Skirmish at Grand Prairie

Location: Monroe County
Campaign: Pea Ridge Campaign
Date: July 6, 1862
Principal Commanders: Colonel Graham N. Fitch (US); Captain Patrick H. Wheat (CS)
Forces Engaged: 600 infantry from the Twenty-fourth, Thirty-fourth, Forty-third, and Forty-sixth Indiana Infantry regiments, and one cannon (US); 450 cavalry from Monroe’s First/Sixth Arkansas Cavalry (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 1 killed, 21 wounded (US); 84 total killed, wounded, and missing (CS)
Result: Union victory

After the Battle of Pea Ridge, Major General Samuel Ryan Curtis led his troops across northern Arkansas and southern Missouri in an effort to capture Little Rock (Pulaski County). After failing to do so and taking refuge in Batesville (Independence County), Curtis led his troops down the White River in an effort to link up with supply transports near Clarendon (Monroe County). On July 6, 1862, a skirmish was fought by the relief column escorting those transports.

The transports began to move toward Gen. Curtis on June 10 and, by June 17, were approaching St. Charles (Arkansas County), where they engaged the Confederate fortifications and the USS Mound City was struck. The expedition ultimately captured the position, but due to the number of casualties and the falling water level on the White, the Federals retreated back to the Mississippi River before reentering the White on June 28. By June 30, the Union troops were at Clarendon and were constantly fired upon from both banks of the river.

On July 6, a scouting party found Confederate troops about two miles from the river. A detachment consisting of troops from four regiments under the command of Colonel Graham Fitch disembarked from the transports near Aberdeen (Monroe County) and began to move toward the Confederates on the DeValls Bluff road. Reaching the edge of the Grand Prairie, the Federals engaged the Confederates, who immediately launched an attack in response. The Confederates mounted and quickly moved against three sides of the Union infantry units. The Federals were able to repulse the attack, and the Confederates fled in confusion.

The Confederate commander, Captain Patrick Wheat, requested a truce to gather his wounded and bury his dead. Col. Fitch agreed, and the next half hour was spent on this task. At the end of that period, the Federals began to pursue the Confederates, who continued their retreat in the direction of DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) but were unable to keep up with the mounted enemy. The Union troops returned to their transports and continued to search for Curtis.

According to documents and testimonies from prisoners seized by the Federal forces, the Confederates lost eighty-four men in the short fight, while the Federals only suffered twenty-two casualties. The Union relief expedition would not find Curtis on the White River, forcing him to turn eastward and capture the Mississippi River town of Helena (Phillips County). Fitch and his men eventually also made it to Helena.

For additional information:
Fortin, Maurice G. “Confederate Military Operations in Arkansas.” MA thesis, University of North Texas, 1978.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 13. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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