Friday, December 9, 2011

Historic Sites of the Prairie Grove Campaign

Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park
I've spent the last three weeks looking at events associated with the Battle of Prairie Grove and the Prairie Grove Campaign, which took place 149 years ago this year. I thought telling you about some of the sites of the campaign as they appear today might be a good way to wrap up the series.

I have arranged these in order beginning with Prairie Grove battlefield.

Borden Orchard at Prairie Grove Battlefield
Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park

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:

You can read more about the battle and see photos of the battlefield at

Battle of Cane Hill Historical Marker
Cane Hill Battlefield

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
The Battle of Cane Hill began just north of the college and flowed south for miles into the mountains. To view the battlefield from the highway, travel south along AR-45 for two miles to the intersection with Clyde Road. This drive takes you along the battlefield and you can view the terrain across which it was fought. The battle continued down what is now Clyde Road.

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

Reed's Mountain looking down to Morrow's Station
Reed's Mountain Battlefield

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:

Morrow's Station

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

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.

Dripping Springs
Dripping Springs

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
Fairview Cemetery at Van Buren

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

Main Street in Van Buren
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

Barracks Building at Fort Smith
Fort Smith National Historic Site

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

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:

Fayetteville National Cemetery:

And, as always, you can learn more about the Prairie Grove Campaign at

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