On this day in 1862, during the Battle of Cane Hill, Union troops under General John Blunt drive Confederates under General John Marmaduke back into the Boston Mountains in northwestern Arkansas.
The battle was part of a Confederate attempt topush the Yankees back into Missouri and recapture ground lost during the Pea Ridge campaign of early 1862, when Union forces secured parts of northern Arkansas. Now, Confederate General Thomas Hindman moved his army of 11,000 soldiers into Fort Smith, Arkansas, and prepared to move across the Boston Mountains into the extreme northwestern corner of the state. Awaiting him there was Blunt with 5,000 troops. Hindman hoped to attack Blunt’s force, which was over 70 miles from the nearest Union reinforcements. The Rebel general dispatched Marmaduke and 2,000 cavalry troopers to hold Blunt in place. Meanwhile, Hindman moved the rest of his force through the mountains.
Blunt disrupted the Confederate plan by advancing south when he heard of Marmaduke’s approach. Marmaduke was not prepared to meet Blunt, who was 35 miles further south than expected. Marmaduke’s troops were surprised and outnumbered when Blunt suddenly attacked on November 28. Marmaduke began a hasty retreat and ordered General Joseph Shelby to fight a delaying action while the rest of the Confederates headed for the mountains. Blunt pursued Marmaduke’s forces for 12 miles before the Confederates reached the safety of the hills. Though the conflict lasted for nine hours, casualties were light. The Yankees suffered 41 men killed or wounded, while the Confederates lost 45.
This small engagement was a prelude to a much larger clash at Prairie Grove, Arkansas, nine days later. Blunt’s advance left him dangerously isolated from Union forces in Springfield, Missouri, but when Hindman attacked again on December 7, he still failed to expel Blunt from northwestern Arkansas.