Skirmish at Cane Hill (November 6, 1864)

Location: Washington County
Campaign: Sterling Price’s 1864 Missouri Raid
Date: November 6, 1864
Principal Commanders: Major General Samuel Ryan Curtis (US); Major General Sterling Price (CS)
Forces Engaged: Scouts from Lieutenant Colonel Frederick W. Benteen’s Cavalry Brigade and part of the Eighth Missouri State Militia Cavalry (US); Rear guard elements of Brigadier General Joseph Orville Shelby’s Cavalry Division (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 2–3 killed (US): 2–3 killed (CS)
Result: Union victory

The November 6, 1864, skirmish near Cane Hill (Washington County) occurred as Union general Samuel Ryan Curtis pushed Confederate general Sterling Price’s troops out of Missouri. Price defeated several Union forces as he marched north, and then west, through Missouri, but meeting Curtis’s superior numbers at Westport, Missouri, Price realized he was in danger of a serious defeat and turned south. The two armies fought several engagements moving toward Arkansas, including: Marais des Cygnes, Mine Creek, Marmiton River, and Second Newtonia. Entering Arkansas well ahead of Curtis, Price marched to Cane Hill, secured several small droves of local cattle, and gave his hungry, worn-out troops a day’s respite, barely slipping away before Curtis’s troops appeared.

Leaving Prairie Grove (Washington County) at daylight on November 6, Gen. Curtis’s Federal army marched toward Cane Hill. Approaching the town just a few hours later, scouts from Lieutenant Colonel Frederick W. Benteen’s cavalry brigade, as well as troopers of the Eighth Missouri State Militia Cavalry, encountered enemy fire. Rear guard troops of Confederate cavalry remained near town to cover the southern retreat. The Union troopers engaged the retiring Confederates in several small-arms fights, resulting in at least two Union and two Confederate deaths. At Cane Hill, Curtis’s troops found a large number of Confederate sick and wounded, paroling forty-four of them and leaving many more as they continued the pursuit of Gen. Price. Also discovered among the retreating Southerners’ effects were the remnants of U.S. general James Gilpatrick Blunt’s flag. It had been captured from Blunt by members of William Clarke Quantrill’s command on October 6, 1863, at Baxter Springs, Kansas. The flag had been cut into pieces and placed in a small traveling bag, but according to contemporary accounts, most of the flag proved to be present in the bag.

Curtis’s command encamped for the night, on or near the grounds previously occupied by Price’s troops at Cane Hill, and continued their pursuit in a southwesterly direction the next morning.

For additional information:
Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. Vol. 3. Cedar Rapids, IA: 1908.

Hinton, Richard J. Rebel Invasion of Missouri and Kansas, and the Campaign of the Army of the Border against General Sterling Price, in October and November, 1864. Chicago: 1865.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. 41, Part 1, pp. 516 and 541. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1893.

Stephen Lee Burgess
Rogers, Arkansas


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