Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cooper's Expedition to Fort Smith - Part Three

The Confederates moved into position for their attack on the Union camp at Massard Prairie during the night of July 26, 1864.
Led by guides, Gano's men experienced considerable difficulty getting into position due to the darkness and confusing road and trail patterns. Finally, though, they camped during the early morning hours in a position they believed to be only four miles from Camp Judson.
Daybreak, however, revealed that they were still more than 8 miles from their destination. Despite this disappointment, the Confederates were still anxious for action and Gano got them up and moving.
Pushing northeast from Cedar Prairie, they rode up onto the ridge just south of Fort Smith that is now the site of Fianna Hills subdivision, a large suburban neighborhood. From the crest of this ridge they could look out over Massard Prairie and clearly see the cluster of trees at the Picnic Grove, where the Federal troops were camped.
Gano's plan called for a textbook double envelopment of the Union camp. One column of men, led by Colonels Folsom and Wells and consisting largely of Choctaw troops, was ordered to sweep to the right and strike against the left flank of the Union camp. A second column, led by Gano himself and composed primarily of Texans, would at the same time sweep to the left and strike the right flank of the Federal camp. This latter column would also detach a smaller force to advance through the grove and strike the Union force from the front.
With these arrangements made, the Confederates moved down the slope of the ridge and began to move into the open prairie. As the ground leveled, they urged their horses forward and began one of the great open field cavalry charges of the war in the west.
Our series will continue with the opening shots of the Battle of Massard Prairie. To read more before the next post, please visit

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