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

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