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Prairie Grove, battle of.

In the summer of 1862 Gen. T. C. Hindman gathered about 40,000 men, largely made up of guerilla bands, in the vicinity of the Ozark Mountains. Schofield, leaving Curtis in command of his district, marched against them late in September, 1862, with 8,000 men under Gen. J. G. Blunt. This officer attacked a portion of them at Fort Wayne, near Maysville (Oct. 22), and drove them into the Indian country. A week later a cavalry force under Gen. F. J. Herron struck another portion on the White River and drove them into the mountains. Ill-health compelled Schofield to relinquish command, which was [281] assumed by Blunt. Hindman now determined to strike a decisive blow for the recovery of Arkansas from National control. Late in November he had in one body about 20,000 men on the western borders of Arkansas, and on the 28th moved against Blunt. His advance, composed of Marmaduke's cavalry, was attacked and defeated by Blunt on Boston Mountains. The latter now took position at Cane Hill, where Hindman tried to crush him. Hindman crossed the Arkansas River at Van Buren (Dec. 1, 1862) with about 11,000 men, including 2,000 cavalry, and joined Marmaduke. Told of this, Blunt sent to Herron, then just over the Missouri border, for assistance.

He immediately marched into Arkansas at the rate of 20 miles a day, with guns and trains. He sent forward cavalry, but on the morning of Dec. 7 he met a part of them who had been driven back by Marmaduke's horsemen. Meanwhile, Blunt had been skirmishing with the Confederates, who had turned his left flank and were making for his trains. Both he and Herron were now in a perilous condition. Herron had arrived with his main army on Dec. 7, and marching on met the mounted guard of the Confederates at a little settlement called Prairie Grove. Divested of his cavalry, he had only about 4,000 effective men. Ignorant of the near presence of a heavy force under Hindman, he left a strong position, drove the Confederate cavalry across the river, and was there confronted by about 20,000 men, well posted on a wooded ridge.

Herron did not suspect their number, and, pushing on, was instantly driven back. He pushed a battery forward which did such execution that the Confederates supposed his force was much larger than it was. He then threw three full batteries across a creek, supported by three regiments, opened on the flank of the Confederates with a terrible storm of grape and canister, silenced their guns, and pressed up the ridge and captured a battery there. The Nationals, unable to hold it, fell back; and for a while the result was doubtful. While Herron was thus struggling, Blunt came up and fell upon the Confederate left where troops had been massed to turn Herron's right. A severe battle ensued which continued for nearly four hours. Night ended the conflict. The Nationals slept on their arms on the battle-field. The Confederates retreated under cover of the night, marched rapidly, and escaped. The National loss was 1,148, of which 167 were killed. Blunt estimated the Confederate loss at 3,000, as his command buried about 1,000 killed on the battle-field. Hindman reported his loss at 1,317.

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