|Union and Confederate troops
had frequently skirmished in the vicinity of Honey Springs Depot. The Union
commander in the area, Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt, correctly surmised
that Confederate forces, mostly Native American troops under the command of Brig.
Gen. Douglas H. Cooper, were about to attack his force at Fort
Gibson. He decided to defeat the them at Honey Springs before they were
joined by reinforcements from Fort Smith, Arkansas.
|Blunt crossed the
Arkansas River on July 15, 1863 with a force of 3,000 men, composed of
whites, Native Americans, and African Americans and marched toward Honey
Springs. Blunt skirmished with Rebel troops early on the morning of
the 17th and full-scale fighting began by mid-afternoon. The
Confederates had wet powder, causing misfires, and the problem intensified
when rain began. After repulsing one attack, Cooper
pulled his forces back to obtain new ammunition. Cooper learned
that Blunt was about to turn his left flank and ordered a retreat.
After this battle, Union forces controlled Indian Territory, north of the
|The Battle of Honey Springs
was one of the earliest engagements in which blacks proved their qualities as
fighting men. General Blunt praised the blacks and said in his
official report on the battle: "The First Kansas (colored) particularly
distinguished itself; they fought like veterans, and preserved their line
unbroken throughout the engagement. Their coolness and bravery I have never
seen surpassed; they were in the hottest of the fight, and opposed to Texas
troops twice their number, whom they completely routed. One Texas regiment
(the 20th Cavalry) that fought against them went into the fight with 300 men
and came out with only sixty."