Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dr. James M. Keller and the Confederate Casualties of Prairie Grove

Fayetteville Confederate Cemetery
Dr. James M. Keller, who is memorialized today by the James M. Keller Camp #648, Sons of Confederate Veterans in Hot Springs, was tasked with the herculean job of organizing hospitals and care for Southern wounded in the wake of the Battle of Prairie Grove.

Confederate casualties in the engagement are generally estimated to have been around 164 killed, 817 wounded and 334 captured or missing. A summary prepared by Dr. Keller one month after the battle, however, indicates this number may be somewhat in error:
  • Number killed in action - 87.
  • Number wounded and in hospitals - 886.
  • Number died from wounds - 62.
  • Number slightly wounded and not hospitalized - 120.
Fairview Cemetery in Van Buren
 Keller's summary, which was printed in the Arkansas Democrat about one month after the battle and republished by the Dallas Weekly Herald on January 14, 1863, places the total number of soldiers who had either been killed in action or had died from their wounds by that point as 149, while the total number of wounded was around 1,006, with 886 of these men having been so severely wounded as to require hospitalization.

This would elevate the total number of Confederate dead and wounded from the battle to 1,154 as opposed to the 981 given in most accounts. If Keller's numbers are accurate, which it seems likely that they are, then the total number of Confederate killed and wounded at the Battle of Prairie Grove included 173 more men than is generally thought.

Whether these men were included in the figure of 334 missing or captured is not known.

Most of the Confederates killed in action at Prairie Grove are now buried at Fayetteville Confederate Cemetery in Fayetteville. Many of the wounded were carried south across the mountains to Van Buren and Fort Smith. A large number of those who died from their wounds are buried at Fairview Cemetery in Van Buren.

To learn more about the battle, please visit

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