Thursday, March 18, 2010

Interesting Account of the Battle of Van Buren, Arkansas

The following is a report on the Battle of Van Buren (December 28, 1862) that appeared in a Maine newspaper just four days later. The speed with which reports of battles in western Arkansas reached newspapers in the far Northeast is remarkable when it is considered that just a few years before, it would have taken weeks for the news to arrive. The report was datelined Fayetteville, December 31, 1862:

January 1, 1863
Portland (Maine) Daily Advertiser, page 2.

Additional particulars of the raid to Van Buren have been received. Our army was 10 miles this side of Van Buren yesterday, and would bivouac on the mountain top last night, and expected to reach Prairie Grove again today. Gen. Schofield joined them a few miles beyond the foot of the mountain. The steamers violet, Rose Douglas, Frederick Mortrede [Nortrobe], Erie, No. 6, and Van Buren, with their cargoes of grain and provisions for the rebel army, were burned, also a large amount of army stores. The rebels burned their arsenal and ferry boats at fort Smith, to prevent them from falling into our hands; also a large quantity of provisions on the opposite bank of the river. A general conflagration was in progress when our forces left.

The raid on Van Buren clearly demonstrated the shattered condition of the Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi, despite the fact that it had fought a superior Union force to a draw at the Battle of Prairie Grove just a little mor than two weeks earlier. The capture of the Arkansas River town was a major blow to the prestige of Confederate forces in the area, although the Federals were unable to permanently exploit their ability to cross the mountains and withdrew back to their camps in Northwest Arkansas for the winter.

To learn more about the Battle of Van Buren, please visit

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