Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Eyewitness Account of the Battle of Prairie Grove - Part 2

View of Blocker's Artillerymen
The narrative below is part two of an eyewitness account of the Battle of Prairie Grove (December7, 1862) written by an unidentified officer in Captain Blocker's section of the Arkansas Light Artillery from camp on December 11, 1862.  Part one of the account can be accessed by clicking here.

"...I will now endeavor to give you the full particulars of how our gallant little band (Capt. Blocker’s battery) went into the fight, and, as nearly as I can, how we came out of it. On Sunday morning, while marching in line of battle, our battery was ordered, from the rear of the column of artillery, to the front, and, as soon as we discovered the enemy, were ordered to go into battery, which we did. We remained some time in our first position, when we received orders to limber up and change our position for a better one. Again we got well fixed and ready for action, when the enemy opened on us very briskly with their artillery. We responded, and, after firing 4 or 5 rounds, of such luxuries as we had in store for them, we succeeded in silencing heir batteries. We were then ordered to cease firing, which we did, for about three quarters of an hour, when we were ordered to commence firing again. We opened very briskly, with solid shot, spherical, case and shell. After firing 7 or 8 rounds, we were again ordered to cease firing, and await further orders from Gen. Shoup, but, unfortunately, the order for us to recommence firing arrived too late for us to save ourselves, as the enemy had charged and were within 30 paces of our battery. They received the contents of two of our pieces, when we were compelled to fall back, and our battery (save one piece) fell into the hands of the enemy for a short time. Perhaps you may think it strange that we surrendered our battery so quick; but you will not, when I inform you, that we had not a shadow of a support from the commencement to the close of the fight, nor until our battery was lost! Such, however, is the fact, and it pains me to have it to say. The blame must rest where it belongs. * * * * * * *  Each and every man stood to his post, until two men and forty three horses were killed, and 11 brave men severely wounded. Eleven men are missing, and, no doubt, killed or captured by the enemy. The enemy advanced upon us with their artillery, under cover of their infantry, until within range of our battery, when they opened a most disastrous fire on us, from both arms. Hail from Heaven never fell thicker than shot, shell and Minnie balls did, for minutes. Having no support, Capt. Blocker ordered our ment o fall back and save themselves, when the enemy were within 30 paces of our guns; and how so many of them escaped with whole skins, is a mystery to me.

"When ordered to fall back, we discovered our men [support] forming about 200 yards in rear of our battery. We passed their lines, when they advanced and opened a “soul-searching” fire on the Abolitionists, which caused 152 of the blue bellies to turn up, besides wounding many more. Our men then charge dand drove them from our guns, with considerable loss to the enemy. Thank fortune, they did not have time to move a single piece from its original position.

"During the evening we returned and brought away our guns and 2 caissons and ammunition. My piece, No. 4, on the left, suffered most in (?) – all the horses, 12 in number, being killing, and8 were severely wounded and 2 missing – probably killed. My gun-team was composed of a fine grey horse, that had just been purchased for me, and, of course, presented a splendid target for the enemy to play on."

To learn more about the Battle of Prairie Grove, see photographs of the battlefield and read official accounts of the fighting, please visit

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Eyewitness Account of the Battle of Prairie Grove - Part One

Cannon at Prairie Grove
The following was written by an unidentified officer in Captain W.D. Blocker's section of Arkansas Light Artillery and provides an outstanding first person account of the role of the Confederate field artillery in the Battle of Prairie Grove (December 7, 1862).

I've transcribed the entire account and will be presenting it here in two posts. This is part one:

"In Camp near Van Buren, Dec. 11, 1862.

"On the 3d inst. our army commenced a movement from this camp, in the direction of Boston Mountain, for the purpose of meeting the enemy, they having a strong position near Cane Hill, on the divide of the mountain. On approaching the mountain, our forces were divided and crossed it by two different passes: The Missouri force, under Gen. Parsons, by way of Cane Hill, and the remaining forces by what is known as the Cove Creek route.

"Gen. Parsons found about 3,000 Abolitionists, under Gen. Blunt, encamped at Cane Hill, and succeeded in utterly routing them, in double quick time, capturing a considerable train of wagon and some prisoners. Gen. Blunt succeeded in forming a junction with the main body of their army 10 miles south of Fayetteville, where the bloody battle of Prairie Grove was fought, and where we achieved another glorious victory.

"The enemy’s force may be safely estimated at 15,000 or 16,000 – 12,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry, and 4 or 5 light and heavy batteries. Their force was all engaged, while the portion of our army engaged did not exceed 10,000 effective men. We had only two batteries actually engaged – Capts. West’s and Blockers.

"This memorable battle was fought, and this glorious victory achieved, on Sunday, 7th inst. Our advance guard opened the fight early in the morning, by surprising and capturing 140, Federal cavalry. Fortunately, they turned out to be a portion of the 1st Arkansas Federal cavalry, composed of Arkansas Jayhawkers and deserters. God grant they may share the fate all such traitors deserve.

"The general engagement commenced about 12  o’clock, M., and continued until dark, when both armies withdrew from the scene of action. About 8 o’clock P.M., a Federal flag of truce made its appearance at Gen. Hindman’s Headquarters, asking permission to remove their wounded and bury their dead, which was granted. During the night, our army (or a portion of it) were ordered to fall back to Boston Mountain – I supposed for the purpose of renewing the fight on the following day, provided the enemy were not satisfied with the previous day’s exercise.

"On the following morning, the Federal Generals despatched a message to Gen. Hindman, requesting a personal interview with him at their headquarters. Gen. Hindman consented, and the result of the meeting was, the Yankees acknowledged themselves badly whipped, turned over to us the spoils of the battle-field, and fell back in the direction of Fayetteville.

"The enemy’s loss is very heavy, while our’s is heavy enough, God knows. The opinion of many of our officers is, that we killed about 4 to 1. For my own part, I have no idea of the loss on either side, as I had no opportunity to go over the battle ground, after the fight, except where our battery fought, was charged and captured by the enemy, and afterwards recaptured by Col. Hawthorn’s gallant regiment, who fought most desperately, and justly deserve the praise and most hearty thanks of our army. Col. Brooks’, Col. McRae’s and Col. Pleasants’ regiments fought nobly, and acquitted themselves creditably." - End of Part One. Look for Part Two in the next post.

You can see more about the Battle of Prairie Grove, including official reports, photographs of the battlefield and links to related points of interest, at

Friday, December 10, 2010

The "Real" Rooster Cogburn?

Charles Portis has said that the unforgettable character Rooster Cogburn from his 1968 novel "True Grit" was actually a composite of the Deputy U.S. Marshals that once rode out of Fort Smith, but there is strong circumstantial evidence that he relied heavily on a real life one-eyed marshal named Cal Whitson.

Whitson, in fact, was the only Deputy U.S. Marshal with one eye to ride from Fort Smith in the decades after the Civil War and there is much about him that resembles the character made famous by John Wayne. Rooster will be reborn later this month when the new version of "True Grit" hits theaters.

For those unfamiliar with the story, a young girl from Yell County named Mattie Ross seeks out a man with "grit" - in this case, Deputy U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn - to track down the man who killed her father. The two set off to Winding Stair Mountain (in Oklahoma south of Fort Smith) to apprehend the outlaw and bring him to justice in the court of Hanging Judge Isaac C. Parker.

The Rooster Cogburn in the book and movie is a former Civil War soldier who works as a Deputy U.S. Marshal in the Western District of Arkansas. Working from Fort Smith, the old soldier is missing an eye and is a rough and tumble character of the first order.

Calvin W. Whitson, similarly, was a former Civil War soldier who worked beginning in 1889 as a Deputy U.S. Marshal in Fort Smith. His father had died in Van Buren in a murder that strongly resembled the death of Mattie's father as described in the book. Whitson joined the 3rd Arkansas Cavalry (U.S.) in 1863 when he was still one month shy of his 18th birthday, but was discharged the following year after being severely wounded in action. The wound blinded him in one eye. He went on to work in law enforcement after his son was killed helping to apprehend an outlaw in the Indian Territory.

In an interesting note, while checking out Cal Whitson's military service record this week, I noticed that some of his service cards were transcribed by a government employee named "Daggett." The name is familiar to all fans of "True Grit" because young Mattie constantly speaks of her feared attorney, "Lawyer Daggett."

If you would like to read more about Cal Whitson, the man who may have been the "real" Rooster Cogburn, please visit

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas - December 7, 1862

Borden House at Prairie Grove
Today (December 7th) marks the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Prairie Grove, one of the largest Civil War battles west of the Mississippi River.

Having slipped past General James G. Blunt's division of the Union Army of the Frontier and emerged onto the Ozark Plateau of Washington County, Arkansas, Confederate General Thomas Hindman prepared to battle the divided Federal army in detail. His plans were dashed, however, when he learned that General Francis J. Herron's Union division had made a desperate march south to reinforce Blunt, who had been relaying rumors that the Confederates might be contemplating an attack.

By the time Hindman and his 11,000 men and 22 pieces of artillery emerged at the site of the present town of Prairie Grove, Herron was already passing through Fayetteville and heading southwest to Cane Hill. Hindman's cavalry collided with Herron's advance troops on the road between Prairie Grove and Fayetteville (the two locations are about twelve miles apart) and fighting erupted.

Apparently unsure of the situation he was facing and concerned that Blunt might hear the sounds of the fighting and come up behind him, Hindman pulled back to a strong position along a ridge overlooking a wide expanse of fields and prairie. His right flank was anchored around the Borden House and apple orchard, from which point his line extended some three miles down the crest of the ridge to near Prairie Grove Church.

Scene of Heavy Fighting
The two armies battled throughout the day of December 7, 1862. Herron launched repeated attacks up the ridge to the Borden farm, while the Confederates counterattacked down into the face of the Federal guns. Then, later in the day, Blunt arrived at the west end of the battlefield with his division and heavy fighting erupted there as well. When nightfall finally brought the combat to an end, the Confederates had not been driven from their position, but did not have enough ammunition left to resume the battle the next morning. Hindman withdrew back into the mountains that night.

More than 2,400 men were reported killed, wounded or missing in the Battle of Prairie Grove. You can learn more about the battle, read transcripts of reports, view photographs of the battlefield as it appears today and read an in depth account of the action by visiting

Monday, December 6, 2010

Battle of Reed's Mountain, Arkansas - December 6, 1862

Original Road over Reed's Mountain
Today (December 6th) is the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Reed's Mountain, the final preliminary fight to the Battle of Prairie Grove, the anniversary of which is tomorrow.

Following the Battle of Cane Hill one week earlier, Union General James G. Blunt had kept his division at Cane Hill. The other division of the Army of the Frontier was in southern Missouri and Confederate General Thomas Hindman saw an opportunity in the miles that separated the two wings of his enemy's army. If he could push north rapidly and place his own army between the two Federal divisions, he might be able to destroy each individually before they could unite and outnumber him.

Driving north through the Boston Mountains, he struck the Cove Creek Road in northern Crawford County and crossed into Washington County on the morning of December 6, 1862. Aware that a small force of Union soldiers had been at the intersection of the Cove Creek and Cane Hill roads, to watch for Confederate movements, Hindman ordered Colonel J.C. Monroe to advance ahead of the main army and drive the Federals over Reed's Mountain where they would not be able to see his main body as it came north. Reed's Mountain is a rugged slope that separates the Cane Hill (now spelled Canehill) area from the Cove Creek Valley.

Cove Creek Valley from Reed's Mountain
Monroe moved forward rapidly and attacked the Federal pickets, driving them up and over the crest of Reed's Mountain. Union reinforcements moved up and the two forces battled back and forth for the top of the mountain. The hard-fighting Arkansas cavalrymen of Monroe's brigade, however, kept the Federals on their side of the mountain and effectively screened the northward march of Hindman's main army.

The battle would pale in comparison to the vicious fighting that would take place the next day at the Battle of Prairie Grove, but it was highly significant as it allowed Hindman to slip past Blunt and put himself into position to deliver what he hoped would be a crushing defeat to the Federals in Northwest Arkansas.

Learn more about the battle at

Friday, December 3, 2010

Schedule of Events for Battle of Prairie Grove Reenactment

Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park
I received this from Holly April Houser Cherry, Historical Park Interpreter at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park and am passing it along to provide you with more information on the activities going on at the park for this weekend's Battle of Prairie Grove Reenactment. This is one of the major history-related events in Arkansas and I hope you can make it out!
Saturday, December 4th - All Day - Sutlers Row open along the historic stone wall. 
Book signing starting at 9 a.m. - Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign by Dr. William Shea - Latta Barn.
7:00 A. M. – Reveille.  (A bugle call at about sunrise signaling the first military formation of the day)
8:00 A. M.  – 5:00 P.M. – Latta barn is open with gift shop & book store.
9:00 A. M. -11:00 A. M.  - All Camps open to public.
9:15 A.M. - Company Drill (by maneuver companies) at Drill Area
10:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M. - Latta kitchen open with fireplace cooking demonstrations by Janice Neighbor.
10:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M. – Demonstration of the traditional art of spinning thread, and discuss the basics of making cloth by members of Wool and Wheel Handspinners at Morrow House.
10 A. M. – noon - The Civil War Garden - Washington County Master Gardeners - Inquire in the Latta House
10 A. M. - "A Call to resist the invading abolitionist hordes” - Porch of the Latta House by Ian Beard, Old Statehouse Museum
10:00 A.M. - Bayonet Drill (optional and open to all infantry troops) at Drill Area.
10:30 A.M. - Battalion drill and arms inspection by park personnel - Weapons inspection.  Public viewing near respective camps drills area.  
12:00 P. M - "A plea for the citizenry of Arkansas to retake her rightful place in the Union of States" - Porch of the Latta House by Ian Beard, Old Statehouse Museum
12:00 P. M. – Spectator viewing line open preparing for Demonstration.  
12:15 P.M. - Form for battle, arms inspection by park personnel – Public viewing from Spectator Safety line.
12:45 P.M. – All camps closed to public, movement of troops & spectators to battlefield area
1:00 P.M. – Presentation marking 148th anniversary of the battle.
1:10 P.M. - Explanation of battle and last reminder about crowd safety
1:15 P.M. - Battle demonstration near the Borden House.  Battle commences.
2:00 P.M. - Wounded gathered to hospitals for medical demonstrations by US & CS surgeons. Battle ends.
2:30 P.M. – 5:00 P.M.  – All Camps re-open to the public.
3:30 P.M. - Period "rounders" (baseball) game at Ozark village by church and school. 
5:00 P.M.  – All Camps closed to public, last self guided tour ends
Sunday, December 5th - All Day - Sutlers Row open along the historic stone wall. 
7:00 A. M. – Reveille.  (A bugle call at about sunrise signaling the first military formation of the day)
8:00 A. M.  – 5:00 P.M. – Latta barn is open with gift shop & book store.
8:00 A. M.  to 11:00 A. M. – Late arrivals to register at Latta barn.
8:30 A. M. – Generals & Chiefs of Staff Call - Joint Federal/Confederate– Location: Latta Barn
9:00 A. M. -11:00 A. M.  - All Camps open to public, self guided tour begins.
9:15 A.M. - Company Drill (by maneuver companies) at Drill Area.
10:00 A.M. - Period Church service at log church & catholic mass at the Jim Parks Shelter
10:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M. - Latta kitchen open with fireplace cooking demonstrations by Janice Neighbor.
11:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M. - Demonstration of the traditional art of spinning thread, and discuss the basics of making cloth by members of Wool and Wheel Handspinners at Morrow House.
11:00 A.M. - Bayonet drill (special demonstration by picked squad only) at Drill Area.
11:00 A.M. - Battalion drill and arms inspection by park personnel - Weapons inspection.  Public viewing near respective camps drills area. 
12:00 P. M. – Spectator viewing line open preparing for Demonstration.  
12:15 P.M. - Form for battle, arms inspection by park personnel - Public viewing from Spectator Safety line.
12:45 P.M. – All camps closed to public, movement of troops & spectators to battlefield area.
1:00 P.M. – Presentation marking 148th anniversary of the battle.
1:10 P.M. - Explanation of battle and last reminder about crowd safety
1:15 P.M. - Battle demonstration near the Borden House.  Battle commences.
2:00 P.M. - Wounded gathered to hospitals for medical demonstrations by US & CS surgeons. Battle ends.
2:15 P.M. – All camps open to public, no tours.
3:00 P.M. – End of reenactment – Closing of all encampments to public.

Battle of Prairie Grove Reenactment set for this Weekend (Dec. 4-5)

Prairie Grove Battlefield
The hugely popular reenactment of the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, will take place this weekend at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park in Northwest Arkansas.

The park is located on U.S. Highway 62 in Prairie Grove 12 miles west of Fayetteville and can be easily accessed from I-540 by taking the Farmington exit and traveling west on U.S. 62 to the battlefield.

Here is the basic information from the State Park Service:

The original Battle of Prairie Grove, fought on December 7, 1862, saw about 22,000 soldiers fighting most of the day, with about 2,700 killed, wounded, or missing. Every even-numbered year, Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park hosts a battle reenactment.

Borden House at Prairie Grove
During the weekend there will be many activities including tours through the Union, Confederate, and civilian camps, various military drills, cooking, spinning, and lace making demonstrations along with other living history programs. “Sutlers Row” features a number of vendors selling 19th century reproduction, books, and souvenirs.

The battle demonstration begins at 1 p.m. each day, featuring charges and counterattacks by Union and Confederate infantry and cavalry. The reenactment is held on the actual battlefield near the historic Borden House.
Admission: Free. Parking $5 per vehicle. 

You can read more about the original battle by visiting While there, be sure to follow the links at the bottom of the page to see official reports, eyewitness accounts, photographs of the battlefield and to learn more about related historic sites in the area.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 28, 1862 - The Battle of Cane Hill, Arkansas

View into Cove Creek Valley
Today is the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Cane Hill, the first significant fight of the 1862 Prairie Grove Campaign.

Having learned of the presence of three small brigades of Confederate cavalry at what is now Canehill (the name has been condensed over the years from the original Cane Hill), Union General James G. Blunt moved south on November 27, 1862, to attack them with his division of the Army of the Frontier. It was a desperate forced march made through difficult conditions. The Union army camped north of Cane Hill that night and then continued the movement forward early on the morning of the 28th.

As General Blunt later reported, he sent spies into the Confederate lines to determine the strength of their position. They returned to report that the main road leading into Cane Hill was well posted with sentries. Despite rough conditions, the Federals pushed forward on the morning of November 28, 1862, and attacked at 10 a.m. with barrages of artillery.

The severely outnumbered Confederates responded with their own guns and the fields and hills shook with the sound of cannon fire that echoed off the Boston Mountains to the south and washed over the farms, villages and towns of Washington and Benton Counties in Northwest Arkansas.

Moving around to his right to use a little known road, Blunt struck the left of the Confederate line. The Southern troops were commanded by General John S. Marmaduke and the first Confederates encountered by Blunt were led by the famed general from missouri, "Fighting Jo" Shelby.

Ambush Site on Cove Creek Road
Outnumbered and flanked, the Confederates were driven from their first line, but Blunt was taken by surprise when he surged forward to find a second line waiting. Throughout the day, Marmaduke and Shelby used multiple lines to delay and confuse the Federals. And the fighting went on all day, through the modern community of Canehill and along the road leading south to the Boston Mountains. The Confederates took up position after position, forcing the Federals to deploy and attack.

From the villages across the ridge of Rich Mountain and down into the valley of Cove Creek the fighting continued, until as darkness fell it appeared the Confederates had withdrawn. Union cavalry surged forward down the Cove Creek road, hoping to hit the retreating Confederates from behind, but instead rode directly into an ambush prepared by Marmaduke. Fire erupted from their front and flanks, dropping soldiers from their soldiers and forcing the Federals into a mad retreat.

It was not long after this that a truce was declared to collect the dead and wounded and the fighting finally came to an end. Blunt had taken his objective, but it had required a day of hard fighting against a much smaller force. Marmaduke had not given way easily.

You can learn more about the battle at I'll have more on the effects of the Battle of Cane Hill and its role in the coming Battle of Prairie Grove soon.

Friday, November 26, 2010

November 26, 1862 - Marmaduke at Cane Hill, Arkansas

Canehill, Arkansas
It is interesting to note that it was 148 years ago tonight (November 26, 1862), that Confederate troops settled around campfires at Cane Hill, Arkansas, setting in motion the bloody Prairie Grove Campaign of 1862.

Cane Hill, now condensed to Canehill, was actually a series of small but important communities in the southwest corner of Washington County. Not only was it important for economic and agricultural reasons, Cane Hill was the point where key roads intersected after crossing over the rugged Boston Mountains from Van Buren, Fort Smith and the Arkansas River valley to the south. From there, a series of roads spread out to Fayetteville and other important locations across Northwest Arkansas.

Confederate Position at Canehill
Following the disintegration of Confederate defenses in western Arkansas after the Battle of Pea Ridge in March, Union forces had held virtually uncontested control of Washington and Benton Counties. Southern General Thomas Hindman had almost miraculously pulled together a new Confederate army, however, and by late November he was ready to attempt a strike of some sort before the arrival of winter brought an end to the possibility of active campaigning.

In anticipation of this, Hindman sent General John S. Marmaduke and his three small brigades of Confederate cavalry to occupy Cane Hill. After brief skirmishing on the 25th, this was achieved and by the evening of the 26th, Marmaduke was in position at Cane Hill. The movement set off a series of events that would lead to the bloody Battle of Prairie Grove on December 7, 1862.

News of Marmaduke's presence at Cane Hill did not take long to reach Union General James G. Blunt, who was camped a day's march to the north with his brigade of the Federal Arm of the Frontier. Blunt immediately ordered his men to get ready to move.

I'll continue to post on the November 1862 events at Cane Hill tomorrow. Until then, you can read more at

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Some Arkansas Ghost Stories & Tales of the Unexplained

Since Halloween weekend is here, I thought you might enjoy a few tales of ghosts and unexplained events and things from Arkansas history.

Ghost stories are an important part of Southern culture and many have been handed down to us from our ancestors who once sat around fireplaces and campfires to tell stories on cold winter nights. These tales were a source of entertainment that fired the imagination long before the days of radio, tv and internet. Whether they are true or not is a matter of individual belief, but they are definitely part of our culture and remind us of days long past.

Here are a few stories from Arkansas that I've looked into over the years. If you know others, tell us about them by posting comments. I'd love to hear them.
You can always read more Southern ghost stories and legends at

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Haunted Battlefield Tours at Prairie Grove set for Saturday

      Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park would like to invite everyone to the Haunted Battlefield Tour on Saturday October 23rd, starting at 7 p.m. meeting at the park Amphitheatre.  The Haunted Battlefield Tour is in reminiscence of what happened at Battle of Prairie Grove.  The Union Army of the Frontier and the Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi fought one of the most intense and bloody battles west of the Mississippi River on December 7, 1862.  The tour begins with a half-mile walk from the Amphitheatre to the front of the historic Borden House along part of the park's walking trail and into the valley where the heaviest fighting occurred during the Battle of Prairie Grove.  Chances are good that there will be a few surprises along the way.  When the walk is finished you may continue on a hayride or walk back up the hillside on your own. 
Parking will be available at the east entrance of Battlefield Park at the Borden House parking lot.  Guides will then escort visitors in groups of 30 along the park's walking trail for a 30-minute eerie tour of the grounds.  Tour groups will hear from guides and walk by the areas of the gruesome battle during the Civil War.  Tours depart every 20 to 30 minutes.  The last tour will conclude around 10:00 p.m.  Admission: $2 Adults, $1 Child (3-12).  Tickets are required for tour departures.  Tickets are available on arrival at the park Amphitheatre in front of the camp fire the night of this event.  All events are subject to changes because of weather.
Hindman Hall Visitor Center and Battlefield Museum is closed for renovation, the temporary Visitor Center at the Latta Barn is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.  For more information or in case of bad weather contact the park: Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, 506 E. Douglas Street, Prairie Grove, AR 72753; or call (479) 846-2990; e-mail  Check us out on the web at for information about the Battlefield Park and other Arkansas State Park locations and a full list of events. You can also learn more about the Battle of Prairie Grove at

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Battle of Massard Prairie - Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle and Sentinel, October 5, 1864

The following appeared in the Augusta, Georgia, Chronicle and Sentinel on October 5, 1864, and quotes an obvious eyewitness account that appeared in the Meridian, Mississippi, Clarion. Both were Confederate newspapers. The account describes the Battle of Massard Prairie, which was fought at Fort Smith on July 27, 1864:

...The fighting took place five miles S.E. of Fort Smith, in Mesard Prairie. The Lincolnite forces consisting of the "Kansas Sixth" and the so called home guards. The first has long been a "crack" regiment, alike noted for its ferocity, fanatacism and brutality. Gen. Gano divided his Texans into two bodies, while the Choctaws formed a third. One held in person on the center, whilst the others executed a flanking movement on either hand.

Advancing to the summit of an eminence where Yankee balls were whizzing all around him, Col. Folsom prevailed on his Choctaws to accompany him over a broad space to the face of the enemy. The other bodies charged simultaneously, and the robbers finding themselves previously assailed on front and on both flanks commenced a skedaddle from the rear, whilst others fought with desperation, until assured of quarters, when they surrenders. - Many of our men clubbed with their guns and dealt stunning blows; several guns were in this way broken. One hundred and twenty-seven were captured and about sixty killed. The pursuit was kept up to within two miles of Ft. Smith. The number of the enemy's wounded could not be ascertained. Our men obtained a rich booty - 200 Sharp's rifles, 400 revolvers, hundreds of excellent saddles, a considerable number of over coats and many other things.

Note: If you are interested in learning more about the Battle of Massard Prairie, please visit or consider my book on the encounter. It is available on this page.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Battle of Massard Prairie - Fort Smith New Era of July 30, 1864

Note: Next Tuesday will mark the 146th anniversary of the Battle of Massard Prairie at Fort Smith, Arkansas. Over the next few days, I will be posting a series of accounts of the battle that appeared in newspapers, both North and South, in the days and weeks following the engagement. If you are interested in reading more, my book on the battle can be ordered on this page. You can also visit my webpages on Massard Prairie at

Fort Smith New Era (Unionist)
July 30, 1864


Last Wednesday, July 27th, about sunrise a strong force of rebels under Geneal Gano, consisting of the 30th, and part of the 31st regiments Texas Cavalry, Col. Well's battalion, and Folsom's and Walker's regiments of Choctaws of Cooper's brigade, in all, about two thousand men, made an attack upon a battalion of the 6th Kansas cavalry, numbering about 200 men and commanded by Maj. Mefford of that regiment on Mazard prairie, about seven miles from town.

Our men fought most heroically against overwhelming odds, retreating slowly towards town and contending every inch of ground. They were however, at last completely surrounded and overpowered and a number taken prisoners, among whom were Maj. Mefford and Lt. De Friese. Ten of our men were killed, 15 wounded; the rest fought their way through.

The rebels lost 12 killed and 20 wounded.

As soon as the news of the attack reached Headquarters, Col. Judson, 6th Kans. Cav., hastened to the scene of the action with a mounted force, but found that the enemy had left an hour and a half before his arrival. He pursued him five miles across the mountain, ascertaining that he had nothing except the prisoners and what could be carried away on horses. The Colonel then halted and sent five scouts forward until they came up with the enemy's rear, which they reached about 3 o'clock p.m., near the crossing of the Poteau, about ten miles from the camp. The colonel then returned to the camp and found that the enemy had burned about three fourths of the camp and had left in a great hurry, leaving large quantities of Quartermaster's stores and transportation unharmed.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Talimena Scenic Drive explores historic Ouachita Mountains

The western Ouachita Mountains presented a major natural barrier to the southward advancement of Union troops along the Arkansas and Oklahoma (then the Indian Territories) border during the War Between the States.
The mountain range runs roughly east to west from near Little Rock into eastern Oklahoma. A series of commanding ridges and mountains, some of which are the highest points between the Appalachians and the Rockies, the Ouachitas served as a natural defense for Confederate forces during the war and also provided protection for Southern families and even guerrilla gangs that moved in and out of the mountains with impunity.

Now a major scenic area for visitors to the region, the mountains can be explored and accessed by way of the Talimena Scenic Drive, a national scenic byway that stretches 54 miles from Mena, Arkansas, across the border to Talihina, Oklahoma. As it winds its way along the very tops of the mountains, the drive passes not only some of the most beautiful scenery in the South, but an array of unique historic sites as well, many of them with Civil War ties.

Some of these include Queen Wilhelmina State Park and Rich Mountain Cemetery in Arkansas. The state park features numerous historic sites, including a mountain spring used by pioneer families at the time of the war. The first grave in the cemetery is said to have been that of a young girl who froze to death on a brutal winter's night during the war years. Her ghost supposedly still haunts the rugged terrain.

Along the Oklahoma stretch of the scenic byway are historic sites such as Horse Thief Spring and the Old Military or Fort Towson Road. The spring is was a water souce for Old West outlaws including that prowled the borderlands during the years after the Civil War. The Old Military Road, now marked by a park area with interpretive signs, was a major route through the mountains for Confederate forces and civilians.

The high elevations also provide welcome relief from the height of summer with cool breezes sweeping up the mountainsides to the overlooks and park areas along the Talimena Scenic Drive.

To learn more about this remarkable roadway, please visit

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ozark National Forest is rich in Historic Sites

Sweeping across much of the northwestern quarter of Arkansas, the Ozark National Forest preserves some of the most scenic and historic land in the Natural State.

Not only is the forest home to sweeping mountain vistas, rugged hills and valleys, waterfalls and the famed Mulberry River, it is rich in historic sites and landmarks. At unexpected places in the forest, hikers come across long-forgotten stone fences and traces of old home places, many of which date back to before the Civil War.

The Ozark National Forest was the scene of untold numbers of skirmishes and raids during the war. Not only did regular troops move back and forth along the roads leading through the mountains, the hills of the Ozarks provided shelter and hiding places for the guerrilla bands that ravaged much of the state. These men - some of whom supported the Union and others the Confederacy - in many cases employed increasingly brutal tactics against both military and civilian targets alike.

The forest is today accessed by such famed Arkansas highways as Scenic Highway 7 and the Pig Trail Scenic Byway. Both take visitors past beautiful scenery and through some of the most stunning country in the South. There are numerous parks, recreation eras, overlooks, campgrounds, picnic areas and landmarks.

To learn more, please visit

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Belle Grove Historic District - Fort Smith, Arkansas

Some of the most beautiful Civil War landmarks in Arkansas can be found in Fort Smith's unique Belle Grove Historic District.

Bounded by North Fifth, North H, North Eighth and North C Streets and located just a couple of blocks north of Garrison Avenue in downtown Fort Smith, Belle Grove preserves architecture spanning 130 years and numerous architectural styles. It was a thriving community at the time of the Civil War and the home of some of the most prosperous business leaders in western Arkansas.

The oldest home in the district is the John Rogers House, built in 1840 and modeled after the brick quarters of the fort from which Fort Smith takes its name. Rogers was one of the founders of the city of Fort Smith and ironically his house outlasted all but two of the buildings of the fort that was for a time the "little Gibraltar on the Arkansas."

Also dating from before the Civil War is the Casper Reutzel House. Built in 1850, it was the home of largest cotton shipper on the Arkansas River. Not only was the house built in an unusual half timber style, it was also loopholed for musketry to allow its inhabitants to hold off an attack.

The Belle Grove Historic District was actually within the fortifications erected by Union troops around the downtown area in 1864 and houses there were used to quarter troops. The city came under direct attack only once, but the fighting took place well away from the district.

To learn more about Belle Grove Historic District, please visit

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cane Hill College - An Educational Landmark in Northwest Arkansas

This old brick building on College Avenue in Canehill holds a unique place in the history of Arkansas. It was the last structure built to house Cane Hill College, one of the most remarkable educational institutions of the 19th century.

Northwest Arkansas was still the frontier in 1834. Fledgling settlements were taking root, one of the most important of which at the time was actually made up of a series of three communities located atop a ridge known as Cane Hill. Surrounded by good farm land in the shadow of the Boston Mountains, the settlement was well populated and a center of of activity by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

By the fall of 1834, the progress of the community had reached a point to allow the early settlers to think of such things as schools for their children. On October 28th of that year a group of Cumberland Presbyterians met and voted to establish Cane Hill School, which opened the following year in a two-room log building.

By the time of the Civil War, the school had progressed to become the first four-year college in Arkansas and was operating from a campus of four buildings. When most of the students of the all male school enlisted in the Confederate army in 1861, Cane Hill College closed its doors for the duration of the war.

On November 28, 1862, the Battle of Cane Hill swept across the campus as Union troops attacked Confederate forces in an important preliminary action to the Battle of Prairie Grove. Confederate artillery fired from the hill adjoining the campus and the dorm building was used as a Union military hospital after the battle. It took on more patients after the Battle of Prairie Grove on December 7, 1862.

By the end of the war much of Cane Hill had been burned to the ground and only one building from the pre-war college survived. The school would rebuild and go on to become the first coed college in Arkansas and shortly afterwards graduated the first five women to receive four-year degrees in the state.

The growth of Fayetteville and establishment of what would become the University of Arkansas, along with a destructive fire in 1885 ultimately led to a decision by the Arkansas Synod to close the doors at Cane Hill in 1891 and relocate the school to Clarksville where it continues to thrive today as the University of the Ozarks.

The building built to house the college after the 1885 fire still stands, however, and is a unique and special part of the heritage of Arkansas. To learn more, please visit