How to Use
Reading 1: The Recollections of Julia West Pyeatt
As a 14-year-old girl, Julia West Pyeatt witnessed the Battle of Prairie Grove from her family home, the Robert West House, on the northwest side of the battlefield. This is her account:
December the 7th, 1862, will long be remembered especially by those of us who lived here and witnessed the Battle at Prairie Grove. It was a beautiful, cold, frosty Sunday morning.... About 10 o'clock the cannonading began and about noon war began in earnest. When it seemed everyone would be killed.... You can never know the horrors of a battle unless you have seen or been in one. The fighting was constant.... Families hunted safety in the cellars. Our home being on the north side, we felt we were comparatively safe and our greatest anxiety was for our relatives, neighbors, and friends so we stood out and watched until dark. The fighting continued as long as the soldiers could see.
All the houses were filled with wounded men. Our house was also filled with General [James G.] Blunt's men. The General himself sleeping in mother's baby crib with his feet hanging over. During the night when dispatches came he would arise up, read it, write answers, or give orders. Men stood and sat around all night with their guns in their hands talking about the fight.... All available beds and bedding was used for the wounded except one bed they left for mother and the children but very few of us slept any....
We were left with hundreds of wounded and dead. For days, people hunted the battle ground for some of their missing people. On Monday [December 8, 1862], we saw four houses burn to the ground that was set on fire by the Federal troops. The homes belonged to Dr. Rogers, William Rogers, Arch Borden, and the White Taylor home. We lived in the house with the wounded for six weeks.
Questions for Reading 1
1. Where did General Blunt sleep on the night of December 7, 1862? How would you decide whether Julia imagined this or was it true? Would this image be something that you might find in a textbook? Why or why not?
2. Why do you think Julia West slept very little the night of the battle?
3. Do you think the West family invited Northern troops into their home? How could you find out?
4. How long did it take the Northern troops to claim their wounded? What does it suggest about the army's priorities in this area?
Reading 1 was excerpted from a memoir of Julia West Pyeatt to her daughter, Mrs. D. N. McCormick (date unknown). Courtesy of Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park.