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[438] before replacing Schofield. Totten's soldiers repulsed the charge of the Confederate cavalry in their turn; and while still skirmishing with them, they reached the borders of Illinois Creek, where Hindman, learning of the approach of the Federals, had taken position with all his army. This stream waters the eastern extremity of a prairie which extends for a distance of about twelve or fifteen kilometres from the little church of Prairie Grove on the east, to the Rhea's Mills farm westward. This prairie, to use the phraseology of the Far West, is a vast natural clearing, in the midst of woods and thickets which cover all the surrounding hills. The ground is rough and uneven, and in many places cultivation has superseded the tall grasses which formerly grew there, whilst here and there may occasionally be seen an isolated cluster of trees. The road from Fayetteville to Cane Hill passes at Rhea's Mills; that from Van Buren crosses a ford on Illinois Creek, near the church of Prairie Grove, and then gradually ascends a hill the summit of which is covered with woods, affording excellent means of defence.

When Herron discovered the Confederate army, the whole of it was ranged along these positions; the unclouded sun, which even in winter, in the centre of the American continent, shines brightly, lighted up the field of battle, enabling the Federals to form a precise estimate of the enemy's strength. It was easy to perceive that it was not an even game. Hindman had fourteen or fifteen thousand men with him; the necessity of leaving detachments behind had, on the contrary, reduced Herron's force to four thousand; nevertheless, no sooner had the third division joined the second than he resolved to assume the offensive. It was the only means of keeping Hindman in check and giving Blunt time to come up. To fall back would have been to abandon his entire convoy to the enemy, and to be crushed. Having failed in his endeavors to force the passage of the ford, Herron cut his way through the woods which bordered Illinois Creek, and sent a battery to cross the stream on that side. While this battery was occupying the attention of the enemy, the other three, accompanied by three regiments of infantry, crossed the ford, and at ten o'clock the whole Federal artillery opened fire upon the Confederate positions. The remainder of Herron's small band

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