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 www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ArkansasPG1.

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