16 km) from the navigable route. Unfortunately, the diverted river currents caused by the Napoleon Channel caused both Wellington and Napoleon to be completely submerged within a few years. [3] [4]

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

William Tecumseh Sherman US Army general, businessman, educator, and author

William Tecumseh Sherman was an American soldier, businessman, educator, and author. He served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861–65), for which he received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the scorched earth policies he implemented in conducting total war against the Confederate States.

Rear Admiral Thomas Oliver Selfridge was an officer in the United States Navy during the Mexican–American War and the American Civil War and was the father of another rear admiral, Thomas O. Selfridge, Jr.


The town was the subject of a chapter in Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi , in which he tells a story of learning from a deathbed confession that $10,000 was hidden behind a brick in a building in Napoleon. When Twain tried to retrieve it, he discovered the entire town had been washed away. [5] [6] Twain reports that the early explorers De Soto, Marquette and Joliet, and La Salle visited "the site of the future town of Napoleon, Arkansas" in their pioneering journeys. [7]

Mark Twain American author and humorist

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. His novels include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called "The Great American Novel".

<i>Life on the Mississippi</i> memoir by Mark Twain

Life on the Mississippi (1883) is a memoir by Mark Twain of his days as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River before the American Civil War, and also a travel book, recounting his trip along the Mississippi River from St. Louis to New Orleans many years after the war.

Hernando de Soto Spanish explorer and conquistador

Hernando de Soto was a Spanish explorer and conquistador who was involved in expeditions in Nicaragua and the Yucatan Peninsula, and played an important role in Pizarro's conquest of the Inca Empire in Peru, but is best known for leading the first Spanish and European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States. He is the first European documented as having crossed the Mississippi River.

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  1. "Napoleon (Desha County)". Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. The Central Arkansas Library System. 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
  2. "Wellington", History of Bolivar County Mississippi, Mississippi Delta Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1948
  3. "Lake Beulah" (PDF). Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  4. Hammond, Michael D. "Arkansas Atlantis: The Lost Town of Napoleon" (PDF). No. Autumn 2006. Arkansas Historical Quarterly. pp. 201–223. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  5. Clemens, Samuel L. (1917). "XXXII, The Disposal of a Bonanza". Life on the Mississippi. New York: Harper & Row. pp. 281–286.
  6. "Napoleon, Arkansas". Directory of Mark Twain's maxims, quotations, and various opinions. 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-16. Web page includes an 1863 map showing the location of Napoleon, Arkansas.
  7. Clemens, Samuel L. (1917). Life on the Mississippi. New York: Harper & Row. p. 15. These performances took place on the site of the future town of Napoleon, Arkansas, and there the first confiscation-cross was raised on the banks of the great river. Marquette’s and Joliet’s voyage of discovery ended at the same spot—the site of the future town of Napoleon. When De Soto took his fleeting glimpse of the river, away back in the dim early days, he took it from that same spot—the site of the future town of Napoleon, Arkansas. Therefore, three out of the four memorable events connected with the discovery and exploration of the mighty river, occurred, by accident, in one and the same place. It is a most curious distinction, when one comes to look at it and think about it. France stole that vast country on that spot, the future Napoleon; and by and by Napoleon himself was to give the country back again!—make restitution, not to the owners, but to their white American heirs.

Coordinates: 33°47′49″N91°04′26″W / 33.797°N 91.074°W / 33.797; -91.074