The resulting cat-and-mouse games the Confederate and federal armies employed in North West Arkansas comes to a head this week one hundred and fifty years ago. As Confederate supplies dwindled, General Marmaduke sent a forage party to Cane Hill (Washington County) in search of food for his hungry soldiers when 5,000 Federal troops under the command of General Blunt surprised 2,000 rebels. The battle that ensued on November 28, 1862 set into motion a much larger clash that will culminate in a week’s time at Prairie Grove, one of the most decisive battles west of the Mississippi River.
November 28, 1862 was also the day that the Missouri was admitted into the Confederate States of America. In a telegraph dated November 28 to Gideon Pillow, a Mr. Coleman noted that “President Davis signed the act of Congress admitting Missouri into the Confederacy.”
Two days following the engagement at Cane Hill and the resulting lack of logistical support to maintain an efficient and focused army put General Thomas Hindman in a serious situation. In a November 30, 1862 telegraph, General Holmes urges Hindman to heed his advice: “You must not think of advancing in your present condition you would lose your army. The enemy will either advance on you or for the want of supplies be obliged to return to Missouri.”
The fate of Arkansas’ existence as a Confederate state was about to be decided as both armies prepared for a standoff where the winner takes all.