Thursday, December 22, 2011
The book actually tells the story of two battles: The Battle of Massard Prairie and the Battle of Fort Smith. These two encounters were part of a demonstration carried out by Confederate forces in late July and early August of 1864 against the Federal forces occupying Fort Smith. They were wildly successful.
The Battle of Massard Prairie was fought on July 27, 1864, and resulted in the virtual destruction of an entire battalion of the Sixth Kansas Cavalry (U.S.). Sweeping down from the hills on the south side of the modern city of Fort Smith, Confederate cavalry forces hit the Federal camp on Massard Prairie from three sides. The Union force broke and was chased down and scattered in a cavalry battle that swept across miles of open prairie. A Confederate victory, the battle was an important prelude to the Battle of Cabin Creek in Oklahoma the following month.
The Battle of Fort Smith was fought just a few days after the action at Massard Prairie and was largely a demonstration against the southern defenses of Fort Smith. It resulted in the capture and destruction of Union supplies and the safe evacuation of pro-Confederate citizens from the environs of the city.
Together the two battles forced Union commanders at Fort Smith to draw in their forces, opening the door for the subsequent Confederate victories at Flat Rock and Cabin Creek in the Cherokee Nation. Cabin Creek may have been the largest supply seizure of the war by Southern forces.
To download the free Kindle version of the book, please click here:
The Battle of Massard Prairie, Arkansas: The 1864 Confederate Attacks on Fort Smith
If you do not have a Kindle reader, you can download the free software for your computer, tablet, iPad, smartphone, etc., at Amazon.com.
The book is also available in a print edition for $19.95. Please click here to order:
The Battle of Massard Prairie: The 1864 Confederate Attacks on Fort Smith, Arkansas
Enjoy your free reading and Merry Christmas!
Friday, December 9, 2011
|Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park|
I have arranged these in order beginning with Prairie Grove battlefield.
|Borden Orchard at Prairie Grove Battlefield|
One of America's most beautifully maintained Civil War sites, Prairie Grove Battlefield is a state and national historical treasure. Located at 506 E. Douglas Street in Prairie Grove, Arkansas, the park is only 18 minutes from downtown Fayetteville. From I-540 through Northwest Arkansas, take the Farmington exit (#62) and follow U.S. 62 West 9 miles to the battlefield.
The park preserves the scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the Battle of Prairie Grove, including the right flank of the Confederate line where Herron launched his bloody assaults, the Borden house and orchard (the house was rebuilt by the family after the war on the same foundations) and the ground across which Herron's attacks were launched. A number of historic structures are preserved at the park, which also features a museum, interpretive panels, cannon, monuments and a one-mile Battlefield Trail that loops through areas of heavy fighting. A driving tour takes visitors to other key points of the battlefield, including an overlook on the western end of the battlefield.
The park is open daily from 8 a.m. until one hour after sunset and also offers a picnic area, playground, restrooms, etc. To learn more, please visit the park service website at: http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/prairiegrovebattlefield/.
You can read more about the battle and see photos of the battlefield at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ArkansasPG1.
|Battle of Cane Hill Historical Marker|
While the Cane Hill Battlefield has not been developed as a park, efforts are currently underway to create a driving tour and install interpretive signage. The first of the panels are now up, including one at the town cemetery.
To reach Canehill (as it is spelled today) from Prairie Grove, follow U.S. 62 West for 4.8 miles then turn left (south) on AR-45 and follow it for 3.4 miles. There is a Battle of Cane Hill marker on AR-45. Be sure to see the interpretive panel at the cemetery and check out the historic Cane Hill College building on College Road one block west of AR-45. The existing building was built shortly after the Civil War, but the college was a major facility for learning when the war broke out.
|Cane Hill Battlefield|
To follow the course of the fighting, follow Clyde Road for 1.4 miles to Four Corner Road. Turn left on Four Corner Road and follow it up and over Reed's Mountain (see below) for 4.4 miles to Cove Creek Road at the site of Morrow's Station (see below). As you pass up and over the mountain, you are driving through one of the scenes of heavy fighting. Once you reach Cove Creek Road, turn right and drive until the road passes through a narrow area between the creek on your left and a rocky bluff on your right. This was the scene of the Confederate ambush that closed the fighting.
Please keep in mind that once you leaved the pavement, some of these dirt roads can be slick and difficult to travel during raining weather. Please exercise caution.
The staff at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park can provide additional information on the Battle of Cane Hill. You can also learn more at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ARCaneHill.
|Reed's Mountain looking down to Morrow's Station|
To reach the scene of the Reed's Mountain fight from Canehill, follow the directions given above for the Cane Hill Battlefield. The fighting took place along both sides of what is now Four Corner Road from the crest of the mountain down to the intersection with Cove Creek Road. There are no markers or other interpretation at the site. Please click here to learn more about the battle: www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ARReedsMountain.
Morrow's Station was located around the modern intersection of Four Corner Road and Cove Creek Road. It is often confused with the nearby town of Morrow, which also existed in 1862, but was actually at this site. There are no markers or other interpretation at the crossroads, but the Morrow Cemetery still exists just west of the intersection.
To reach Morrow's Station, follow the directions above for the Cane Hill Battlefield.
|Cove Creek Road|
Cove Creek Road can be followed south from the Morrow's Station site into Crawford County or north from that point back to Prairie Grove. This was the main route followed by the Confederate army as it both advanced to and departed from the Battle of Prairie Grove.
To reach Dripping Springs, site of the Confederate cavalry camps, without getting lost in a myriad of small roads, I recommend that you retrace your steps from Cove Creek Road (as given above under Cane Hill Battlefield) back to the intersection of Clyde Road and AR 45. Turn left (south) on AR 45.
Follow AR 45 for 5.7 miles to the intersection with AR 59 at Dutch Mills. This community was an important landmark of the Civil War in Northwest Arkansas. Turn left on AR 59 and follow it south for 29 miles. Along the way you will pass through the stateline community of Evansville, to which Colonel Stand Watie advanced with his brigade of Confederate Cherokee during the campaign. Just south of Cedarville, look for the intersection with Uniontown Highway. A marker for the later Battle of Dripping Springs (fought later in December of 1862) can be seen just to the left of the intersection.
Turn right on Uniontown Highway and follow it roughly one mile to its intersection with Dripping Spring Road. Turn left on Dripping Spring Road and follow it for 6/10 of a mile to its intersection with Beverly Hills Drive and Old Uniontown Road. This is the site of Dripping Springs.
The Confederate cavalry camps were primarily on the hill to your left and the little spring that gives the crossroads its name is on private land to your right just beyond Old Uniontown Road. There are no markers at the site.
|Confederate Section at Fairview Cemetery|
To reach Fairview Cemetery at Van Buren from Dripping Springs, follow Old Uniontown Road for 4.4 miles to its intersection with AR 59. Turn right on AR 59 and follow it for 2.7 miles until you see Fairview Cemetery on your left just after you travel down a steep hill.
In the Confederate section of Fairview Cemetery (in the northeast corner of the cemetery), you will find the graves of many of the Confederate wounded who died after the battle. Taken back to hospitals in Van Buren, they lingered in pain for weeks and months. A monument commemorates the role of these men in a series of battles including Wilson's Creek (Oak Hill), Pea Ridge, Prairie Grove, etc.
Be sure to take time to walk through other areas of the historic cemetery, where you will find the graves of many people of importance to early Arkansas history. To learn more about Fairview Cemetery, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fairviewcemetery.html.
|Main Street in Van Buren|
From Fairview Cemetery, follow AR 59 (Fayetteville Road) south for three blocks to the train depot at Main Street. The depot provides a great view down Main Street through the center of town.
Van Buren was the launching point for the Prairie Grove Campaign and was General Hindman's headquarters during the early stages of the campaign. It is now a charming, historic town with numerous shops, restaurants and other points of interest downtown. The historic Crawford County Courthouse a few blocks south on Main Street is of pre-Civil War construction and was a landmark of Van Buren at the time of the campaign. On its grounds can be found historical markers, monuments and the original log schoolhouse where Masonic leader and Confederate general Albert Pike once taught school. A park borders the Arkansas River at the south end of Main Street.
Take some time and enjoy Van Buren and what this heritage minded city has to offer. To learn more about Van Buren's history, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/vanburen.
|Barracks Building at Fort Smith|
Directly across the Arkansas River from Van Buren is the historic city of Fort Smith. The original
barracks and quartermaster's storehouse buildings of the fort still stand at Fort Smith National Historic Site.
The fort was used as a supply depot and command center by both Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War and its museum features an outstanding exhibit on the Civil War in and around Fort Smith.
To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fortsmith.html.
In addition to the sites I've discussed here, Fayetteville National Cemetery and Fayetteville Confederate Cemetery are definitely worth visiting. The remains of Union soldiers killed at Prairie Grove and Cane Hill are at the national cemetery, while the Confederate cemetery contains the graves of Confederate soliders killed in those fights.
Fayetteville Confederate Cemetery: www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fayettevillecc.html
Fayetteville National Cemetery: www.exploresouthernhistory.com/arfayettevillenc.html
And, as always, you can learn more about the Prairie Grove Campaign at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ArkansasPG1.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
|Monument at Prairie Grove Battlefield|
Formerly a chimney at Rhea's Mills
The fight had cost General Hindman about 10% of his 11,000 man army in killed, wounded or missing. While the bloody battle had cost the Confederates over 1,000 men, it had not so injured Hindman's army that it would not have been able to fight again. The problem was a logistical one. The Confederates simply did not have the ammunition and food they needed to fight another day.
Positioning his cavalry to protect his supply wagons and the key roads south, the general started his army south after dark and by midnight the infantry and artillery had left the field.
|Entrance to Battlefield Trail at Prairie Grove|
The general caught up with the rear of his infantry column at Morrow's Station after dark on the 8th and the next morning the march south continued without further incident.
|Borden House and Cannon at Prairie Grove|
Blunt, having taken possession of the battlefield after Hindman's departure, saw to the care of the wounded of both sides. Wounded men still on the field were collected and given what care the doctors of both sides could provide. Many would die over coming weeks and months.
The two commanding generals would engage in a war of words over coming days, firing letters back and forth, but the last real shots of the Battle of Prairie Grove had been sounded. The Confederates would never again seriously threaten the Union control of Northwest Arkansas.
Tomorrow, in the final post of this series, I will discuss what there is to see at some of the key sites of the Prairie Grove Campaign.
To learn more about the battle and the battlefield, please visit http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ArkansasPG1.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
|Borden House at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park|
Both battles sent shockwaves through the Natural State and many promising young men gave their lives in the service of their counties.
The Battle of Prairie Grove developed as Confederate Major General Thomas C. Hindman successfully maneuvered his army around the Union force of Union Brigadier General James G. Blunt at Cane Hill (see yesterday's post: The Battle of Reed's Mountain).
Using Colonel J.C. Monroe's cavalry brigade to maintain the impression of a developing battle on the slopes of Reed's Mountain, Hindman marched his main army up the Cove Creek valley and emerged near Prairie Grove. Now on the main Fayetteville to Cane Hill road directly between Blunt and his approaching reinforcements under Brigadier General Francis J. Herron, the Confederate general turned his army toward Fayetteville hoping to destroy Herron before the two wings of the Union army could unite.
It was a good plan and might well have worked had Hindman's army been seasoned and even reasonably equipped and supplied. There was nothing he could do about that.
|View of Prairie where Herron formed his men.|
The two forces collided on the old Fayetteville Road. Colonel Jo Shelby's Missouri Brigade attacked, driving the Union cavalry back on the main body of Herron's command. Herron, in turn, came forward aggressively, pushing Shelby back to and over the river.
|View of the Borden House from the Prairie.|
(House is in trees atop the ridge at the center).
The primary battle opened with a massive artillery exchange. The ground shook for miles and the boom of nearly 50 pieces of artillery could be heard far in every direction. At Cane Hill, Blunt heard the cannon fire and knew he was in trouble. He quickly began to pull his force back from its isolated position there and marched along a roughly semi-circular route for Prairie Grove.
|Borden House Orchard, where hundreds fell.|
The Confederates surged after them, storming down the ridge and right into the muzzles of Herron's massed cannon. Driven back themselves, the Southern soldiers returned back up the ridge to their original position. Another Union attack followed, leading to heavy and bloody fighting around the Borden house and orchard on the ridge. A Union officer later estimated that 250 men were killed or wounded in the yard of the Borden house alone. The attack failed and the Federals withdrew back onto the prairie.
|Western Overlook, where Blunt attacked.|
...There was no place of shelter upon any portion of the field. Wounds were given and deaths inflicted by the enemy's artillery in the ranks of the reserves as well as in the front rank. During five hours, shell, solid shot, grape and canister, and storms of bullets swept the entire ground. Many gallant officers, and many soldiers equally brave fell dead or wounded, but their comrades stood as firm as iron. Volunteers maintained their reputation. Conscripts rose at once to the same standard, and splendidly refuted the slanders put upon them... Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman, C.S.A.
Blunt and Herron believed they were outnumbered, estimating the strength of Hindman's army as 28,000. The actual number was closer to 11,000. The two armies were actually very close in size, although the Union had a vast superiority in artillery, supplies and small arms.
After a day of bloody fighting that saw attack and counter-attack along the entire length of the field, night finally field. Hindman was still in position on the ridge, while Blunt and Herron occupied the prairies and fields below. Neither army had been able to drive the other off and Blunt had escaped from his exposed position at Cane Hill. Hindman slipped away into the mountains that night, beginning his return to Van Buren and Fort Smith. His men were hungry and he did not have enough ammunition for a second day of fighting.
Although the numbers are estimates at best, the Confederates lost 164 killed, 817 wounded and 336 missing or captured. The Federals reported similar losses of 175 killed, 813 wounded and 264 missing or captured. The wounded from both sides were treated in makeshift hospitals both on the field and in nearby Fayetteville. Hundreds of them died from their wounds.
I will continue posting on the Prairie Grove Campaign tomorrow. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ArkansasPG1.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
|Scene of Heavy Fighting on Reed's Mountain|
Two of General John S. Marmaduke's three Confederate cavalry brigades had pushed Union pickets up the Cove Creek Road the previous day and taken position at Morrow's Station (see yesterday's post, Hindman moves into the Boston Mountains). On the morning of December 6, 1862, the Confederates deployed west of the Cove Creek Road and attacked the Federal troops positioned on Reed's Mountain, a significant ridge that separates the valley of Cove Creek from the more open country around Cane Hill (now spelled Canehill).
The mountain had been the scene of heavy fighting during the Battle of Cane Hill one week earlier and now offered an ideal blocking position to keep General James G. Blunt's Union army from observing the movements of General Thomas C. Hindman's Confederate force as it emerged from the Boston Mountains.
Deploying on both sides of the rugged road that led from Morrow's Station up and over the mountain to Cane Hill, the 500 men of Colonel J.C. Monroe's regiment-sized Arkansas Brigade moved up the slopes. Fighting on foot, the Confederate cavalrymen pushed resisting Union cavalrymen up the mountain.
|Ground from which Federal troops advanced|
Monroe's Arkansan's charged the Federal position but were driven back. Refusing to retreat, however, Monroe and his men clung to the sides of Reed's Mountain and continued the fight. For 45 minutes a sharp battle took place as the two sides battled for control of the crest. Finally, however, Monroe was able to position his men in a way that threatened the Union flanks and the Federal force gave way and withdrew down the opposite side of the mountain. The victorious Confederates seized the crest.
With night falling, General Blunt began massing troops in the rolling lands beyond Reed's Mountain expecting to resume the fight the next morning. Hindman sent Parson's Brigade from French's Division up Reed's Mountain to reinforce Monroe's cavalrymen at the crest:
|Brig. Gen. Francis J. Herron, U.S.A.|
Hindman adjusted his plan quickling in view of the much bigger opportunity that had presented itself. If he could keep enough men on the mountain to decoy Blunt into believing a major battle was developing, he could move his main army straight up the Cove Creek Road and emerge into the open between Cane Hill and Fayetteville. From that point he could turn up the Fayetteville Road and destroy Herron's force in detail as it came down the road on its way to reinforce Blunt at Cane Hill. If all went well, the Confederates could then turn back on Blunt himself, corner him, and wipe him out.
The stage was set for the massive Battle of Prairie Grove that would be fought on the ridges and prairies of Washington County the next day. I will have more on that tomorrow.
To learn more about the Battle of Reed's Mountain, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ARReedsMountain.
To learn more about the Battle of Prairie Grove, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ArkansasPG1.
Monday, December 5, 2011
|Cove Creek Road|
As the infantrymen trudged north on the Cove Creek Road, which intersected with the Telegraph (Wire) Road at Oliver's, they knew a hard fight was coming. The urgency of the officers, the sudden move into the mountains, the rumors sweeping through the ranks all combined to create a buzz of both fear and anticipation among the men. They also knew enough of the country to know that the day's march would be a difficult one.
Hindman described the road taken by his force:
|Old Road from Morrow's Station to Cane Hill|
As discussed in yesterday's post, the Morrow's mentioned here should not be confused with the modern community of Morrow (a few miles southwest of Cane Hill). There was a community called Morrow's in existence at that site in 1862, but the Morrow's referred to by Hindman was actually Morrow's Station, a stop on the Cove Creek Road. The community of Newburg mentioned in his report was one of the three villages located along the Cane Hill ridge.
Marmaduke's cavalry division was moving up into the mountains well ahead of Hindman's man force, scouting for any sign of Federal activity. He reported his strength by brigade as: Carroll's (under Col. J.C. Monroe), 500 effective men, Shelby's (under Col. Jo. Shelby), 1,100 effective men and MacDonald's (under Col. Emmett MacDonald), 700 effective men. This put the total Confederate cavalry strength at around 2,300 men.
|Map showing key positions of Hindman's Advance|
Click Map to Enlarge
|Gen. John S. Marmaduke, C.S.A.|
Hindman had hoped to reach Morrow's with his infantry by the night of December 5, 1862. On paper this was a reasonable goal, as he estimated the distance from Oliver's store up the Cove Creek Road to that place to be around 15 miles, the standard day's march for an infantry force. The terrain, however, was much more difficult than he expected and his men were hungry, weak and unable to keep up the necessary pace. Instead of over-exerting them, he called a halt a few miles south of Morrow's and allowed his men to rest for the night.
The first heavy fighting of what would develop into the Battle of Prairie Grove would take place on Reed's Mountain between Morrow's Station and Cane Hill the next day.
I will continue posting on the Prairie Grove Campaign tomorrow. Until then, you can read more at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ArkansasPG1.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
|Road followed by part of Hindman's Army|
By nightfall the slow moving army had reached Oliver's store, then a well known landmark in northern Crawford County. Located north of Dripping Springs at the point where several roads merged as they came down out of the mountains, Oliver's was often mentioned in the reports of both armies during the Civil War. Hindman brought his men to a halt here and allowed them to rest as best they could through the night of December 4th.
They were so exhausted that they probably slept some, but hunger and cold kept many of them awake. His ill-supplied force was simply not able to move at the pace that Hindman had hoped, but he wisely opted not to repeat the mistakes made by Confederates earlier in the year when they outran their supplies and exhausted themselves prior to the Battle of Pea Ridge. The night of the 4th, then, was spent letting the men rest and eat as best as they could while his supply wagons and artillery came up.
|View from Reeds Mountain down to Morrow's Station|
Morrow's House, or Morrow's Station, was actually a small settlement on Cove Creek a few miles southeast of Cane Hill (today spelled Canehill). The site is often confused with the modern community of Morrow, which is number of miles west of the point targeted by Hindman in 1862. Important roads then had stopping points or stations where travelers could get food for themselves and their horses or stop for the night. Morrow's Station was one such point, located where the road coming down Reeds Mountain from Cane Hill intersected with the Cove Creek Road.
|1880 Map of Cane Hill area.|
Morrow's Station is at lower right.
The Confederate general's plan was to concentrate his force at Morrow's Station. Marmaduke's cavalry would then continue up the Cove Creek Road and then turn northwest on the Maysville Road. This would allow the Southern horsemen to hit General Blunt's Union army on its left flank and from the rear. At the same time, Hindman would advance with the infantry and most of the artillery up the road over Reeds Mountain and hit the Federals head on from excellent ground. If he could move as planned, the Confederate commander had a good chance of smashing the Union force occupying Cane Hill.
I will continue posting on the Prairie Grove Campaign over coming days, so be sure to check back regularly. To learn more until then, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ArkansasPG1.
Also be sure to scroll down here to read more about the early stages of the campaign.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
|Crawford County Courthouse|
Van Buren, Arkansas
Hindman's army consisted of the First Corps of what Confederate reports called the Trans-Mississippi Army. The column put in motion on the 3rd included roughly 9,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 22 pieces of field artillery. Supplies were limited and he did not have enough shoes or arms for all of his men and was forced to leave many behind.
Hindman's primary objective was Union Brigadier General James G. Blunt's force at Cane Hill. When Blunt had attacked and taken Cane Hill (now spelled Canehill) on December 28, he had placed himself in an advanced position far from the support of other Union troops under Brigadier General Francis J. Herron in southern Missouri. Hindman quickly recognized this opportunity and hoped to sweep across the mountains and destory Blunt before he could be reinforced:
Hindman acknowledged at the time that his supply situation had become critical and he anticipated having to move his army to Little Rock soon. He felt for the security of the Arkansas River valley, however, that he needed to drive off Blunt before he went.
Marmaduke's cavalry division moved out ahead of the main force, leaving Dripping Springs with the main body of his horsemen on the Telegraph or Wire road that ran largely along ridge tops through the Boston Mountains. Smaller bodies of Confederate cavalry moved up parallel roads, scouting ahead of the infantry and artillery.
|Van Buren, Arkansas|
Confederate base in thePrairie Grove Campaign
The main body then moved north on the Telegraph road from Van Buren, heading for the mountains. The column was long and the men were weak and hungry even before they started their march. As a result, the progress of the march was extremely slow. It would take three days for Hindman to emerge from the mountains at Prairie Grove, a distance that can be driven today by car in just a few minutes over an hour.
The move into the mountains was a bold gamble by Hindman, but one that had a good chance of working if he could put his army into position near Cane Hill before Blunt realized what was up. Destroying Blunt's command would open the door to all kinds of possibilities, the least of which would be the reoccupation of Northwest Arkansas by Confederate forces for the winter. Hindman was careful not to give this as an objective, but the idea must have been on his mind.
I will continue to post on the Prairie Grove campaign over coming days, so be sure to check back regularly. Until the next post, you can read more about the Battle of Prairie Grove by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ArkansasPG1.