Skirmishes at Arkansas River and Prairie Grove

Location: Northwestern Arkansas
Campaign: None
Date: April 6–7, 1864
Principal Commanders: Colonel William R. Judson (US); Unknown (CS)
Forces Engaged: First Arkansas Cavalry detachment (US); Unknown (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 15 killed (US); Unknown (CS)
Result: Confederate victory

Two related skirmishes that took place in northwestern Arkansas, these events were part of Confederate efforts to disrupt Union occupation activities. While ultimately inconsequential, these actions frustrated Federal commanders and led to more active campaigning in the state in an effort to stop Confederate forces.

On the night of April 6, at least 500 Confederates crossed the Arkansas River near Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Colonel William Judson of the Union District of the Frontier claimed that they were Missourians working to disrupt agricultural efforts in the state. Union troops from the Fort Smith area engaged the Confederates that night, with six Federals being killed.

On the evening of April 7, 1864, a party of Federal soldiers from the First Arkansas Cavalry (US) guarded several horse corrals near Prairie Grove (Washington County). Attacked by a group of twenty-two Confederates, the Union force was completely wiped out, suffering nine dead. It is not reported if the Confederates took the animals housed at the corrals. Under the command of a man named Lyon, the Confederates disappeared as Colonel Marcus LaRue Harrison dispatched a force of twenty-five men in pursuit. Harrison also received word from the enemy that a similar attack was planned for Union troops in Fayetteville (Washington County) the following week. The Federals requested additional troops to help destroy this and other Confederate units operating the area. Brigadier General John Sanborn, commander of the District of Southwest Missouri, received these requests but did not have additional troops available to support the Federals in Arkansas.

The Union forces around both Fort Smith and Fayetteville were unable to prevent the enemy from entering the state and creating havoc. The loss of fifteen Union men without any reported losses to the enemy alone made this incursion a success for the Confederates. Four guerrillas were executed later in 1864 at Fort Smith for their role in the April 7, 1864, attack.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 34, Pt. 1. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


No comments on this entry yet.