Thursday, June 26, 2008
The Battle of Fayetteville, Arkansas - Part One
On April 18, 1863, Confederate forces launched one of their final large operations to drive Union troops from Northwest Arkansas.
Although much smaller than the earlier Battles of Pea Ridge, Cane Hill and Prairie Grove, the Battle of Fayetteville was a significant event in the history of the Civil War in Arkansas.
By the spring of 1863, the city of Fayetteville in Washington County was the primary Union post in Northwest Arkansas. Although most of the troops of the Army of the Frontier had been withdrawn from the region in anticipation of a campaign down through the Indian Territories (Oklahoma), the city was defended by two regiments of Unionist Arkansas troops commanded by Col. M. LaRue Harrison.
These regiments, the 1st Arkansas U.S. Cavalry and the 1st Arkansas U.S. Infantry, had been formed with Unionist citizens and Confederate deserters and were camped in downtown Fayetteville. Col. Harrison's headquarters were located in the Tebbetts House on East Dickson Street (seen here). Constructed in 1858, the house had been frequented by Union officers since the Pea Ridge campaign in 1862.
There had been a series of rumors that Confederate troops might try to attack Fayetteville and by April the Federals were engaged in efforts to fortify the city with rifle pits and other entrenchments. Col. Harrison also sent out scouting parties to watch for any signs of movement by the Confederate forces in the region, all of which were based in posts across the Boston Mountains along the Arkansas River.
Rumors were also reaching the Southern forces, but they were of a more sinister nature. Throughout the winter, reports had arrived in the Confederate camps of attrocities and acts of destruction allegedly committed by the Unionist Arkansans (or "Arkansas Feds") in Fayetteville. Although he was suffering from critical supply shortages, Confederate Brig. Gen. W.L. Cabell decided to try to do something about the outrages - and possibly capture Fayetteville in the process.
Cabell was then camped in Ozark, an important community on the north bank of the Arkansas River. Aware of the presence of his force, Harrison had sent a cavalry force to watch for any signs of movement by the general, but the men returned to Fayetteville on the eve of the Confederate attack and reported they had seen no signs of activity.
The Union scouts apparently returned to base one day too early, for on April 16, 1863, General Cabell rode out of Ozark with 900 mounted men and two pieces of artillery.
Our series on the Battle of Fayetteville will continue. To learn more before the next post, please visit our new site on the battle at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/battleoffayetteville.