Friday, July 27, 2012

Battle of Massard Prairie (148th Anniversary)

Massard Prairie Battlefield Park
Fort Smith, Arkansas
Today marked the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Massard Prairie, Arkansas.

Fought on July 27, 1864, the engagement was a significant cavalry action fought across miles of prairie on the outskirts of Fort Smith. It was a major Confederate victory and resulted in the virtual destruction of Mefford's Battalion of the 6th Kansas Cavalry.

The battle began when Brigadier General R.M. Gano's Confederates swept down the ridge from today's Fianna Hills community on the southern edge of Fort Smith and caught the Federal forces camped at the Picnic or "Diamond" Grove on Massard Prairie completely by surprise. The Union troops had just moved their herd of horses out onto the prairie to graze when the Confederates struck:

...As soon as the alarm was given that the enemy was in the prairie, which was about 6 a.m., I sent immediately for the herd, which had been out grazing since daylight, and was about three quarters of a mile southwest of camp. I formed my men on the right of camp to protect my herd as it came in and until it could be secured, but before the horses could be brought up the enemy charged on us, which stampeded the herd and left the men on foot to fight as best as they could. - Lt. Jacob Morehead, 6th Kansas Cavalry.

Gen. R.M Gano, CSA
Sweeping around the Union right to the sound of the Rebel yells of his Texans, Gano had stampeded the Federal herd and closed in on the Federal camp before Major David Mefford could get his men organized to save the horses and resist. As he approached the grove, Gano detached part of his column to drive right into the center of the trees as he struck the camp on its western flank.

At the same time, Colonel S.N. Folsom led the 1st and 2nd Choctaw Cavalries (C.S.) in a devastating attack on the Union left. These were the same men who exacted had such fierce revenge on black Union troops at the Battle of Poison Spring for attrocities in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations that they were later accused of massacre.
Charged on right, left and center, the Federal lines collapsed and blue-clad cavalrymen began a desperate attempt to escape to safety across the prairie. By the time the fighting ended, three companies of "Arkansas Feds" (Union soldiers from Arkansas) had evaporated so completely they were not even mentioned in Union reports of the battle. Of the roughly 200 men (four companies) of the 6th Kansas Cavalry engaged in the battle, 144 were killed, wounded or captured.

To read about the Battle of Massard Prairie, please visit Also please consider my book, The Battle of Massard Prairie. It is available in both book and Kindle editions by following these links:

Book - The Battle of Massard Prairie ($14.95)
Kindle - The Battle of Massard Prairie, Arkansas ($4.95)

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