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and down into the valley of Cove Creek the fighting continued, until as darkness fell it appeared the Confederates had withdrawn.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