Saturday, August 23, 2008
Cooper's Expedition to Fort Smith - Part Ten
Cooper's expedition against Fort Smith had been more successful than anticipated in achieving its goals. In the engagements of July 27th and 31st, more than 100 Union soldiers had been taken prisoner and dozens more were either killed or wounded.
In addition, the Confederates had seized hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of supplies, herds of cattle and horses, badly needed weaponry and literally driven the Union forces at Fort Smith into the fortifications of the town itself. Local pro-Southern families had been evacuated and Unionist families lost homes, property and - in at least one documented case - lives.
The inability of the Federals to secure their perimiters ended their use of Massard Prairie and adjacent grasslands to feed their herds of horses and cows. In short, Cooper had succeeded in confining the thousands of Federal troops at Fort Smith to their fortifications. This was to cause drastic consequences for the Union cause in the West over the next few weeks.
The expedition against Fort Smith was an important preliminary episode to the Second Cabin Creek expedition, a dramatic Confederate sweep up through what is now eastern Oklahoma that resulted in the capture of a massive Union supply train making its way from Kansas to Fort Gibson. Second Cabin Creek was one of the greatest and most successful feats of Southern arms during the war. Although it is little known today, it was one of the greatest supply seizures of the Civil War. It would not have been possible had not Cooper's expedition against Fort Smith been successful.
The Civil War in Fort Smith can be explored at several locations today. Among these are Fort Smith National Historic Site and the Fort Smith Museum of History in downtown Fort Smith and Massard Prairie Battlefield Park near the intersection of Red Pine and Morgan in the southeastern section of Fort Smith.
If you would like to learn more about the expedition, please consider picking up a copy of the book, The Battle of Massard Prairie: The 1864 Confederate Attacks on Fort Smith, Arkansas. It is now available in paperback at the Fort Smith Museum of History and at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park in Arkansas. You can also purchase the book online at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/dalecox.