Saturday, December 8, 2012

December 7, 1862

December 7, 1862:  Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas – Gen. Thomas Hindman places his troops in a defensive position on a line of hills that overlook the Wire Road (Van Buren Highway) and a wide prairie, to await the Yankees.  As Herron arrives, his troops ford the Illinois River (for reals, that is the river’s name) and set up his artillery to begin shelling the Confederate lines. 
Brig. Gen. Francis Herron, USA
After a 2-hour bombardment, Herron sees that they have done significant damage to the Confederate guns, and so he orders an advance.  Two regiments charge across the prairie and up the ridge and, on the property of the Borden farm, break the Confederate line.  But then Confederates counterattack the Federals from three sides in the bloodiest fighting of the battle; the orchard behind the house is a slaughter pen.  Losing half of their number, the Federals are driven back down to their own lines.  Gen. Herron reorganized his troops for another attack, but not before the Rebels, having been irresistibly drawn into a counterattack by the Federal retreat, come streaming down off the ridge across open ground toward the Blue line.  The superior Union artillery, loaded with canister, shreds the Gray formations, sending them reeling back with heavy casualties.  Herron sends forward two more regiments, one of them the 37th Illinois, commanded by Lt. Col. John C. Black. 
The heroic stand of the 37th Illinois Infantry at the base of Prairie Grove ridge
The 37th gets pinned down at the base of the ridge, but they fling back attack after attack by the Rebels, inflicting heavy losses on them. 
Lt. Col. John Charles Black, 37th Illinois Infantry Regiment
Black is about to give way when battle sounds are heard on the Union right: Gen. Blunt’s troops have finally arrived on the battlefield, and Blunt sends forward attacks against the Rebel center and left flank.  His attacks do not carry the positions, but the Rebels are sufficiently intimidated and damages that they can attempt no more attacks themselves; besides, they are nearly out of ammunition.  That evening, Hindman begins to withdraw his army for the long march back down South to refuge.  The Confederacy will never regain control over northwest Arkansas, or the main routes into Indian Territory and Texas.

Blunt and Herron had 2,916 men against Hindman’s 11,059.

Union Victory.


Union                                   1,251

Confederate                       1,317

---In a New York Times story, Rep. Thaddeus Stevens introduces a Resolution in Congress that would forbid any Peace that would leave the United States divided:

The resolution of Representative STEVENS, denouncing as guilty of a high crime any person in the Executive or Legislative branch of the Government who shall propose to make peace, or shall accept or advise the acceptance of any such proposition, on any other basis than the integrity and entire unity of the United States and the Territories, as they existed at the time of the rebellion, the consideration of which has been postponed till Tuesday week, will probably be fully discussed, as several members are already preparing to speak upon the subject. This resolution is not supposed to be aimed at the Administration, as its position is known to be that no peace is admissible at the cost of a single acre of the Union.


---Capt. William Thompson Lusk, of the 79th New York Infantry, writes home and waxes eloquent on the subject of a delicacy he was able to get, after a long period of only beef and hardtack:

I have had a rare treat to-day. Indeed I feel as though I had devoured a Thanksgiving Turkey. At least I have the satisfied feeling of one that has dined well. I did not dine on Peacock’s brains either, but — I write it gratefully — I dined on a dish of potatoes. They were cut thin, fried crisp, and tasted royally. You will understand my innocent enthusiasm, when I say that for nearly six weeks previous, I had not tasted a vegetable of any kind. There was nothing but fresh beef and hard crackers to be had all that time, varied sometimes by beef without any crackers, and then again by crackers without any beef. And here were fried potatoes! No stingy heap, but a splendid pile! There was more than a “right smart” of potatoes as the people would say about here. Excuse me, if warming with my theme I grow diffuse. The Chaplain and I mess together. The Chaplain said grace, and then we both commenced the attack. There were no words spoken. We both silently applied ourselves to the pleasant task of destruction. By-and-by there was only one piece left. We divided it. Then sighing, we turned to the fire, and lighted our pipes, smoking thoughtfully. At length I broke the silence. “Chaplain,” said I. “What?” says Chaplain. “Chaplain, they needed SALT!” I said energetically. Chap puffed out a stream of smoke approvingly, and then we both relapsed again into silence.

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