Prairie Grove, AR

[Campaign Reenactment at Prairie Grove - Courtesy of Arkansas.com]

Date(s): December 7, 1862

Location: Please click on link below for map.

Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park (state park), Arkansas, United States

Campaign(s): Prairie Grove Campaign [1862]

Battles in Campaign:

Situation:

  • After the Union victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge, General Samuel Curtis continued his invasion of northern Arkansas with the hope of reaching the capital city of Little Rock.

  • Curtis ordered General John M. Schofield to drive the Confederate forces out of southwestern Missouri and penetrate northwestern Arkansas.

  • Schofield divided his Army of the Frontier into two parts, one to remain near Springfield commanded by General Francis J. Herron and the other commanded by General James G. Blunt to probe into northwest Arkansas.

  • Schofield became ill and overall command passed to General Blunt.

  • As Blunt took command the two wings of his army were dangerously far apart.

  • Confederate General Thomas C. Hindman, commander of the First Corps of the Trans-Mississippi Army, saw the Union's precarious tactical position and received permission to mount an expedition into northwest Arkansas.

  • Hindman hoped to catch the Union army in its divided state, destroy it in detail, and open the way for an invasion of Missouri.

  • Hindman's force gathered at Fort Smith, Arkansas and sent out approximately 2,000 cavalry under General John S. Marmaduke to harass Blunt's forces and screen the main Confederate force.

  • Blunt moved forward with his 5,000 men and 30 artillery pieces to meet Marmaduke.

  • On November 28th the forces clashed in a nine-hour running battle known as the Battle of Cane Hill.

  • Marmaduke was pushed back but Blunt found himself 35 miles deeper into Arkansas and that much farther from the remainder of his army.

  • On December 3rd Hindman started moving his main body of 11,000 poorly equipped men and 22 cannon across the Boston Mountains toward Blunt's division.

  • Blunt ordered Herron to come to his support from Springfield.

  • Blunt set up defensive positions around Cane Hill to wait for Herron.

  • On December 6th  Hindman learned of Herron's movement from Springfield and decided that he would move north and intercept Herron before he could reinforce Blunt.

  • Hindman bypassed Blunt's force and moved northward with Marmaduke's cavalry in the lead.

  • Meanwhile, Herron's divisions had performed an amazing forced march to come to Blunt's rescue and met Marmaduke's probing cavalry south of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

  • Afraid that Blunt would be able to attack his rear, and facing Herron to the north, Hindman chose instead to set up a defensive position atop a line of low hills near Prairie Grove, Arkansas.

Commanders:

  • Union: Brig. Gen. Francis J. Herron and Brig. Gen. James G. Blunt

  • Confederate: Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman

Principal Forces:

  • Union: Army of the Frontier (9,216)

  • Confederate: First Corps, Trans-Mississippi Army (11,059)

Description:

  • Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman wanted to destroy Brig. Gen. Francis Herronís and Brig. Gen. James Bluntís divisions before they joined forces.

  • Hindman placed his large force between the two Union divisions.

  • The Confederate forces attacked Herron first and routed the Union cavalry.

  • As Hindman pursued the cavalry, he met Herronís infantry which pushed the Confederates back.

  • The Confederates established their line of battle on a wooded high ridge northeast of Prairie Grove Church.

  • Herron brought his artillery across the Illinois River and began an artillery duel with Hindman's batteries.

  • The Union troops attacked twice but were repulsed.

  • The Confederate counterattack was slowed by Union artillery firing canister.

  • Just when it looked as if the Confederate attack would roll up Herronís troops, Bluntís men attacked the Confederate left flank.

  • By nightfall, neither side had won.

  • With the battle a stalemate, Hindman retreated to Van Buren and the Union established control of northwest Arkansas.

Photo Gallery:2

Description of the Battle of Prairie Grove

Prairie Grove Battlefield Visitor Center

Diorama of the Battle of Prairie Grove

Diorama of the Battle of Prairie Grove

Diorama of the Battle of Prairie Grove

Diorama of the Battle of Prairie Grove

Diorama of the Battle of Prairie Grove

Cannon Balls

Canister

Mountain Howitzer

Officer's Tent

Morrow House - Confederate Headquarters

Rhea's Mill - Battle Monument

Major General Thomas C. Hindman Monument

General James G. Blunt and General Francis J. Herron Monument

The Battlefield Trail provides a view of the eastern end of the battlefield where some of the heaviest fighting took place. The trail is a on-mile loop that follows the ridge, crosses the valley, and returns to the top of the slope.

On Sunday December 7, 1862, over 2,500 casualties occurred during the Battle of Prairie Grove.

Description of the 34th Arkansas Regiment role in the battle with a list of the unit's officers.

As part of General James F. Fagan's Arkansas Infantry Brigade, the 34th Akansas took position from the ravine west to the Fayetteville-Cane Hill Road. The men from companies B and K were from the Cane Hill and Praries Grove areas.

The 29th Arkansas Infantry was next in line, occupying this ravine at the start of the battle. The regiment suffered 49% casualties including its commander, Col. Joseph Pleasants.

The dead of Prarie Grove

Herron's Attack

The four bronze cannons in Blocher's Arkansas Battery attracted the attention of General Herron who ordered that they be taken. The 20th Wisconsin charged up the hill and captured them, before being driven back by larger Confederate forces.

The heaviest casualties were around the Achibald Border house and orchard.

Colonel Joseph Orville Shelby's dismounted cavalry protected the Confederate army's right flank. The unit, which was armed with shotguns, waited until the Union forces were within 40 yards before firing.

After stopping the Confederate counterattack, General Herron ordered a second charge by the 37th Illinois and 26th Indiana regiments. These units advanced up the slope under heavy small arms fire.

Forced to fall back, the Union soldiers took a position behind the remnants of a fence at the foot of the ridge, where they rallied and faced another Confederate counterattack. Effective fire blunted the Southern assault which fell back up the ridge. This ended the haevy fighting on the eastern end of the battlefield.

The Aday Post Office and several family homes were in the line of fire throughout the battle and sustained damage. The four families that lived on the ridge hid in the cellar on William Morton's farm.

The 20th Iowa Infantry was awaiting another Southern attack when the two cannon balls landed among the regiment about 3 pm. Fearing that the Confederates were behind them, two companies quickly turned to face the new threat, only to discover the shells were signals announcing the arrival of General Blunt's Union forces.

Apple Orchard

Morton Overlook

Morton Overlook

Morton Overlook

Morton Overlook

Morton Overlook

Morton Overlook

Morton Overlook

 

Classification3: B

Casualties4:

  • Union: 1,251

  • Confederate: 1,317

Results: Union Victory

Battlefield Websites:

Lodging and Restaurants: Arkansas Tourism

Recommended Resources:


1 National Park Service summary.

2 Please click on the image to enlarge it. You may copy the images if you include the following note and link with each image: "Courtesy of civil-war-journeys.org."

3 Classification:

  • A - having a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war

  • B - having a direct and decisive influence on their campaign

  • C - having observable influence on the outcome of a campaign

  • D - having a limited influence on the outcome of their campaign or operation but achieving or affecting important local objectives

4 Casualties are someone killed, injured, wounded, captured or missing.

Revised 03/24/2012