Bat­tle Of Prairie Grove Re­vis­ited


Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn Kut­ter

PRAIRIE GROVE — Many camp­ing out Fri­day night to par­tic­i­pate in the reen­act­ment of the 156th Bat­tle of Prairie Grove had to deal with storms com­ing through the area overnight.

As the wind and rain blew over tents, some re-en­ac­tors said they took cover in their ve­hi­cles for the night. Oth­ers said they stayed in­side their tents hold­ing onto poles to keep their tents from blow­ing away.

“I’ve seen the spec­trum of Arkansas weather in De­cem­ber,” said Noah Snel­son of Spring­field, Mo. Snel­son was par­tic­i­pat­ing in his 12th Bat­tle of Prairie Grove reen­act­ment Satur­day and he’s only 25 years old.

“There’s been snow, wind, stor­m­driven rain,” Snel­son said.

Satur­day, tent can­vasses, quilts, blan­kets and clothes could be seen hang­ing on trees and fences in an at­tempt to dry out the wet ma­te­ri­als.

Matthew Emde of Ar­ca­dia, Okla., said he was not too keen about his ev­ery­day blan­kets hang­ing on the

fences for visitors to see be­cause they were not au­then­tic ma­te­rial for the Civil War era. How­ever, he wanted dry blan­kets and clothes for Satur­day night and Sun­day’s reen­act­ment.

“We try to be as au­then­tic as we can,” said Emde, a mem­ber of the 1st Arkansas Bat­tal­ion.

Snel­son, a mem­ber of the 26th Mis­souri, was 9 years old when he be­gan the hobby of be­ing a re-en­ac­tor and has par­tic­i­pated in Civil War reen­act­ments across the coun­try.

The Bat­tle of Prairie Grove is one of his fa­vorite sites, Snel­son said.

“It’s on the orig­i­nal site and the weather is beau­ti­ful,” Snel­son said. “This site has a lot of his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance.”

Snel­son said his unit was rep­re­sent­ing the 20th Mis­souri for the Bat­tle of Prairie Grove reen­act­ment.

“The 20th suf­fered dozens of ca­su­al­ties, mainly at the Bor­den House,” Snel­son said, ad­ding, “soldiers had to leave their dead and wounded until af­ter the bat­tle be­cause they were driven back by the Con­fed­er­ate Army.”

Larry Stephens, the gun­ner with Graves Bat­tery, said his unit goes back 15 to 20 years. Many came to Prairie Grove from Illi­nois and Ken­tucky.

Like Snel­son, Stephens said the Bat­tle of Prairie Grove reen­act­ment is one of his fa­vorites be­cause it’s on the ac­tual ground site, in­stead of a reen­act­ment be­ing fought on a ball­field or an­other area set up for the event.

“When we get an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing like this on the ground it­self, this makes it more spe­cial,” Stephens said.

Bob Herr, also with Graves Bat­tery, said he be­came in­volved in the hobby of reen­act­ment be­cause his son was in­ter­ested. Herr has been a re-en­ac­tor for 17 years. This was his sec­ond time to come to Prairie Grove Bat­tle­field State Park.

“We learned about re-en­act­ing and we just liked it,” Herr said. “I had a teenage kid and I had him cap­tured for 48 hours with­out video games or any­thing else.”

Herr said he be­lieves reen­act­ments are im­por­tant be­cause “his­tory is taught the way it should be taught.”

More than 950 Civil War par­tic­i­pants ei­ther camped out over the week­end, drilled as units or fought mock bat­tles dur­ing the reen­act­ments, ac­cord­ing to park of­fi­cials. It’s es­ti­mated that 3,000 to 4,000 visitors showed up to watch the bat­tle, walk through Con­fed­er­ate and Union camp­sites and learn more about the Civil War through pro­grams held over dur­ing the week­end.

The Bat­tle of Prairie Grove was fought on Dec. 7, 1862, with the Con­fed­er­ate Army of the Trans-Mis­sis­sippi clash­ing with the Union Army of the Fron­tier.

The bat­tle is de­scribed by his­to­ri­ans as one of the blood­i­est and most in­tense Civil War bat­tles. About 22,000 soldiers fought for most of the day, and at the end, about 2,700 had been killed, wounded or were miss­ing.

A time­line of the bat­tle shows the first skirmish was at 7 a.m. that day when the Con­fed­er­ate cav­alry sur­prised the Fed­eral cav­alry near Muddy Fork. The bat­tle was over at 5:15 p.m. when fight­ing died out due to dark­ness.

A truce was called at 10 p.m. in or­der to care for the wounded and at mid­night, the Con­fed­er­ate Army be­gan with­draw­ing from the field.


Union and Con­fed­er­ate forces face each other be­hind the Bor­den House dur­ing the reen­act­ment of the Bat­tle of Prairie Grove on Satur­day af­ter­noon. Thou­sands of visitors showed up Satur­day and Sun­day to watch the reen­act­ment. This was the 156th an­niver­sary of the Prairie Grove bat­tle.

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