Friday, July 24, 2009

Battle of Massard Prairie Anniversary is Monday

Monday, July 27th, is the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Massard Prairie, Arkansas.

Fought on a broad prairie that was then on the outskirts of the important western Arkansas city of Fort Smith, the battle involved one of the last great open field cavalry charges in American history. It also marked one of the few occasions during the war that Union soldiers were documented as having scalped and mutilated Confederate dead.

The battle took place when a large Confederate force commanded by Brigadier General Richard L. Gano, who previously had served as an officer under the noted Southern cavalry leader John Hunt Morgan, stormed down from today's Fianna Hills ridge and swept across the open ground of Massard Prairie. The dramatic open field charge caught a full battalion of the 6th Kansas Cavalry and several companies of Union cavalry from Arkansas completely by surprise.

The Arkansas Feds, as they were called then, fled precipitately ahead of Gano's charge, but the troopers of the 6th Kansas tried to make a stand. Quickly surrounded, they bolted to the north in a dramatic effort to escape. The fight continued for nearly two miles across the open prairie before the main body of the Union troops surrendered. Virtually an entire battalion from the 6th Kansas Cavalry was captured, killed, wounded or scattered.

I'll take a closer look at some of the more interesting aspects of the battle over the next couple of days, but if you would like to read more, please consider my book The Battle of Massard Prairie. You can also order at or learn more about the battle by visiting

If you are in the area, this weekend would be a great time to take a few minutes and walk the battlefield at Massard Prairie Battlefield Park, located near the intersection of Morgan and Red Pine in Fort Smith.

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