Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November 23, 1862: Reconnaissance toward Van Buren

Site of Confederate Camps
Dripping Springs, Arkansas
As the Confederate army of General Thomas Hindman continued its preparations for an advance into Northwest Arkansas, Federal forces made an unexpected probe of their advanced cavalry camps 149 years ago today.

Please click here to read the post of November 17th, detailing the activity underway in Van Buren).

Sent south across the Boston Mountains by Union General James G. Blunt, a force of 600 cavalrymen approached the camps of Confederate General John S. Marmaduke's cavalry command at Dripping Springs in Crawford County. Dripping Springs is about 9 miles north of the Crawford County Courthouse in downtown Van Buren. Using the twisting roads of the day, the distance was a little longer.

Cove Creek Road, used by Union Cavalry
The Federals approached the Confederate outer camps to scout the activities underway at Van Buren in an effort to learn the size and intent of the Confederate army.  There was some minor skirmishing near Dripping Springs. The approach of the Union cavalry was unexpected and the Southern horsemen fell back before them, unsure if the approach of Lt. Col. L.R. Jewell and his men marked the front of a full scale movement by the Federal army in Northwest Arkansas.  It did not.

When it became apparent that the Federals were not supported by infantry, Confederate resistance stiffened. Jewell now hesitated and, realizing the Confederates were present in Van Buren in force, began a withdrawal back into the mountains.

Pasture and Mountains at Dripping Springs
He and his horsemen returned back across the Boston Mountains during the afternoon and evening and reached Blunt's camps that night. Neither side reported any casualties.

The value of the reconnaissance is unclear. Jewell did not learn much about what was going on in Van Buren and even after his probe, Blunt still estimated the strength of Hindman's Confederate army at anywhere from 11,000 to 30,000 men.

The raid did lead, however, to the first fighting of the Prairie Grove campaign when Hindman ordered Marmaduke's cavalry to move north on the heels of the Union horsemen and take a position at Cane Hill in Washington County.

I will continue following the events of the Prairie Grove Campaign over the holiday weekend, so be sure to check back in occasionally. 

Have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

To learn more about the Battle of Prairie Grove, please visit

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