Tuesday, June 24, 2008
The Battle of Van Buren, Arkansas - Part Seven
As darkness fell on December 28, 1862, cannon fire again erupted along the Arkansas River.
The fighting this time took place at Strain's Landing, a few miles downriver (east) from the Van Buren riverfront. Confederate Gen. Hindman reported that his forces engaged in an exchange with Union forces on the opposite bank of the river. Gen. Blunt confirmed this in his report of the expedition, indicating that he had shelled Confederate encampments on the opposite side of the Arkansas from a point about five miles below Van Buren.
The artillery exchange continued for about 2 hours before the firing finally died off for the night. Total casualties are unknown, but appear to have been light.
Gen. Blunt sent a dispatch north to his commanding officer, Gen. Samuel Curtis, that night, reporting the events of the day and indicating that unless the Confederates withdrew from opposite him, he planned to cross the Arkansas River the next morning and engage them. How serious he was about this is not known. Crossing the wide river under Confederate artillery fire would have been an extremely risky operation, but Blunt was a bold and capable commander.
The fight on the Fort Smith side of the river never materialized, however. During the night, Gen. Hindman withdrew from his encampments around Fort Smith. His army was so battered following the horrific fight earlier in the month at Prairie Grove that it was literally falling apart on him. He pulled out heading east for Clarksville, leaving his sick and wounded behind at Fort Smith.
Because he had no established supply lines, Blunt did not attempt to occupy Fort Smith, but instead withdrew back across the Boston Mountains to Northwest Arkansas. His Van Buren expedition had been a startling success, carried out in the middle of winter in extremely difficult conditions.
Union casualties during the expedition were extremely light considering the nature and size of the engagement. Hindman did not report Confederate casualties, but they do not appear to have been heavy.
This concludes our series on the Battle of Van Buren, Arkansas. To read more and see additional photographs, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/vanburenbattle1.