One hundred and fifty years ago the Confederate and Federal armies clashed in what was the last major engagement during the War Between the States in North West Arkansas leaving that section of the state in Union hands throughout the remaining of the War. Following an engagement on November 30, 1862 at Cane Hill (near Fayetteville), Federal General James Blunt called for reinforcement from out of Missouri to hold off an imminent Confederate advance on his position. As Confederate cavalry attacked Blunt’s pickets, the Rebel Army smashed into the arriving Federal column between Fayetteville and Cane Hill. The engagement was named for the nearby church, “Prairie Grove.”
The battle was fought on December 7, 1862. As the Federals were routed back toward Fayetteville with Confederate cavalry hot on their heels, the skirmishing lasted a while “before falling back to the top of Prairie Grove ridge, where the Confederate artillery and infantry were already in line of battle in the woods.” (Encyclopedia of Arkansas)
A telegraph send to General Hindman on the date of the battle outlined some military intelligence regarding Blunt’s numbers prior to the engagement: “You have the entire federal force in your front – and nothing to fear from the rear. (9) nine, regiments of infantry and three of cavalry were the forces which were marching to reinforce [James G.] Blunt. the cavalry joined Blunt last night. The whole force that will engage you tomorrow, I think may be safely put down at 11 (eleven) regiments of infantry, And about 12 or 15 of cavalry – in all about 15000 men They have in all 54 pieces of artillery.”
As the battle raged throughout the day, the Confederate army exhausted their ammunition supply and was forced to retreat from the battlefield. Most historians view the battle as a tactical draw. According to a telegram sent by Confederate General Hindman to Marmaduke following the battle, all captured Negros from the Battle of Prairie Grove were to be sent to Little Rock to care for the wounded in makeshift hospitals scattered throughout Central Arkansas.