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

No comments: