December 7

This Day in History

Civil War

Dec 7, 1862:

Yankess and Rebels clash at the Battle of Prairie Grove

On this day in 1862, northwestern Arkansas and southwestern Missouri are secured for the Union when a force commanded by General James G. Blunt holds off a force of Confederates under General Thomas Hindman at the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas.

Hindman assembled a force at Fort Smith, Arkansas, to make an attempt to recapture territory lost during the Pea Ridge campaign of early 1862. He planned to cross the Boston Mountains into northwestern Arkansas and then Missouri, but the Union Army of the Frontier, commanded by John Schofield, made a preemptive move to Maysville, Arkansas. Schofield had to leave the army due to illness, and Blunt assumed command. When Hindman sent an advance detachment of cavalry under John Marmaduke through the mountains in late November, Blunt moved south and defeated Marmaduke in a minor engagement at Cane Hill.

After Cane Hill, Hindman moved his 11,000-man army across the Boston Mountains and approached Blunt's 5,000 troops. Hindman prepared to attack, but was surprised by the approach of Union reinforcements from Missouri. In one of the most dramatic marches of the entire war, Union General Francis Herron had moved 7,000 reinforcements more than 110 miles in three and a half days. Hindman turned to face Herron, but then took up defensive positions in Prairie Grove. Herron arrived and attacked Hindman on December 7. Herron sent only half of his force to the assault, believing that this was only part of Hindman's force. Outnumbered nearly three to one, Herron's attack failed. Hindman ordered a counterattack, but it was repulsed with heavy loses. Hearing noise from the battle, Blunt moved toward Prairie Grove and attacked Hindman later that day. This, too, failed, as did another Confederate counterattack.

Darkness ended the engagement with the Confederates still holding the high ground at Prairie Grove. The battle was a tactical draw but Hindman's army was running low on ammunition. Confederate losses amounted to more than 1,400 killed and wounded, while the Yankees lost more than 1,200. Hindman retreated back to Fort Smith, and the region was secured for the Union.

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