Battle Of Prairie Grove Revisited
STATE PARK COMMEMORATES 156TH ANNIVERSARY
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.