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Setting the Stage

On Dec. 7, 1862, Union forces from the Army of the Frontier and Confederates from the newly formed Army of the Trans-Mississippi clashed on the open corn, wheat, and hay fields of Prairie Grove, Arkansas. The opposing forces had previously fought several minor engagements in Missouri and Arkansas. The battle opened with Confederate cavalry routing some Union cavalry a few miles south of the Prairie Grove Church. The southerners lined up along the Prairie Grove ridge, stretching from the Borden House to the Morton House. There they repelled two bloody attacks by Brig. Gen. Francis J. Herron's Federal troops who had just crossed the Illinois River from the north. The Confederates counterattacked after each Union assault, only to be thrown back by the northern cannons on the north side of the Borden cornfield, which devastated the rebel regiments as they came out of the woods into the open farm fields in the valley. About 2:30 p.m., Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt's Federal troops arrived from Cane Hill and attacked the Confederates on the western end of the ridge near the Morton House. This fighting continued until dark with no advantage gained by either side. The South fell back during the night leaving the battlefield to the Union army. As a result, the Confederates lost control of northwest Arkansas never again attempting, with any sizeable army, to seize northwest Arkansas or invade Missouri.

The Battle of Prairie Grove was practically forgotten, even though it was one of the few Union victories in 1862. Larger and bloodier Civil War battles dominated conversations in the North and South. However, the families in Prairie Grove would forever remember the images of December 7th and the days that followed. Not only did they witness the horror of the battle as it raged across their property, but they endured the subsequent harassment and raiding by Union troops and Confederate bushwhackers.

 

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