Monday, June 16, 2008
The Battle of Van Buren, Arkansas - Part Two
The community that the Union and Confederate soldiers approached on December 28, 1862, was a small but prosperous city.
Centered around a primary street that led from the hills beyond down to the banks of the Arkansas River, Van Buren was a center of commerical and political activity during the years leading up to the war.
The town's militia took part in the seizure of Fort Smith in 1861 and large numbers of the community's men and boys and marched off to fight for the Confederacy. Despite the fact that heavy fighting had taken place across the mountains at Pea Ridge, Cane Hill and Prairie Grove in Northwest Arkansas, most of the residents of Van Buren considered their community safe from attack in late December of 1862. Winter had settled across the region and it was not expected that combat would resume before the spring.
In fact, only a token force was maintained in and around the town by Confederate Gen. Thomas C. Hindman. Most of his army had crossed back over the Arkansas River and was camped in the area surrounding Fort Smith.
As the day warmed on the morning of December 28, 1862, the people of Van Buren were going about their business, shopping and gathering along the main street and at the old courthouse. The fighting would come upon them so quickly that most would not have a chance to flee.
Our series on the Battle of Van Buren, Arkansas, will continue. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/vanburenbattle1.