• Bobby

Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park with a celebrity

This was an easy one for us! It's the closest to our house and has another connection to Cane Hill! For the last seven years I have been working to preserve Cane Hill as the executive director of Historic Cane Hill Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit. Huxley has become the official, unofficial mayor (we aren't an incorporated city or town so no city government actually exists). For this trip we even had a CELEBRITY join us. Our Nauni (my mom, Huxley's Grandma, and his favorite person in the world)!

Cane Hill is home to sixteen properties on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), one of those is the large listing for the Civil War battlefield. On November 28, 1862, Cane Hill was home to a Civil War Battle. Prior to Cane Hill, Union forces led by General James G. Blunt had been stationed across the Missouri line and then finally near present day Siloam Springs after hearing about Confederate movement to Cane Hill in early November 1862. Later in November, on a second confederate commissary train trip (grocery shopping) to food and resource rich Cane Hill, Blunt's Union forces moved even further south to attack.

Confederates were driven back to Ft. Smith/Van Buren after a nine hour and twelve mile running battle. After this Union tactical victory in Cane Hill, Blunt continued to occupy the area around Cane Hill and Rhea's Mill. The battle in Cane Hill is often referred to as the "Prelude to Prairie Grove."

These two forces clashed again nine days later on December 7, 1862. Blunt had made his way deep into confederate territory. Larger Confederate forces (about 11,000 troops), led by Major General Thomas Hindman originally headed towards Cane Hill, but Union reinforcements under General Herron arrived. Hindman changed plans and ended up fighting Herron and Blunt's armies (about 9.000) in Prairie Grove. The battle was brutal and records indicate ~1200 Union and ~1300 Confederate casualties. For comparison, only about 45 casualties were recorded in Cane Hill. The battle was another stalemate like Cane Hill, but again Confederate forces were driven out. This decisive action secured NWA for the Union.

The park was established in 1908 as a location for Civil War confederate veterans reunions by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Several post-war reunion photographs exist.

Today Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park is recognized as one of the BEST preserved Civil War battlefields in the COUNTRY. It included 800+ acres of the original battlefield. There is no camping at this state park. The need to preserve the historic character of the landscape makes it easy to see why a giant RV loop might not be appropriate (at least within the boundaries of the battlefield.

We always start all of our trips at the visitor centers. The staff are usually super helpful getting us pointed in the right direction, giving us some good tips/tricks, and also providing us with literature. We always grab the standard state park brochure for each park. In fact we read through these before we head to the parks. You can get these at a lot of locations (like interstate visitor centers). BUT, what we have found is that there are always additional brochures, sometimes several brochures, that delve into more specific things to do in each park. At Prairie Grove Battlefield there is a great brochure focused on the 1 mile self guided battlefield walking tour AND a brochure for the 5 mile self guided driving tour of the battlefield. We also learned that many parks have kids activities. It never hurts to start with asking in the visitor center! At Prairie Grove we learned they have a Junior Historian program. This little activity book and getting his "badge" made this one of his favorite parks and created a lasting impression on him! Thanks to PG staff for really making this special!

The visitor center is Hindman Hall and also contains the Museum. The exhibits are really great and were updated within the last few years. The text panels and videos are very informative about not only the battle at Prairie Grove, but also what was going on elsewhere and general civil war history.

There are several really great historic structure to see at the park. There is a schoolhouse, church, blacksmith shop, and sorghum mill. There are also a few residential homes. But of ALL of the structures, ONLY the Borden House was originally in this location. The other structures were moved from other locations in Washington County when they were threatened and needed to be preserved. The Latta House was built in 1834 (one of the earliest in NWA) and originally located in Vineyard (near present day Evansville).

Another feature we quickly picked up on at PGBSP were PLAYGROUNDS. I'm sure Huxley will be rating and ranking all of the playgrounds as we visit the state parks this year!

If you really want to learn more about the Civil War history, the best summary of the battle is: Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign by William L. Shea Shea (2009)

More PGBSP info

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