Sunday, December 23, 2012

Battle of Van Buren marks 150th this week

Crawford County Courthouse
December 28th will mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Van Buren, Arkansas. The Battle of Dripping Springs, a preliminary action, was fought on the same day, 150 years ago this week.

Over the next few days, I will post on the 150th anniversary of the Union capture of Van Buren, culminating of course with the actual anniversary on Friday.

In December 1862, Van Buren was - as it is today - the county seat of Crawford County, Arkansas. The town had served as the launching point for General Thomas C. Hindman's Prairie Grove Campaign at the beginning of the month and was the point to which the Confederate army returned after that bloody stalemate in Northwest Arkansas.

Both armies had been badly bloodied at the Battle of Prairie Grove, but it was the Confederate army that suffered most as its poorly equipped men limped back over the Boston Mountains to the Arkansas River Valley. The Southern army had been loosely and quickly organized to begin with and their inability to defeat the Union Army of the Frontier at Prairie Grove had taken, at least temporarily, the fight out of the men. They came back south suffering from hunger, cold and a shortage of ammunition and other supplies. Demoralization and sickness stalked their ranks during the days and weeks after the battle.

Van Buren from the Heights
The Union army had also suffered heavily at Prairie Grove, but found itself in possession of the field when the Confederates withdrew during the night of December 7, 1862, giving up their commanding position because they didn't have enough ammunition to continue the fight. This increased the morale of the Federal troops while their counterparts in the Confederate army were suffering a decline at the same time.

Despite the best efforts of General Hindman and his staff, it was the Union army that rebounded from Prairie Grove first. By the last week of December 1862 he knew his men were once again ready for action and he decided to lead them over the Boston Mountains to Van Buren. If he could take the city, he could push the part of Hindman's army not already south of the Arkansas either into or across the river and free - at least temporarily - his position in Northwest Arkansas from any threat of attack for the duration of the winter.

I will continue to post on the Van Buren 150th over coming days, but until then you can read more at