Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Cooper's Expedition to Fort Smith - Part Seven
Following the return of Gano and his men from the successful action at Massard Prairie, General Cooper began to consider the possibilities for a second move against Fort Smith.
Like the first attack, he did not intend for this action to involve an actual assault on the fortified city itself. His numbers were insufficient and the Federal position too strong for that. Instead, he hoped to once again snap up outlying Union units, capture supplies and create a diversion that would allow pro-Southern families in the area to evacuate under the protection of his troops.
The plan this time called for demonstrations against multiple points. Gano was ordered to sweep back down onto Massard Prairie to snap up any isolated units that might have moved back out. A second detachment, composed of Native American Confederate soldiers, was sent up the west bank of the Poteau to fire across into the garrison itself. Cooper then moved up with two columns on the main roads approaching Fort Smith from the south.
The famed Cherokee commander, Brigadier General Stand Watie, was now with the Confederates and he led the advance as the Southern troops moved up the Fort Towson and Line roads.
As our series continues in the next post, we will look at the action that resulted from this advance, remembered today as the Battle of Fort Smith. If you are interested in learning more, please consider my book The Battle of Massard Prairie: The 1864 Confederate Attacks on Fort Smith, Arkansas. It is available for order online at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/dalecox and is also available in the gift shops at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park in Northwest Arkansas and at the Fort Smith Museum of History in Fort Smith.