Thursday, December 22, 2011

Massard Prairie book Free today only for Kindle Users!

The Battle of Massard Prairie, Arkansas is available FREE today only for users of Amazon's Kindle readers or free Kindle software as part of a special promotion at
The book actually tells the story of two battles: The Battle of Massard Prairie and the Battle of Fort Smith. These two encounters were part of a demonstration carried out by Confederate forces in late July and early August of 1864 against the Federal forces occupying Fort Smith. They were wildly successful.

The Battle of Massard Prairie was fought on July 27, 1864, and resulted in the virtual destruction of an entire battalion of the Sixth Kansas Cavalry (U.S.). Sweeping down from the hills on the south side of the modern city of Fort Smith, Confederate cavalry forces hit the Federal camp on Massard Prairie from three sides. The Union force broke and was chased down and scattered in a cavalry battle that swept across miles of open prairie. A Confederate victory, the battle was an important prelude to the Battle of Cabin Creek in Oklahoma the following month.

The Battle of Fort Smith was fought just a few days after the action at Massard Prairie and was largely a demonstration against the southern defenses of Fort Smith. It resulted in the capture and destruction of Union supplies and the safe evacuation of pro-Confederate citizens from the environs of the city.

Together the two battles forced Union commanders at Fort Smith to draw in their forces, opening the door for the subsequent Confederate victories at Flat Rock and Cabin Creek in the Cherokee Nation. Cabin Creek may have been the largest supply seizure of the war by Southern forces.

To download the free Kindle version of the book, please click here:
The Battle of Massard Prairie, Arkansas: The 1864 Confederate Attacks on Fort Smith

If you do not have a Kindle reader, you can download the free software for your computer, tablet, iPad, smartphone, etc., at

The book is also available in a print edition for $19.95.  Please click here to order:
The Battle of Massard Prairie: The 1864 Confederate Attacks on Fort Smith, Arkansas

Enjoy your free reading and Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Historic Sites of the Prairie Grove Campaign

Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park
I've spent the last three weeks looking at events associated with the Battle of Prairie Grove and the Prairie Grove Campaign, which took place 149 years ago this year. I thought telling you about some of the sites of the campaign as they appear today might be a good way to wrap up the series.

I have arranged these in order beginning with Prairie Grove battlefield.

Borden Orchard at Prairie Grove Battlefield
Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park

One of America's most beautifully maintained Civil War sites, Prairie Grove Battlefield is a state and national historical treasure. Located at 506 E. Douglas Street in Prairie Grove, Arkansas, the park is only 18 minutes from downtown Fayetteville. From I-540 through Northwest Arkansas, take the Farmington exit (#62) and follow U.S. 62 West 9 miles to the battlefield.

The park preserves the scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the Battle of Prairie Grove, including the right flank of the Confederate line where Herron launched his bloody assaults, the Borden house and orchard (the house was rebuilt by the family after the war on the same foundations) and the ground across which Herron's attacks were launched. A number of historic structures are preserved at the park, which also features a museum, interpretive panels, cannon, monuments and a one-mile Battlefield Trail that loops through areas of heavy fighting. A driving tour takes visitors to other key points of the battlefield, including an overlook on the western end of the battlefield.

The park is open daily from 8 a.m. until one hour after sunset and also offers a picnic area, playground, restrooms, etc.  To learn more, please visit the park service website at:

You can read more about the battle and see photos of the battlefield at

Battle of Cane Hill Historical Marker
Cane Hill Battlefield

While the Cane Hill Battlefield has not been developed as a park, efforts are currently underway to create a driving tour and install interpretive signage. The first of the panels are now up, including one at the town cemetery.

To reach Canehill (as it is spelled today) from Prairie Grove, follow U.S. 62 West for 4.8 miles then turn left (south) on AR-45 and follow it for 3.4 miles. There is a Battle of Cane Hill marker on AR-45. Be sure to see the interpretive panel at the cemetery and check out the historic Cane Hill College building on College Road one block west of AR-45. The existing building was built shortly after the Civil War, but the college was a major facility for learning when the war broke out.

Cane Hill Battlefield
The Battle of Cane Hill began just north of the college and flowed south for miles into the mountains. To view the battlefield from the highway, travel south along AR-45 for two miles to the intersection with Clyde Road. This drive takes you along the battlefield and you can view the terrain across which it was fought. The battle continued down what is now Clyde Road.

To follow the course of the fighting, follow Clyde Road for 1.4 miles to Four Corner Road. Turn left on Four Corner Road and follow it up and over Reed's Mountain (see below) for 4.4 miles to Cove Creek Road at the site of Morrow's Station (see below).  As you pass up and over the mountain, you are driving through one of the scenes of heavy fighting. Once you reach Cove Creek Road, turn right and drive until the road passes through a narrow area between the creek on your left and a rocky bluff on your right. This was the scene of the Confederate ambush that closed the fighting.

Please keep in mind that once you leaved the pavement, some of these dirt roads can be slick and difficult to travel during raining weather. Please exercise caution.

The staff at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park can provide additional information on the Battle of Cane Hill. You can also learn more at

Reed's Mountain looking down to Morrow's Station
Reed's Mountain Battlefield

To reach the scene of the Reed's Mountain fight from Canehill, follow the directions given above for the Cane Hill Battlefield. The fighting took place along both sides of what is now Four Corner Road from the crest of the mountain down to the intersection with Cove Creek Road. There are no markers or other interpretation at the site. Please click here to learn more about the battle:

Morrow's Station

Morrow's Station was located around the modern intersection of Four Corner Road and Cove Creek Road. It is often confused with the nearby town of Morrow, which also existed in 1862, but was actually at this site. There are no markers or other interpretation at the crossroads, but the Morrow Cemetery still exists just west of the intersection.

To reach Morrow's Station, follow the directions above for the Cane Hill Battlefield.

Cove Creek Road
Cove Creek Road

Cove Creek Road can be followed south from the Morrow's Station site into Crawford County or north from that point back to Prairie Grove. This was the main route followed by the Confederate army as it both advanced to and departed from the Battle of Prairie Grove.

Dripping Springs
Dripping Springs

To reach Dripping Springs, site of the Confederate cavalry camps, without getting lost in a myriad of small roads, I recommend that you retrace your steps from Cove Creek Road (as given above under Cane Hill Battlefield) back to the intersection of Clyde Road and AR 45. Turn left (south) on AR 45.

Follow AR 45 for 5.7 miles to the intersection with AR 59 at Dutch Mills. This community was an important landmark of the Civil War in Northwest Arkansas. Turn left on AR 59 and follow it south for 29 miles. Along the way you will pass through the stateline community of Evansville, to which Colonel Stand Watie advanced with his brigade of Confederate Cherokee during the campaign. Just south of Cedarville, look for the intersection with Uniontown Highway. A marker for the later Battle of Dripping Springs (fought later in December of 1862) can be seen just to the left of the intersection.

Turn right on Uniontown Highway and follow it roughly one mile to its intersection with Dripping Spring Road. Turn left on Dripping Spring Road and follow it for 6/10 of a mile to its intersection with Beverly Hills Drive and Old Uniontown Road. This is the site of Dripping Springs.

The Confederate cavalry camps were primarily on the hill to your left and the little spring that gives the crossroads its name is on private land to your right just beyond Old Uniontown Road. There are no markers at the site.

Confederate Section at Fairview Cemetery
Fairview Cemetery at Van Buren

To reach Fairview Cemetery at Van Buren from Dripping Springs, follow Old Uniontown Road for 4.4 miles to its intersection with AR 59.  Turn right on AR 59 and follow it for 2.7 miles until you see Fairview Cemetery on your left just after you travel down a steep hill.

In the Confederate section of Fairview Cemetery (in the northeast corner of the cemetery), you will find the graves of many of the Confederate wounded who died after the battle. Taken back to hospitals in Van Buren, they lingered in pain for weeks and months. A monument commemorates the role of these men in a series of battles including Wilson's Creek (Oak Hill), Pea Ridge, Prairie Grove, etc.

Be sure to take time to walk through other areas of the historic cemetery, where you will find the graves of many people of importance to early Arkansas history.  To learn more about Fairview Cemetery, please visit

Main Street in Van Buren
Van Buren

From Fairview Cemetery, follow AR 59 (Fayetteville Road) south for three blocks to the train depot at Main Street.  The depot provides a great view down Main Street through the center of town.

Van Buren was the launching point for the Prairie Grove Campaign and was General Hindman's headquarters during the early stages of the campaign. It is now a charming, historic town with numerous shops, restaurants and other points of interest downtown. The historic Crawford County Courthouse a few blocks south on Main Street is of pre-Civil War construction and was a landmark of Van Buren at the time of the campaign. On its grounds can be found historical markers, monuments and the original log schoolhouse where Masonic leader and Confederate general Albert Pike once taught school. A park borders the Arkansas River at the south end of Main Street. 

Take some time and enjoy Van Buren and what this heritage minded city has to offer.  To learn more about Van Buren's history, please visit

Barracks Building at Fort Smith
Fort Smith National Historic Site

Directly across the Arkansas River from Van Buren is the historic city of Fort Smith. The original
barracks and quartermaster's storehouse buildings of the fort still stand at Fort Smith National Historic Site.

The fort was used as a supply depot and command center by both Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War and its museum features an outstanding exhibit on the Civil War in and around Fort Smith.

To learn more, please visit

In addition to the sites I've discussed here, Fayetteville National Cemetery and Fayetteville Confederate Cemetery are definitely worth visiting. The remains of Union soldiers killed at Prairie Grove and Cane Hill are at the national cemetery, while the Confederate cemetery contains the graves of Confederate soliders killed in those fights.

Fayetteville Confederate Cemetery:

Fayetteville National Cemetery:

And, as always, you can learn more about the Prairie Grove Campaign at

Thursday, December 8, 2011

December 8, 1862: Hindman withdraws into the mountains

Monument at Prairie Grove Battlefield
Formerly a chimney at Rhea's Mills
The Battle of Prairie Grove had ended in a bloody stalemate, but the Confederates knew they could not resume the fight with any hope of success (see yesterday's post, The Battle of Prairie Grove).
The fight had cost General Hindman about 10% of his 11,000 man army in killed, wounded or missing. While the bloody battle had cost the Confederates over 1,000 men, it had not so injured Hindman's army that it would not have been able to fight again. The problem was a logistical one. The Confederates simply did not have the ammunition and food they needed to fight another day.

Positioning his cavalry to protect his supply wagons and the key roads south, the general started his army south after dark and by midnight the infantry and artillery had left the field.

Entrance to Battlefield Trail at Prairie Grove
Dawn on December 8th found the Southern infantry already on the Cove Creek Road, marching south for Morrow's Station. Hindman and Blunt met on the field at Prairie Grove at 10 o'clock that morning to formalize an agreement for the care of the wounded of both sides and the protection of hospital trains, medical personnel and supplies for the wounded. At 12 noon, the conference complete, Hindman withdrew from the battlefield with the remainder of Marmaduke's cavalry division and rode out to join the main body of his army.

The general caught up with the rear of his infantry column at Morrow's Station after dark on the 8th and the next morning the march south continued without further incident.

Borden House and Cannon at Prairie Grove
The Union army moved up and occupied the ridge after Hindman left with the last of his cavalry at noon. To them fell the task of burying the dead, with assistance from a burial party of Confederate soldiers sent back by General Hindman. Bodies littered nearly three miles of the battlefield and the day was spent finding them and burying them.

Blunt, having taken possession of the battlefield after Hindman's departure, saw to the care of the wounded of both sides. Wounded men still on the field were collected and given what care the doctors of both sides could provide. Many would die over coming weeks and months.

The two commanding generals would engage in a war of words over coming days, firing letters back and forth, but the last real shots of the Battle of Prairie Grove had been sounded. The Confederates would never again seriously threaten the Union control of Northwest Arkansas.

Tomorrow, in the final post of this series, I will discuss what there is to see at some of the key sites of the Prairie Grove Campaign.

To learn more about the battle and the battlefield, please visit

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

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

Borden House at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park
December 7th is remembered today as Pearl Harbor Day and today marks the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Before 1941, however, most Arkansans easily remembered December 7th as the anniversary of the Battle of Prairie Grove.
Both battles sent shockwaves through the Natural State and many promising young men gave their lives in the service of their counties.

The Battle of Prairie Grove developed as Confederate Major General Thomas C. Hindman successfully maneuvered his army around the Union force of Union Brigadier General James G. Blunt at Cane Hill (see yesterday's post: The Battle of Reed's Mountain).

Using Colonel J.C. Monroe's cavalry brigade to maintain the impression of a developing battle on the slopes of Reed's Mountain, Hindman marched his main army up the Cove Creek valley and emerged near Prairie Grove. Now on the main Fayetteville to Cane Hill road directly between Blunt and his approaching reinforcements under Brigadier General Francis J. Herron, the Confederate general turned his army toward Fayetteville hoping to destroy Herron before the two wings of the Union army could unite.

It was a good plan and might well have worked had Hindman's army been seasoned and even reasonably equipped and supplied. There was nothing he could do about that.

View of Prairie where Herron formed his men.
With his infantry pouring from the Cane Hill Road at Prairie Grove, Hindman send John S. Marmaduke's cavalry division across the nearby Illinois River and up the Fayetteville Road to find Herron. The Union general, in turn, was driving his men hard hoping to link up with Blunt before the Confederates could attack him at Cane Hill.

The two forces collided on the old Fayetteville Road. Colonel Jo Shelby's Missouri Brigade attacked, driving the Union cavalry back on the main body of Herron's command. Herron, in turn, came forward aggressively, pushing Shelby back to and over the river.

View of the Borden House from the Prairie.
(House is in trees atop the ridge at the center).
Realizing that the critical battle was underway, Hindman formed his infantry and artillery in a line that stretched for about three miles along the crest of the ridge at Prairie Grove. The men did not entrench, but used fences, trees, buildings and rocks as defenses. Herron moved his force across the Illinois River and formed his ranks in the wide open prairie below, his lines of soldiers, cannon and flags in clear and panoramic view of the Confederates on the ridge.

The primary battle opened with a massive artillery exchange. The ground shook for miles and the boom of nearly 50 pieces of artillery could be heard far in every direction. At Cane Hill, Blunt heard the cannon fire and knew he was in trouble. He quickly began to pull his force back from its isolated position there and marched along a roughly semi-circular route for Prairie Grove.

Borden House Orchard, where hundreds fell.
At 1 p.m., Herron made an open field assault on the Confederate right flank. Moving forward across open ground in clear view, with flags flying, the Federal troops hit the bottom of the ridge and surged up. The Confederates there waited until they were within 60 yards and then opened on them with a deadly sheet of fire. The attack was broken and the Union soldiers started withdrawing back onto the prairie.

The Confederates surged after them, storming down the ridge and right into the muzzles of Herron's massed cannon.  Driven back themselves, the Southern soldiers returned back up the ridge to their original position. Another Union attack followed, leading to heavy and bloody fighting around the Borden house and orchard on the ridge. A Union officer later estimated that 250 men were killed or wounded in the yard of the Borden house alone. The attack failed and the Federals withdrew back onto the prairie.

Western Overlook, where Blunt attacked.
As the afternoon continued, General Blunt reached the field with his force and took up a position on Herron's right, extending the Union line to match that of the Confederates. The battle continued with a fury unlike anything seen west of the Mississippi, with the possible exception of the fight earlier that year at Pea Ridge.  Hindman penned a vivid description a few weeks later:

...There was no place of shelter upon any portion of the field. Wounds were given and deaths inflicted by the enemy's artillery in the ranks of the reserves as well as in the front rank. During five hours, shell, solid shot, grape and canister, and storms of bullets swept the entire ground. Many gallant officers, and many soldiers equally brave fell dead or wounded, but their comrades stood as firm as iron. Volunteers maintained their reputation. Conscripts rose at once to the same standard, and splendidly refuted the slanders put upon them... Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman, C.S.A.

Blunt and Herron believed they were outnumbered, estimating the strength of Hindman's army as 28,000. The actual number was closer to 11,000. The two armies were actually very close in size, although the  Union had a vast superiority in artillery, supplies and small arms.

After a day of bloody fighting that saw attack and counter-attack along the entire length of the field, night finally field. Hindman was still in position on the ridge, while Blunt and Herron occupied the prairies and fields below. Neither army had been able to drive the other off and Blunt had escaped from his exposed position at Cane Hill. Hindman slipped away into the mountains that night, beginning his return to Van Buren and Fort Smith. His men were hungry and he did not have enough ammunition for a second day of fighting.

Although the numbers are estimates at best, the Confederates lost 164 killed, 817 wounded and 336 missing or captured. The Federals reported similar losses of 175 killed, 813 wounded and 264 missing or captured. The wounded from both sides were treated in makeshift hospitals both on the field and in nearby Fayetteville. Hundreds of them died from their wounds.

I will continue posting on the Prairie Grove Campaign tomorrow. To learn more, please visit

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December 6, 1862: The Battle of Reed's Mountain

Scene of Heavy Fighting on Reed's Mountain
One of the least known Arkansas actions of the Civil War took place 149 years ago today on the slopes of Reed's Mountain.
Two of General John S. Marmaduke's three Confederate cavalry brigades had pushed Union pickets up the Cove Creek Road the previous day and taken position at Morrow's Station (see yesterday's post, Hindman moves into the Boston Mountains). On the morning of December 6, 1862, the Confederates deployed west of the Cove Creek Road and attacked the Federal troops positioned on Reed's Mountain, a significant ridge that separates the valley of Cove Creek from the more open country around Cane Hill (now spelled Canehill).

The mountain had been the scene of heavy fighting during the Battle of Cane Hill one week earlier and now offered an ideal blocking position to keep General James G. Blunt's Union army from observing the movements of General Thomas C. Hindman's Confederate force as it emerged from the Boston Mountains.

Deploying on both sides of the rugged road that led from Morrow's Station up and over the mountain to Cane Hill, the 500 men of Colonel J.C. Monroe's regiment-sized Arkansas Brigade moved up the slopes. Fighting on foot, the Confederate cavalrymen pushed resisting Union cavalrymen up the mountain.

Ground from which Federal troops advanced
While this fighting was taking place on the east or south side of the mountain, Union reinforcements from the 2nd and 11th Kandas moved up on the opposite side and occupied a strong position behind a ledge of rocks near the top. Further strength was added by a force of 200 Union-allied Indians that moved around the Federal left.

Monroe's Arkansan's charged the Federal position but were driven back. Refusing to retreat, however, Monroe and his men clung to the sides of Reed's Mountain and continued the fight. For 45 minutes a sharp battle took place as the two sides battled for control of the crest. Finally, however, Monroe was able to position his men in a way that threatened the Union flanks and the Federal force gave way and withdrew down the opposite side of the mountain. The victorious Confederates seized the crest.

With night falling, General Blunt began massing troops in the rolling lands beyond Reed's Mountain expecting to resume the fight the next morning. Hindman sent Parson's Brigade from French's Division up Reed's Mountain to reinforce Monroe's cavalrymen at the crest:

Brig. Gen. Francis J. Herron, U.S.A.
This being the situation of affairs, the several commanders of divisions were assembled on the night of the 6th to receive final instructions, when I learned a further re-enforcement of from 4,000 to 6,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry, with 30 cannon, under Brigader-General Herron, was then at Fayetteville, on the way to Cane Hill, making forced marches....There was a possibility that I might, by adopting a different plan, destroy the re-enfrocements and afterward fight the main body upon equal terms. To withdraw without fighting at all, would discourage my own troops and so embolden the enemy as to insure his following me up. His sudden concentration of troops justified the opinion that a movement against me was intended at any event. Influenced by these considerations, I determined to risk an engagement. - Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman, C.S.A., December 25, 1862.

Hindman adjusted his plan quickling in view of the  much bigger opportunity that had presented itself. If he could keep enough men on the mountain to decoy Blunt into believing a major battle was developing, he could move his main army straight up the Cove Creek Road and emerge into the open between Cane Hill and Fayetteville. From that point he could turn up the Fayetteville Road and destroy Herron's force in detail as it came down the road on its way to reinforce Blunt at Cane Hill. If all went well, the Confederates could then turn back on Blunt himself, corner him, and wipe him out.

The stage was set for the massive Battle of Prairie Grove that would be fought on the ridges and prairies of Washington County the next day. I will have more on that tomorrow.

To learn more about the Battle of Reed's Mountain, please visit

To learn more about the Battle of Prairie Grove, please visit

Monday, December 5, 2011

December 5, 1862: Hindman moves into the Boston Mountains, Skirmishing Begins

Cove Creek Road
General Hindman's Confederate army left its bivouac at Oliver's store in northern Crawford County (see The March to Prairie Grove Continues...) on the morning of December 5th, 149 years ago today. The Battle of Prairie Grove was now only two days away.

As the infantrymen trudged north on the Cove Creek Road, which intersected with the Telegraph (Wire) Road at Oliver's, they knew a hard fight was coming. The urgency of the officers, the sudden move into the mountains, the rumors sweeping through the ranks all combined to create a buzz of both fear and anticipation among the men. They also knew enough of the country to know that the day's march would be a difficult one.

Hindman described the road taken by his force:

Old Road from Morrow's Station to Cane Hill
...[The road] turns to the left from the Telegraph road at Oliver's, 19 miles above Van Buren, follows the valley of Cove Creek to the foot of the mountains, and, after crossing, passes through a succession of defiles, valleys, and prairies, reaching Fayetteville from a southwesterly direction. At Morrow's, 15 miles above Oliver's, the Cove Creek road sends a branch direct to Newburg, 7 miles distant. - Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman, C.S.A., December 25, 1862.

As discussed in yesterday's post, the Morrow's mentioned here should not be confused with the modern community of Morrow (a few miles southwest of Cane Hill). There was a community called Morrow's in existence at that site in 1862, but the Morrow's referred to by Hindman was actually Morrow's Station, a stop on the Cove Creek Road. The community of Newburg mentioned in his report was one of the three villages located along the Cane Hill ridge.

Marmaduke's cavalry division was moving up into the mountains well ahead of Hindman's man force, scouting for any sign of Federal activity. He reported his strength by brigade as: Carroll's (under Col. J.C. Monroe), 500 effective men, Shelby's (under Col. Jo. Shelby), 1,100 effective men and MacDonald's (under Col. Emmett MacDonald), 700 effective men. This put the total Confederate cavalry strength at around 2,300 men.

Map showing key positions of Hindman's Advance
Click Map to Enlarge
The three cavalry brigades had been moving parallel to each other along the Cove Creek, Line and Telegraph Roads. Monroe crossed over on the 5th, however, and united with Shelby on the Cove Creek Road about 10 miles north of Oliver's. McDonald, meanwhile, continued to advance north from Oliver's store on the Telegraph (Wire) Road, watching for any sign of the enemy to Hindman's right.

Gen. John S. Marmaduke, C.S.A.
It did not take long for the Confederate horsemen to run into their Union counterparts. Federal cavalry was out picketing the Cove Creek and Telegraph Roads. The Southern cavalry pushed them and the Union pickets fell back ahead of them. As Shelby near Morrow's Station, however, he encountered a stronger Federal force and called a halt for the night.

Hindman had hoped to reach Morrow's with his infantry by the night of December 5, 1862. On paper this was a reasonable goal, as he estimated the distance from Oliver's store up the Cove Creek Road to that place to be around 15 miles, the standard day's march for an infantry force. The terrain, however, was much more difficult than he expected and his men were hungry, weak and unable to keep up the necessary pace. Instead of over-exerting them, he called a halt a few miles south of Morrow's and allowed his men to rest for the night.

The first heavy fighting of what would develop into the Battle of Prairie Grove would take place on Reed's Mountain between Morrow's Station and Cane Hill the next day.

I will continue posting on the Prairie Grove Campaign tomorrow. Until then, you can read more at

Sunday, December 4, 2011

December 4, 1862: The March to Prairie Grove Continues...

Road followed by part of Hindman's Army
The more than 11,000 Confederates of General Thomas C. Hindman's Corps continued to move north from Van Buren 149 years ago today, pushing past Dripping Springs and into the edge of the mountains.
By nightfall the slow moving army had reached Oliver's store, then a well known landmark in northern Crawford County. Located north of Dripping Springs at the point where several roads merged as they came down out of the mountains, Oliver's was often mentioned in the reports of both armies during the Civil War. Hindman brought his men to a halt here and allowed them to rest as best they could through the night of December 4th.

They were so exhausted that they probably slept some, but hunger and cold kept many of them awake. His ill-supplied force was simply not able to move at the pace that Hindman had hoped, but he wisely opted not to repeat the mistakes made by Confederates earlier in the year when they outran their supplies and exhausted themselves prior to the Battle of Pea Ridge. The night of the 4th, then, was spent letting the men rest and eat as best as they could while his supply wagons and artillery came up.

View from Reeds Mountain down to Morrow's Station
Marmaduke's cavalry, numbering about 2,000, was pushed into the Boston Mountains on the 4th to watch for any signs of enemy scounting parties and also to check the condition of the roads. Hindman hopes to advance as far as Morrow's House the next day.

Morrow's House, or Morrow's Station, was actually a small settlement on Cove Creek a few miles southeast of Cane Hill (today spelled Canehill). The site is often confused with the modern community of Morrow, which is number of miles west of the point targeted by Hindman in 1862. Important roads then had stopping points or stations where travelers could get food for themselves and their horses or stop for the night. Morrow's Station was one such point, located where the road coming down Reeds Mountain from Cane Hill intersected with the Cove Creek Road.

1880 Map of Cane Hill area.
Morrow's Station is at lower right.
Morrow's Station was an important strategic point for Hindman. If he could get his army across the mountains and emerge there before the Union army knew he was coming, he would be in an excellent position for the coming battle. 

The Confederate general's plan was to concentrate his force at Morrow's Station. Marmaduke's cavalry would then continue up the Cove Creek Road and then turn northwest on the Maysville Road. This would allow the Southern horsemen to hit General Blunt's Union army on its left flank and from the rear.  At the same time, Hindman would advance with the infantry and most of the artillery up the road over Reeds Mountain and hit the Federals head on from excellent ground. If he could move as planned, the Confederate commander had a good chance of smashing the Union force occupying Cane Hill.

I will continue posting on the Prairie Grove Campaign over coming days, so be sure to check back regularly. To learn more until then, please visit

Also be sure to scroll down here to read more about the early stages of the campaign.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

December 3, 1862: The March to Prairie Grove Begins

Crawford County Courthouse
Van Buren, Arkansas
On December 3, 1862, 149 years ago today, Confederate Major General Thomas C. Hindman began his march from Van Buren into the Boston Mountains. The move would reach its climactic moment four days later at the massive Battle of Prairie Grove.
Hindman's army consisted of the First Corps of what Confederate reports called the Trans-Mississippi Army. The column put in motion on the 3rd included roughly 9,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 22 pieces of field artillery. Supplies were limited and he did not have enough shoes or arms for all of his men and was forced to leave many behind.

Hindman's primary objective was Union Brigadier General James G. Blunt's force at Cane Hill. When Blunt had attacked and taken Cane Hill (now spelled Canehill) on December 28, he had placed himself in an advanced position far from the support of other Union troops under Brigadier General Francis J. Herron in southern Missouri. Hindman quickly recognized this opportunity and hoped to sweep across the mountains and destory Blunt before he could be reinforced:

Boston Mountains
...My intention was to attack Brigadier-General Blunt, on Cane Hill, reported to have between 7,000 and 8,000 men and 30 cannon. I expected... to return immediately after the engagement, having barely ammunition enough for one battle, and not sufficient subsistence and forage for seven days at half rations. These meager supplies had been accumulated with extreme difficulty by hauling in wagons of the general train and regiments 80 miles, my transportation being very limited, the country around me entirely exhausted, and the river two low for navigation. - Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman, December 25, 1862.

Hindman acknowledged at the time that his supply situation had become critical and he anticipated having to move his army to Little Rock soon. He felt for the security of the Arkansas River valley, however, that he needed to drive off Blunt before he went.

Marmaduke's cavalry division moved out ahead of the main force, leaving Dripping Springs with the main body of his horsemen on the Telegraph or Wire road that ran largely along ridge tops through the Boston Mountains. Smaller bodies of Confederate cavalry moved up parallel roads, scouting ahead of the infantry and artillery.

Van Buren, Arkansas
Confederate base in thePrairie Grove Campaign
To the west in the Cherokee Nation, Colonel Stand Watie was ordered to advance with his command to the community of Evansville on the Arkansas line. When he heard the sounds of battle, he was to move forward and, if possible, attack and take the enemy's supply wagons.

The main body then moved north on the Telegraph road from Van Buren, heading for the mountains. The column was long and the men were weak and hungry even before they started their march. As a result, the progress of the march was extremely slow. It would take three days for Hindman to emerge from the mountains at Prairie Grove, a distance that can be driven today by car in just a few minutes over an hour.

The move into the mountains was a bold gamble by Hindman, but one that had a good chance of working if he could put his army into position near Cane Hill before Blunt realized what was up. Destroying Blunt's command would open the door to all kinds of possibilities, the least of which would be the reoccupation of Northwest Arkansas by Confederate forces for the winter.  Hindman was careful not to give this as an objective, but the idea must have been on his mind.

I will continue to post on the Prairie Grove campaign over coming days, so be sure to check back regularly. Until the next post, you can read more about the Battle of Prairie Grove by visiting

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November 30, 1862 - Confederate Cavalry returns to Dripping Springs

Dripping Springs, Arkansas
Having been pushed out of their advanced position in the fighting on the 28th (see The Battle of Cane Hill), General John S. Marmaduke and his three brigades of Confederate cavalry returned to their camps at Dripping Springs on November 30, 1862, 149 years ago today.
Located about 9 miles north of the historic Crawford County Courthouse in Van Buren, Dripping Springs takes its name from a spring that bubbles from a hillside. Because it allowed Confederate cavalry to watch the key roads leading south over the Boston Mountains to Van Buren and the Arkanasas River, the crossroads was a key position for the placement of Marmaduke's small division.

Gen. Thomas C. Hindman, C.S.A.
Across the mountains to the north, General James G. Blunt and his Union army settled into new camps at Cane Hill. Blunt did not know it, but his decision to remain at this point created a window of opportunity for the overall Confederate commander at Van Buren, General Thomas Hindman.

Hindman had enough ammunition for one good battle and only enough supplies to maintain his position at Van Buren and Fort Smith for a short time longer before he would be forced to move his command down the Arkansas River to Little Rock in order to obtain provisions and other necessities. He hoped to accomplish something significant before being forced to withdraw and was carefully watching the positioning of Union troops in Northwest Arkansas.

Van Buren and the Arkansas River
As seen from Logtown Hill
When Blunt established his new camp at Cane Hill instead of returning to Camp Babcock north of Siloam Springs, he placed himself almost beyond reach of reinforcements. Since Hindman knew he had little chance of prevailing if the Blunt's command was reinforced by General Francis J. Herron's division, then in southern Missouri, he was hoping for a chance to strike one of the two forces and destroy it before the other could reinforce it. Blunt provided him that opportunity and he began making immediate preparations to take advantage of it.

Over the next two days, the Confederate forces at Van Buren and Dripping Springs did everything they could to get their arms, supplies and horses ready for a move in force across the Boston Mountains. Hindman hoped to corner Blunt at Cane Hill and destroy him. Using ammunition captured in this battle, he could then turn on Herron's division as it came down from Missouri to save Blunt.

It was an interesting plan with a reasonable prospect of success.  It would lead seven days later to the massive Battle of Prairie Grove.

I will continue posting on the Prairie Grove Campaign over coming days, so be sure to check back regularly.  Until the next post, you can read more about the Battle of Prairie Grove at

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November 29, 1862: Casualties of the Battle of Cane Hill

Fayetteville Confederate Cemetery
Some of the Southern casualties are buried here.
The morning of November 29, 1862, dawned on two exhausted military forces. The Battle of Cane Hill, fought the previous day, had been a long and difficult fight, waged up and down mountains and with no time to rest or eat.

Taking advantage of the night, the outnumbered Confederates had fallen back into the Boston Mountains and by the 30th would be back at their original camps around Dripping Springs in Crawford County. The Federals, stunned by the ferocity of the Southern ambush that ended the day's fighting, held their positions near Reed's Mountain through the night and then General Blunt moved most of his men back into the villages at Cane Hill on the 29th (149 years ago today).

Fayetteville National Cemetery
Union dead were relocated here after the war.
Both sides mourned the killing or wounding of good men, the exact numbers of which are difficult to determine.

General Blunt reported his total casualties as 4 killed and 36 wounded (4 mortally). This is probably close to accurate. I have been working on trying to assemble an accurate casualty list for both sides and while this is a work in progress, so far the numbers are bearing out Blunt's statement.

The following Federal officers and enlisted men were killed or mortally wounded at the Battle of Cane Hill:

Rabb’s Battery, 2nd Indiana Light Artillery

William E. Foster, Killed
Henry Williams , Killed

 (Note: Henry Williams was one of two men of this name in Rabb’s Battery. This one was from Indianapolis.)

 2nd Kansas Cavalry

Cyrenius M. Adams, Company K, Killed

6th Kansas Cavalry

Lewis R. Jewell, Lt. Col., Field & Staff, Mortally Wounded
Andrew Stillwagon, Company A, Mortally Wounded
Eugene Steohr, Company A, Killed
William Speeks, Company D, Mortally Wounded
George H. Richie, Sgt., Company K, Mortally Wounded

Fairview Cemetery in Van Buren
Some Confederate casualties are buried here.

Confederate casualties are much more difficult to assess. Blunt estimated total Southern losses as 75 killed and an unknown number wounded. This is wildly inaccurate.

I have just begun working on trying to identify the Confederate soldiers killed and wounded in the battle so my lists are very incomplete. The best I can do right now is give the partial numbers included in the official reports of the battle. These list Southern casualties as 5 killed, 30 wounded and 6 missing in action. These numbers include only two men from Shelby's Brigade, which suffered other men killed or wounded.

After I complete my work on the casualty lists from the battle, I will be sure to post the final numbers along with lists of the names. If you have the name of a soldier known to have been killed or wounded at Cane Hill, please leave a comment. I will verify it and include it on the list.

I will continue posting on the Prairie Grove Campaign throughout this week, so be sure to check back often. 

If you would like to read more on the Battle of Cane Hill, please visit

To read more about the Battle of Prairie Grove, please visit

Monday, November 28, 2011

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

Historical Marker at Canehill, Arkansas
The first major fighting of the Prairie Grove Campaign took place 149 years ago today when Federal troops attacked three Confederate cavalry brigades at Cane Hill, Arkansas (now spelled Canehill).
Having advanced from his position at Camp Babcock north of Siloam Springs on November 27, 1862 (see An Attack in the Making), Union General James G. Blunt reached Cane Hill between 9 and 10 o'clock on the morning of the 28th. His force consisted of 5,000 men and 30 pieces of field artillery.

The Confederate force at Cane Hill was commanded by General John S. Marmaduke. Although Blunt reported that the Southern force numbered 8,000 men, the actual number was much smaller. The Confederates were severely outnumbered in terms of both men and artillery.

1880 Map of Cane Hill, Arkansas
The battle began near Cane Hill College at the top and
ended near Morrow's at the lower right.
The Battle of Cane Hill began when Blunt's forces attacked the Missouri brigade of Colonel "Fighting" Jo Shelby. These men were camped in the northernmost of the three villages along the Cane Hill ridge and although Shelby had been warned that the Federals were coming, he admitted that he was taken by surprise:

Having had due notice (eighteen hours previous) by the general commanding that the enemy were advancing, we endeavored to be on the alert, but I must confess (though it may reflect somewhat upon myself) that the enemy, by his skillful management, fell upon me sooner than I would have desired, considering that a portion of our division was encamped some distance in my rear and I had but little time to give them the notice required; yet I had sufficient time to place my men in their proper positions and await the coming of the hated foe. - Col. Joseph O. Shelby, Dec. 1, 1862.

Having pushed back Shelby's pickets in brisk skirmishing, Blunt moved up Captain John W. Rabb's Battery (2nd Indiana Light Artillery) along with the two light howitzers of the Second Kansas Cavalry. 

Site of Confederate Stand on Reed's Mountain
Each side later claimed that the other opened first. For the next hour or so, Shelby's two iron 6-pounders battled with the superior firepower of the Union guns. As this cannonade was underway, General Marmaduke came to the front and consulted with Shelby, who reported he had seen infantry supporting the Federal cannon. Viewing the situation in person, Marmaduke ordered Shelby to fall back to a high ridge 3/4's of a mile south where Colonel Emmett MacDonald had taken position with his cavalry brigade.

As the Confederates withdrew to their second position, the Federals followed and again formed for battle. After a sharp fight, the Southern forces again fell back to a previously identified third position.

This type of fight continued for the entire day. The outnumbered Confederates would take a good position, force the Federals to form lines of battle and bring forward their artillery and then, after a sharp encounter, fall back on yet another good position. The overall effect was that the Confederates were able to fight a slow retreat on ground of their own choosing throughout the day, instead of being routed from a single position by the much larger Union army.

The fight went back through the villages on Cane Hill and up and over Reed's Mountain into the Cove Creek valley.With darkness approaching and believing Marmaduke was now in full retreat, the Federals launched a direct cavalry attack down the Cove Creek road - and right into a trap.

Site of Ambush on Cove Creek Road
Taking advantage of a position where a steep bluff forced the road to run along a narrow strip or land or "funnel" between the rocks and the creek, the Confederates set up an ambush and the Union cavalry rode right into it:

The charge continued for about half a mile down the valley, to a point where it converged in a funnel shape, terminating in a narrow defile. At this point a large body of the enemy were in ambush in front and upon the flanks, where cavalry could not approach, with their battery also masked in front. As soon as the party we were pursuing had passed through the defile, they opened upon us a most destructive fire, which, for the moment, caused my men to recoil and give back, in spite of my own efforts and those of other officers to rally them... - Gen. James G. Blunt, Dec. 3, 1862.

A Confederate counterattack was driven back when officers - including General Blunt - were able to rally three companies of the Sixth Kansas Cavalry.

With darkness descending, the Battle of Cane Hill came to an end. The Confederates sent forward a flag of truce asking for a suspension of hostilities to remove their casualties from the field and the Federals agreed. Both sides took care of their wounded and during the night, Marmaduke and his cavalry slipped away into the Boston Mountains.

Casualties were fairly light considering the severity of the fighting and numbers of men involved, but this likely was the result of the nature of the fight with its constant stops and starts. I will look closer at the numbers in my next post.

The Battle of Cane Hill was a Union victory and as the day came to an end, Blunt and his men occupied the former Confederate positions. By winning the battle, however, he unwittingly played right into the hands of overall Confederate commander General Thomas C. Hindman, who was planning a much bigger operation.

To learn more about the Battle of Cane Hill, please visit

To learn more about the Battle of Prairie Grove, please visit

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November 27, 1862: An Attack in the Making

College Road in Canehill, Arkansas
The news that the Confederate cavalry had crossed the Boston Mountains and occupied Cane Hill (see First Skirmish near Cane Hill), prompted the always aggressive Union General James G. Blunt into action.

Having sent out cavalry units on the 25th to skirmish with Confederate scouting units between his camp north of Siloam Springs and the Southern camps at Cane Hill, Blunt decided to attack. Even though he claimed in his reports that the Confederate cavalry numbered 8,000 men (the actual number was fewer than 3,000), the Union general organized an army of only 5,000 men to strike against them.

On November 27, 1862, 149 years ago today, the Federals moved out:

Gen. John S. Marmaduke, C.S.A.
Early on the morning of the 27th, I ordered all my transportation and commissary trains parked on Lindsey’s Prairie, and, after detailing a sufficient guard for its protection, I commenced my march, with about 5,000 men and thirty pieces of artillery, the men taking with them four days’ rations of hard bread and salt. The distance to be traveled to reach the enemy was 35 miles, of which 25 were made by 7 p.m. on the 27th, when the command bivouacked for the night. From that point I sent spies into the enemy’s camp, and learned that there pickets were strongly posted on the main road (on which I was advancing), and that it could be easily defended. - Brig. Gen. James G. Blunt, Dec. 3, 1862.

In the Confederate camps, meanwhile, General John S. Marmaduke knew that Federal troops were to the north in large force, but did not know they were on the move. His three brigades were not unified, but instead one was camped in each of the three large villages along the Cane Hill ridge. Although it was not really planned, this would allow him to fight a staggered or tiered defense the next day when Blunt attacked.

The Battle of Cane Hill would take place the next day and I will post about it tomorrow. To learn more in the meantime, please visit

The events were prelimaries of the coming Battle of Prairie Grove. You can read more about it anytime at

Friday, November 25, 2011

November 25, 1862: First Skirmish near Cane Hill

Bell Tower at Cane Hill College
Having occupied the three villages at Cane Hill on November 24, 1862 (see yesterday's post), General John S. Marmaduke pushed scouting parties of Confederate troops north up the roads leading from the community.
The purpose was to find out if any Union troops were in the immediate vicinity of the three small cavalry brigades that Marmaduke had brought across the Boston Mountains. It did not take long before at least one of these small forces collided with Federal cavalry that was moving in the same area.

Gen. James G. Blunt, U.S.
General James G. Blunt, commanding the Union division Bcamped about 30 miles north at Camp Babcock (near today's Siloam Springs), reported that his cavalry forces engaged a large Confederate reconnoitering force somewhere between his camp and Cane Hill on November 25th (149 years ago today).  His men, he reported, "scattered" the Confederate cavalry, which fell back on its support at Cane Hill.  Neither side reported any casualties in the encounter.

A more serious concern for the Confederates, but one unknown to Marmaduke, was the presence of Union spies at Cane Hill. The identities of these men were never made public, but they spent the 25th collecting information on the Confederate brigades information that would be relayed to the Union forces the next day.

The spies, based on Blunt's reports, were not the best. They estimated there were 8,000 or more Confederate cavalrymen camped at Cane Hill, when the actual number was roughly one-third of that estimate. They did, however, obtain good information on the disposition of the three Confederate brigades, intelligence that Blunt would use to plan his coming attack on Cane Hill.

The Confederates, meanwhile, were active behind enemy lines as well. In a report to his commanding officer in Missouri, Blunt reported that units of Southern cavalry were hovering along supply lines trying to interrupt the movement of his supply wagons down from Missouri.

I will continue posting on the Prairie Grove Campaign over coming days, so be sure to check back often through the holiday weekend. Until the next post, you can read more at