The Civil War

3rd Regiment, Iowa Cavalry Co. G

Dear Brother.....have went through some prety hard rubs

civil war


Civil War Volunteer Roster
~ Van Buren Co. Iowa ~

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Letter from George VanFleet brother of 
Gettina VanFleet McQuoid, Aunt Mary Cowen,
Aunt Julia Brown, Tom VanFleet and
Aaron VanFleet. George died in the Civil War.
Letter dated 1864 to Uncle John Cowen.

Little Rock Arkansas
June 13 th 1864

Dear Brother I take my seat this afternoon to write you a few lines in answer to the letter which i recieved from you which I was very glad to hear from you and family and that you were well and a getting a long fine and I hope these few lines will find you enjoying good health and all the blessings of this life as for myself I have not been very well for some time I have not done any duty for several days but I have got about well I am still in good spirits. I never get home sick for I want to see the thing through Van Buren Co. Keosauqua IA.  This cannon is part of an elaborate monument was erected in 1868, dedicated July 4, in memory of those soldiers whose enlistment carried them down to death and crowned their names with a wreath of honor, although the men lived not to herald the announcement of the nations' victory. if I keep my health. I think that I shall come home. in about one year if every thing works right at Richmond I think that Grant will do things up about right and if he dose we to the southern confederacy I would like to try my carbine a pop one old reb I should be very apt to make a hole in his hide for I can shoot prety close our guns will cury up nine hundred yards and do good exocoution we have joly times hear well John I wish you could be hear a while for I should like to see you we don't have much to do hear we have casy times and I don't know when we will leave hear I don't care much for it is a good place hear I would not be surprised if we stay hear all this summer it is not very sickley hear the boys are all well from our neighborhood excoept Van Buren Co. Keosauqua IA.   An elaborate monument was erected in 1868, dedicated July 4, in memory of those soldiers whose enlistment carried them down to death and crowned their names with a wreath of honor, although the men lived not to herald the announcement of the nations' victory. Omer Wilson he has been at the Hospital for some time he has not been ableVan Buren Co. Keosauqua IA.   An elaborate monument was erected in 1868, dedicated July 4, in memory of those soldiers whose enlistment carried them down to death and crowned their names with a wreath of honor, although the men lived not to herald the announcement of the nations' victory. for duty much of the time he has ben out I have him to day he is prety weak and looks bad I have stood it very well what time i have ben out I have went through some prety hard rubs when I was on that march down to camden I stood it as well as any of the boys that was along well John I want you to tell me al the news when you answer this letter I want you to answer this as soon as you can I want you to tell me how Luke and Lin is getting a long first would like to see them once more the weather is fine hear we have plenty of showers well I must close my letter you must excuse my poor writing for my pen is very poor I want you show this to the old folks nothing more give my love to Mary and all myfriends 

George to John Cowen Direct your Letter as before and it will go strait.  

War casualty

3rd Regiment, Iowa Cavalry

Company G

Cowen, G. H., enlisted. Feb. 8, 1864

Wilson, Omer, enlisted. Jan. 4, 1864

Cowen, George H. Age 22. Residence Van Buren County, nativity Ohio. Enlisted Feb. 8, 1864.
Mustered Feb. 8, 1864. Died Nov. 8, 1864, Van Buren County Iowa on sick leave of chronic diarrhea contract on active duty.


The seasonal nature of these afflictions aided diagnosis, with cases of malaria peaking in early autumn and declining rapidly in winter, typhoid dominating in the summer months, and pneumonia and influenza ("epidemic catarrh") appearing in winter. Infectious diarrheas fluctuated throughout the year and were known by popular names such as the "Tennessee trots," the "Virginia quickstep," and the "alvine flux." These cases probably included typical bacterial, amebic, and other parasitic infections as well as cholera and typhoid..


Most people who study the American Civil War know that disease not bullets was the leading cause of death during the war. The biggest killer was chronic diarrhea with 27,558 deaths with typhoid running a close second with 27,050 deaths. Chronic diarrhea is a symptom rather than a disease, so who knows what disease killed the most. The above stats are for for the Union, here's the causualty count for both sides.


Having taken full advantage of their furloughs, the Veterans returned to St.. Louis, and the 1st of May and strengthened by recruits as we have seen, embarked for Memphis, under orders to report to General Washburne. Feb 1864.


The Battle that saved Missouri for the Union


(It appears he was wounded in the campaign against General Price as follows) coverRead more...

map source:

coverRead more... The Civil War in Missouri

 Brigade of the Second Division was composed of the Third and Fourth Iowa and Tenth Missouri, with Colonel Noble as Brigade Commander, and Major B. S. Jones, in command of the Third Iowa. On the 5th of August this cavalry force left Memphis and, in co-operation with General A. J. Smith's Division of Infantry, proceeded upon an expedition to Oxford, Miss. The Third Iowa performed its share of duty upon this expedition, but did not suffer any serious casualties. It returned with the other troops to Memphis, on August 30th, just in time to start upon one of the most important campaigns in the history of its service- that against the rebel army commanded by General Price, which had again invaded the State of Missouri.
The campaign against Price was one of the most brilliant and effective of the closing campaigns of the western armies. And during its entire progress the Third Iowa Cavalry performed most arduous and conspicuous service. Major B. S. Jones, who commanded the regiment during this period of its service, gives a carefully detailed account of all its movements in his official report. His report is dated at Benton Barracks, Mo., November 28, 1864. Major Jones assigned command, and left Memphis with his regiment on the morning of September 2, 1864. At that time the available mounted force of the regiment was 483 men and 15 line officers, and formed a part of the brigade commanded by Colonel Winslow of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry. The command marched to Cape Girardeau, Mo., arriving there October 5th, and, embarking on transports, proceeded to St. Louis, where it arrived on October 10th . The next day it started on the march up the Missouri Valley, marching rapidly and almost constantly until October 22nd, on which date it joined the forces under Major General Pleasanton, then engaged in conflict with the enemy near Independence, Mo., participated in that battle, and in the battles of the Big Blue and Osage Rivers, which quickly followed, the first being fought on the 23rd and the second on the 25th of October.
In all Three of these battles the Third Iowa cavalry distinguished itself, boldly charging the enemy and capturing many prisoners. The following extracts are made from the concluding portion of the official report of Major Jones, referring to the conduct of his regiment in the battle on the Osage River, and the closing scenes of the campaign: . . . . The enemy, having been routed from his position on the
river, was followed up at a gallop for several miles, by Winslow's brigade, in the following order, Tenth Missouri, Fourth Iowa, Third Iowa, Fourth Missouri and Seventh Indiana Cavalry, when he attempted to make a stand, formed on the open prairie, in two lines of battle, supported by eight pieces of artillery. My command was formed in line of battle, with the brigade in column of regiments, in their order of march, and constituting the left center of our whole line, We charged the enemy, breaking his right and center, killing, wounding and capturing many of his men. Among the captured were Generals Marmaduke and Cabell, the former by Private James
Dunlavy, of Company D, and the latter by Sergeant C.M. Young, of Company L, both of the Third Iowa Cavalry/ Companies C, d and E captured three pieces of the enemy's artillery. The whole of my command did nobly on that field, as also on others, and the highest commendations are due to every man and officer. The remainder of this day was one continued charge upon the enemy, and
his compete rout. We rested on the open prairie over night, near Fort Scott. On the 26th of October we rested our brigade, at Fort Scott. Early on the 27, again joined in the pursuit of the enemy, and continued through Arkansas and the Indian Territory to a point on the Arkansas River, forty miles above Fort Smith, without again seeing the enemy. From there we returned to this place, having marched, since September 2nd, 1,650 miles participated in three general engagements, marching through a country destitute of forage, it having been devastated by the enemy, and many times without food for my men, having had only three fifths rations from the 28th, ult. To the 7th inst., and not any bread from the 7th to the 12th inst., in consequence of the destitution of the Indian Territory through which we marched, and the great distance form the base of supplies. We suffered a total loss of sic men killed, and two officers and forty-one men wounded, several of whom have since died. I append a list of casualties.

General Price's Invasion of Missouri - Fall, 1864

The Civil War in the Southeast Missouri Region

Price's Last Missouri Raid


1st Missouri State Militia Cavalry Battle of Westport


Civil War


Albert Underwood Civil War Diary

Civil War Traveler Quick Reference Timeline

Civil War Manuscripts, Manuscripts Department, UNC-CH


Battle of Westport, referred to as the Gettysburg of the West.

Map Source: 

Library of Congress Civil War Maps

1st Missouri State Militia Cavalry Battle of Westport

Corp. Wm. Van Fleet, e. May 1, 1861, died Feb. 24, 1862.

William, was a member of Co. F., 2d Iowa V. I., and died of typhoid fever in the hospital at Mound City, Ill., Feb. 24, 1862;

 (The above letter is dated June 13, 1864. Over two years later after William died of Typhoid during the War. So it can't be William and I can't find any reference to his brother George having served in the Civil War.)

Cowen, A. H., far., S. 5; P.O. Lebanon; owns 75 acres, valued at about $35 per acre; born in Philadelphia June 12, 1810, and came to this county in 1853; he was on the first train that went through on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad from Baltimore to Fredericktown. His wife, Cornelia M. Smith, was born in Washington D. C., Oct. 25, 1819; they were married Feb. 5, 1846; John T., is their only child living; have, lost Nancy M., George H. (Civil War-Company unknown) and Edward B. Member of the Methodist Church; Republican.

Van Fleet, Abraham, farmer and stock-raiser, Sec. 35; P.O. Lebanon; born in Hunterdon Co., N. J., March 4, 1817; in 1836, moved to Franklin Co., Ohio; in 1842, to Iowa, and settled on his present farm. Married Mattie Berger October, 1835; she was born in Hunterdon Co., N. J., Aug. 1, 1811, and died Sept. 16, 1870; had six children; one died in infancy; another, William, was a member of Co. F., 2d Iowa V. I., and died of typhoid fever in the hospital at Mound City, Ill., Feb. 24, 1862; the living are Getty M., Aaron, Mary, Julia and Thomas. He married Alvira Van Treese June 15, 1871. She was born in Franklin Co., Ind., Dec. 22, 1840; had four children; three living--George, Jerry and Clarence. He owns 180 acres of land, valued at $6,000.

MAY J. COWEN--May J. Van Fleet, daughter of Abraham and Mattie Van Fleet, was born in Van Buren county, Iowa, Feb. 12, 1844, and passed away Nov. 21, 1924, age eighty years, nine months and nine days.  On April 12, 1863, she was united in marriage to John Cowen. To this union two children were born, William Elmer and George Wesley. The husband and sons all preceded her to the other land, the husband in 1912, Elmer in 1907, and George in 1923.  She leaves to mourn their loss, one sister, Mrs. Julia Brown of Milton; four grandchildren, Sydney of Cleveland, Ohio; John Nellie and Don of Keosauqua; also two great grand children, George Elmer and Wayne J., with other relatives and friends.  Funeral services were conducted Sunday afternoon, Nov. 23, at the Methodist church in Lebanon, Iowa, by Rev. H. F. Gilbert of Milton, Iowa, assisted by the Rev. B. C. Supplies of Troy, Iowa.  (Photocopy of this obit found on page 203 of Obit Book of the Van Buren County Genealogical Society's collection at the Keosauqua Public Library in Mar 2001. Name of newspaper and date of obit not given.) I am NOT related and am posting this obit for those who may find this person in their family history.

"....give my love to Mary and all my friends George to John Cowen."  (This raises the question.)

John Cowen married Mary CanFleet (probably George VanFleet's sister) on 4/7/1863.

13    625   625    Wilson Omer   24     M    Farmer    800    600    Indiana


3rd Regiment, Iowa Cavalry


Organized at Keokuk August 30 to September 14, 1861. Moved to Benton Barracks, Mo., November 4-6, and duty there till February 4, 1862. (Cos. "E," "F" "G" and "H" detached to Jefferson City, Mo., December 12, 1861, and duty in Northern and Southern Missouri till July, 1863. See service following that of Regiment.) Cos. "A," "B," "C," "D," "I," "K," "L" and "M" moved to Rolla, Mo., February 4-6, 1862. (Cos. "I" and "K" detached to garrison, Salem, Mo., February 11, 1862. Scout to Mawameck February 12. Expedition to Mt. Vernon February 18-19. Action at West Plains February 20. Scouting after Coleman's guerillas till April. Actions near Salem February 28 and March 18. Rejoin Regiment near Forsythe April, 1862.) Regiment march to join General Curtis February 14-18. (Co. "L" detached at Springfield, Mo.) Attached to Curtis' Army of Southwest Missouri, Dept. of Missouri, February to May, 1862. 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, Army of Southwest Missouri, to July, 1862. District of Eastern Arkansas, Dept. of Missouri, to October, 1862. 3rd Brigade, 4th Division, District of Eastern Arkansas, to December, 1862. 2nd Brigade, Cavalry Division, District of Eastern Arkansas, Dept. of Tennessee, to January, 1863. 2nd Brigade, 2nd Cavalry Division, 13th Corps, Dept. of Tennessee, to April, 1863. 2nd Brigade, Cavalry Division, District of Eastern Arkansas, Dept. of Tennessee, to June, 1863. Bussy's Cavalry Brigade, Herron's Division, Dept. of Tennessee, to August, 1863. Reserve Cavalry Brigade, Army of Arkansas, to January, 1864. 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 7th Army Corps, Dept. of Arkansas, to May, 1864. 2nd Brigade, Cavalry Division, 16th Corps, Dept. of Tennessee, to June, 1864. 2nd Brigade, 2nd Cavalry Division, District of West Tennessee, to December, 1864. 2nd Brigade, Cavalry Division, District of West Tennessee, to February, 1865. 1st Brigade, 4th Division, Wilson's Cavalry Corps, Military Division Mississippi, to June, 1865, District of Georgia to August, 1865.

SERVICE.-Expedition to Fayetteville, Ark., February 22, 1862. Battles of Pea Ridge March 6-8. (Cos. "D" and "M" escort prisoners to Rolla, Mo., March 12-31.) March to Batesville via Cassville, Forsythe, Osage and West Plains April 6-May 1. (Cos. "L" and "M" detached at Lebanon, Mo., operating against guerillas till November, 1862; then join Cos. "E," "F," "G" and "H"). (Co. "D" guard train to Rolla, Mo., May 25 to June 20.) Action at Kickapoo Bottom, near Sylamore, May 29. Sylamore May 30. Foraging and scouting at Sulphur Rock June 1-22. Waddell's Farm, Village Creek, June 12. March from Batesville to Clarendon on White River June 25-July 9. Waddell's Farm June 27 (Co. "K"). Stewart's Plantation, Village Creek, June 27. Bayou Cache July 6 (Co. "I"). Hill's Plantation , Cache River, July 7. March to Helena July 11-14. Duty there and scouting from White River to the St. Francis till June, 1863. Expedition from Clarendon to Lawrenceville and St. Charles September 11-13, 1862. LaGrange September 11. Marianna and LaGrange November 8. Expedition to Arkansas Post November 16-21. Expedition to Grenada, Miss., November 27-December 5. Oakland, Miss., December 3. Expedition up St. Francis and Little Rivers March 5-12, 1863 (Detachment). Expedition to Big and Little Creeks and skirmishes March 6-10. Madison, Ark., March 9 (Detachment). Madison, Ark., April 14 (Detachment). LaGrange May 1. Polk's Plantation, Helena, May 25. Moved to Vicksburg, Miss., June 4-8. Siege of Vicksburg June 8-July 4. Advance on Jackson, Miss., July 5-10. Near Clinton July 8. Siege of Jackson July 10-17. Near Canton July 12. Canton, Bolton's Depot and Grant's Ferry, Pearl River, July 16. Bear Creek, near Canton, July 17. Canton July 18. At Flowers' Plantation till August 10. Raid from Big Black on Mississippi Central Railroad and to Memphis, Tenn., August 10-22. Payne's Plantation, near Grenada, August 18. Panola August 20. Coldwater August 21. Moved to Helena, Ark., August 26; thence moved to Little Rock, arriving October 1. Duty at Berton, Ark., October 1 to December 20. Expedition to Mt. Ida November 10-18. Near Benton December 1. Expedition to Princeton December 8-10. Ordered to Little Rock December 20. Regiment Veteranize January 5, 1864. Veterans on furlough January 6 to February 5. At St. Louis, Mo., February 6 to April 26. Ordered to Memphis, Tenn., April 26. Operations against Forest May to August. Sturgis' Expedition to Guntown, Miss., June 1-13. Near Guntown June 10. Ripley June 11. Smith's Expedition to Tupelo, Miss., July 5-21. Saulsbury July 2. Near Kelly's Mills July 8. Cherry Creek July 10. Huston Road July 12. Okolona July 12-13. Harrisburg, near Tupelo, July 14-15. Old Town or Tishamingo Creek July 15. Ellistown July 16 and 21. Smith's Expedition to Oxford, Miss., August 1-30. Tallahatchie River August 7-9. Holly Springs August 8. Hurricane Creek and Oxford August 9. Hurricane Creek August 13, 14 and 19. College Hill August 21. Hurricane Creek August 22. Repulse of Forrest's attack on Memphis August 21 (Detachment). Moved to Brownsville, Ark., September 2. Campaign against Price in Arkansas and Missouri September-November. Independence, Big Blue and State Line October 22. Westport October 23. Battles of Charlot, Marias des Cygnes, Mine Creek, Little Osage River October 25. White's Station, Tenn., December 4 (Detachment). Grierson's Raid from Memphis on Mobile & Ohio Railroad December 27, 1864, to January 6, 1865 (Detachment). Near White's Station December 25. Okolona December 27. Egypt Station, Miss., December 28. Mechanicsburg January 3, 1865. At the Pond January 4. Moved from Vicksburg, Miss., to Memphis, Tenn.; thence to Louisville, Ky., January 6-15, 1865, and rejoin Regiment. Regiment at St. Louis, Mo., and Louisville, Ky., till February, 1865. Moved to Chickasaw, Ala.; Wilson's Raid to Macon, Ga., March 22-April 24. Montevallo March 31. Six-Mile Creek March 31. Maplesville April 1 (Co. "L"). Ebeneezer Church, near Maplesville, April 1. Selma April 2. Fike's Ferry, Cahawba River, April 7 (Co. "B"). Montgomery April 12. Columbus, Ga., April 16. Capture of Macon April 20. Duty at Macon and at Atlanta, Ga., till August. Mustered out August 9, 1865.

Regiment lost during service 5 Officers and 79 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 4 Officers and 230 Enlisted men by disease. Total 318.

Companies "E," "F," "G" and "H" ordered to Jefferson City, Mo., December 12, 1861. Attached to Army of Southwest Missouri to February, 1862. District of North Missouri to August, 1862. District of Southwest Missouri to November, 1862. Cavalry Brigade, District of Southeast Missouri, to June, 1863. Reserve Cavalry Brigade, Army of Southeast Missouri, to August, 1863. Reserve Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Arkansas Expedition, to October, 1863.

SERVICE.-Engaged in operations against guerillas about Booneville, Glasgow, Fulton and in North Missouri at Lebanon, and in Southwest Missouri covering frontier from Iron Mountain to Boston Mountains till June, 1863, Companies "L" and "M" joined November, 1862. Actions at Florida, Mo., May 22, 1862. Salt River, near Florida, May 31. Boles' Farm, Florida, July 22 and 24. Santa Fe July 24-25. Brown Springs July 27. Moore's Mills, near Fulton, July 28. Kirksville August 26. Occupation of Newtonia December 4. Hartsville, Wood's Fork, January 11, 1863, Operations against Marmaduke April 17-May 2. Cape Girardeau April 26. Near Whitewater Bridge April 27. Castor River, near Bloomfield, April 29, Bloomfield April 30. Chalk Bluffs, St. Francis River, April 30-May 1. Davidson's march to Clarendon, Ark., August 1-8. Steele's Expedition to Little Rock August 8-September 10. Reed's Bridge or Bayou Metoe August 27. Shallow Ford, Bayou Metoe, August 30. Bayou Fourche and capture of Little Rock September 10. Rejoined Regiment at Little Rock October 1, 1863.


iowa3rd.jpg (40874 bytes)

  3rd Regiment, Iowa CavalryReunion Photo - 1888 (Centerville IA)

The Battle of Harrisburg, Sherman's Third Try


Occupation of Camden and the Battle of Poison Springs

Steele, Frederick, major-general, was born at Delhi, Delaware county, N. Y., Jan. 14, 1819. He graduated at West Point in 1843, was assigned to the 2nd infantry, served through the war with Mexico and was twice brevetted for gallantry at Contreras and Chapultepec. In 1849 he was sent to California; from 1853 to 1860 his duty was in the Northwest. He was commissioned captain in Feb., 1855, major in May, 1861, colonel of the 8th Ia. infantry in Sept. 1861, brigadier-general of volunteers in Jan., 1862, and major-general of volunteers in Nov., 1862. During the first year of the war he had command of a brigade in Missouri and took part in the battles of Dug springs and Wilson's creek. In 1862 he was at the head of a division in the Army of the Southwest and as stated above was promoted major-general of volunteers on Nov. 29. He led the 15th army corps in the Yazoo expedition and the capture of Arkansas post in Jan., 1863; was transferred to the 15th corps, engaged in the Vicksburg campaign, bore a part at Chickasaw bayou and in the taking of Fort Hindman, and in the summer was made lieutenant-colonel and brevet colonel in the regular army. His division was sent to Helena, Ark., in July and took possession of Little Rock on Sept. 10. After some months in command of the Department of Arkansas he was sent to the aid of Gen. Canby in the reduction of Mobile early in the winter of 1864. In 1865 he was brevetted brigadier- and major-general, U. S. A., sent to Texas and thence to the command of the Department of the Columbia. He became colonel of the 20th infantry in July, 1866, remained in the volunteer service until March, 1867, and died at San Mateo, Cal., Jan. 12, 1868.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 8

Battle of Poison Spring Related Sites

1864 Map (91k)

Ulysses S. Grant, promoted to lieutenant general and transferred East to command all Union armies, calls for a war of attrition against the Confederacy's two principal armies: Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee. Early in May, with Atlanta as his objective, Sherman, Grant's successor in the West, attacks Johnston at Rocky Face Ridge west of Dalton. For the next eight weeks the two armies grapple their way south into central Georgia. On July 17, With Sherman's armies approaching Atlanta, Confederate President Jefferson Davis fires Johnston and replaces him with Gen. John B. Hood. Hood Abandons Johnston's defensive strategy and boldly sends his troops to attack Sherman in a series of costly battles that only serve to underscore the futility of such tactics.

On September 1, after a long siege by Sherman's soldiers, Atlanta is evacuated and Hood withdraws, regroups, and advances into Tennessee. Within three months his Army of Tennessee is virtually destroyed in battles at Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville. Meanwhile, in mid-November, Sherman burns Atlanta and begins his famous "March to the Sea." Elsewhere, the blockade continues to tighten as Union amphibious forces seize the forts guarding the entrance to Mobile Bay and Admiral Farragut's ocean-going squadron crushes a Confederate fleet.

Feb 3-Mar 4 Meridian Expedition, Miss.

  • * Feb 22 Battle of Okolona

Feb 20 Battle of Olustee (Ocean Pond), Fla.

Mar 12-May 20 Red River and Camden Campaigns, La.-Ark.

  • Mar 23-May 3 Camden Expedition, Ark.

  • Apr 8 Battle of Mansfield, La.

  • Apr 9 Battle of Pleasant Hill, La.

  • Apr 30 Battle of Jenkins' Ferry, Ark.

Apr 12 Fort Pillow "massacre," Tenn.

May 7-Sep 2 Sherman's Atlanta Campaign, Ga.

  • May 13-15 Battle of Resaca

  • May 25-28 Battles of New Hope Church, Pickett's Mill, and Dallas.

  • Jun 27 Battle of Kennesaw Mountain

  • Jul 20 Battle of Peachtree Creek

  • Jul 22 Battle of Atlanta

  • Jul 28 Battle of Ezra Church

  • Aug 31-Sep 1 Battle of Jonesboro

  • Sep 2 Union troops occupy Atlanta

Jun 10 Battle of Brice's Cross Roads, Miss.

Jul 14 Battle of Tupelo, Miss.

Aug 5 Battle of Mobile Bay, Ala.

Aug 29-Dec 25 Price's Raid, Ark.-Mo.-Kan.-Indian Terr.-Tex

Nov 15-Dec 21 Sherman's Savannah Campaign (March to the Sea), Ga.

  • Nov 22 Engagement at Griswoldville, Ga.

  • Nov 30 Engagement at Honey Hill, S.C.

  • Dec 13 Capture of Fort McAllister, Ga.

  • Dec 21 Savannah, Ga., occupied

Nov 29-Dec 27 Hood's Tennessee Campaign

  • Nov 29 Affair at Spring Hill

  • Nov 30 Battle of Franklin

  • Dec 15-16 Battle of Nashville

Prairie DeAnn Battlefield
The story of the four days of fighting on Prairie De Ann is a part of the story of the expedition of the Union forces into Southern Arkansas in the spring of 1864. This expedition was made up of two armies, one from Little Rock, and one from Fort Smith. It lasted for a period of forty days and, reckoning from Little Rock, covered a distance of about 275 miles. It included, besides the fighting on Prairie De Ann, the battles of Okolona, Elkins' Ferry, Poison Spring, Marks' Mills, and Jenkins' Ferry and almost continuous skirmishing over much of the route.

Prairie De Ann, a circular body of land embracing some twenty-five or thirty square miles, lies in the northern part of Nevada County, a hundred miles southwest of Little Rock. The Forests that once surrounded it have largely disappeared, and, except by local people, its name is almost forgotten. Located in the central section of the prairie is the city of Prescott, the county seat, with a population of approximately four thousand. The rest of the prairie, for the most part, is taken up by farms and ranches. Through the prairie and the city passes the Missouri Pacific and the Prescott and Northwestern Railroads, and paved Highways 67, 371, and 19.

In the days of the Civil War, Prairie De Ann was far different from what it is today. One soldier, looking upon it for the first time, said that it "stretched away smoothly as a sea of glass." Another said, "Like an oasis lies this beautiful prairie in the midst of dense forests and almost impassable swamps, a relief for the eye of the traveller, who for many days has hardly seen anything but rocks crowned by dark pines or gloomy cypress swamps." The city, the railroads, and the highways had not then been built. Much of the land was unoccupied. Here and there, widely seperated, were a few small farm houses, and the village of Moscow nestled away in the eastern edge. The prairie was a well-known landmark and noted for its singular natural beauty.

In the second week of April, 1864, for four days, this prairie was a scene of conflict between the Union and the Confederate armies. The engagements as a whole are usually referred to as, "The Battle of Prairie De Ann." But more specifically, the fighting on the north side of the prairie, on the first afternoon and night, was, to the Union soldiers, "The Battle of Prairie De Ann." To the Confederates it was "The Battle of the Gum Grove on Prairie De Ann." On the southern and western sides, Fort McKay and other defenses erected by the Confederates to command the road to Washington, after being attacked, on the third day, by the Union forces, were evacuated by the Confederates. On the eastern and southern sides, on the fourth day, was fought the "Battle of Moscow."

Remnants of the "Gum Grove" still stand. Sections of the old entrenchments, now dimly visible and almost forgotten, can still be seen lying along the western edge of the prairie to the north and to the south of Hwy 371. Other sections are said to be overgrown and hidden by the woods. The village of Moscow has long ago merged with the city of Prescott, but an old church and a cemetery mark the sight where the four days of fighting came to an end, and were the Union forces left the prairie on their march to Camden.

The story of the fighting on Prairie De Ann is not well-known in Arkansas history. The number of casualties was relatively small, but the engagements here were significant in that they marked the end of the advance of the Union army toward Red River, as well as the point at which it became evident to the Confederates that the Union army would not attempt to capture Washington, at that time the Confederate Capital of Arkansas, but would proceed to Camden, then the most strongly fortified place in the southern part of the state, and a place that had recently been evacuated by the Confederates in their effort to protect Washington.

On Sunday, April 10, the stage was set for the Union advance onto the prairie. General Frederick Steele was encamped on the Cornelius farm, some four miles to the north. He had arrived here three days earlier, and had waited for the army of General John M. Thayer to join him. Steele had set out from Little Rock on March 23 and Thayer from Fort Smith on the same day. Thayer had been delayed but had finally joined Steele on April 9. The combined forces, now ready to advance, consisted of approximately 13,000 men, 800 wagons, and 12,000 horses and mules, and 30 pieces of artillery.

Soon after noon, Gerneral Steele broke camp and began moving his troops along the road toward the prairie. For about four miles the road led through a pine forest. When the troops reached the edge of the prairie they looked out over the broad expanse of landscape now comprising the Gene Hale Cattle Ranch and the land beyond. They saw "large numbers of the enemy cavalry ... deployed upon the central ridge of the prairie running east and west, while the ridge in front commanding the point where the road enters the prairie was held by the enemy's skirmishers concealed in the dense undergrowth covering the same." From the point at which it intersects Hwy 19, the old road by which they entered the prairie can still be seen losing itself in the woods to the north.

First to arrive on the prairie was the Third Brigade of the Third Division, commanded by Colonel Adolph Engleman, with Battery A, Third Illinois Artillery. These troops deployed to the right of the road, the Fortieth Iowa taking its place to the Battery and the Forty-third Illinois to its left. After a short time the Fortieth and Forty-third were moved forward as skirmishers and the Twenty-seventh Wisconsin was advanced to support the Battery.

As the line advanced, it extended westward from the road for a mile or more and covered the ground between what is now Hwy 19 and Hale's reservoir and club house. At one time the road now connecting Hwy 19 and Hale's club house probably was about the location occupied by these advancing troops.

After the Third Brigade had moved in, the First Brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General Samuel A. Rice, entered and employed to the left of the road. This Brigade consisted of the Fifteenth Indiana, as Twenty-ninth Iowa, the Thirty-third Iowa, and Voegele's Battery, manned by Company F, Ninth Wisconsin Infantry. As this Brigade advanced, for a time, it occupied the area through which now runs Hwy 19 and probably extended from near Hale's cattle barn on Hwy 19 to suburbs of the present city of Prescott.

The Second Brigade, commanded by Colonel William E. McLean came upon the prairie last. This Brigade was charged with guarding the general supply and pontoon trains, but as the skirmishing began the Seventy-seventh Ohio was ordered to advance and occupy a position in line on the right of the road, and the "Thirty-sixth Iowa, which was posted along the train in detachments, was advanced in double quick time a distance over two miles, and was soon posted on the left of the road. These two regiments remained in line under arms all night." The Forty-third Indiana, which was in the rear of the whole train, did not arrive in camp near the prairie until about midnight. The Second Missouri Light Artillery, Battery E. was sent to the extreme right of the Union line where it took part in the artillery duel of the afternoon and evening. General Thayer's troops, who had arrived at the Cornelius farm on the previous day, did not enter the prairie until the next day.

Guarding the northern border of the prairie, immediately in front of where the Union troops entered, and stationed on a ridge covered with brush, as seen by the Union troops, were Confederate troops comprising the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Arkansas, and the Twelfth Arkansas Battalion of Sharpshooters, commanded by Brigadier-General Thomas P. Dockery. They were at a distance of about half a mile. Further back, on the higher ground, and somewhat further eastward, was the Brigade of Brigadier-General Joseph O. Shelby, composed of the First Missouri Battalion, the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Missouri Regiments, Hunter's Missouri Regiment, and Collins' Battery. The combined forces of Dockery and Shelby probably numbered about 2,000 men.

Occupying the defenses along the western edge of the prairie was Colonel Colton Greene's Brigade, composed of the Third Missouri, Fourth Missouri, Seventh Missouri, Eighth Missouri, and the Missouri Battery. Cabell's Brigade, composed of the First Arkansas, the Fourth Arkansas, the Seventh Arkansas, Gunter's Arkansas Battalion, and Blocher's Arkansas Battery; and Crawford's Brigade composed of the Second Arkansas Regiment, Crawford's Arkansas Regiment, Wright's Arkansas Regiment, Poe's Arkansas Battalion, and McMurtrey's Arkansas Battalion were stationed on different parts of the prairie along the southern and western sides. The combined forces of Greene, Cabell and Crawford probably amounted to about 4,000 men. Four days earlier, the Confederates had been joined by Gano's Texas Brigade, and Walker's Indian Brigade. These two had a total of about 1,000 men. Thus the Confederate forces were slightly more than half as large as the Union forces. The Confederate troops were mounted but they often fought as infantry, with every fourth man remaining in the rear to hold horses. Major-General Sterling Price, who had recently been placed in command of the District of Arkansas, had arrived from Camden on April 7 and taken charge of all Confederate operations.

As the Union army advanced, the main Confederate line was formed along the highest ridge of the prairie. Just to the rear of this line was the Camden-Washington road and from it a road led away to the south. There were thus three routes along which the Union forces might attempt to advance once they had come upon the prairie. They might follow the road to the left and advance toward Camden. They might continue south across the prairie and on to Red River, or they might turn to the right and try to advance toward Washington.

The Confederates evidently expected them to choose the last of these three routes, because it was on the western and the southern edges of the prairie that they had spent most of their labor in building fortification. General Steele, however, had already decided, even as early as April 7, that he would go to Camden. He so informed General William T. Sherman in a dispatch of that date in which he told Sherman that he had to go there for food and forage.

As the Union troops entered the prairie, firing began and soon an artillery duel was in progress. Skirmishers were sent forward and heavy firing of small arms began between these and Dockery's troops. In a short time Dockery's troops were withdrawn, and were ordered to take position on the left of Shelby's line. The Union troops continued to advance and for about three hours, until dark, the fighting went on. Then Shelby, under Marmaduke's orders, withdrew his forces a mile to the rear, and the Union troops occupied the high ridge where the Confederates had been stationed during the afternoon. Between this ridge and Shelby's new position is the "Gum Grove" from which the battle takes its name.

As to the volume or effectiveness of either the artillery or the small arms fire, it is difficult to form a judgement. The Union troops seem to have had at least three batteries with 18 guns engaged. These were stationed at different points along the line. The Confederates used Collins' battery with Shelby's Brigade, and Harris' battery with Greene's Brigade. They may also have used three other batteries, those commanded by Blocher, Krumbarr, and Hughey. One Union soldier wrote that Shelby's artillery fire did little damage except to trees in the rear of the Union position. Another wrote, "The loss of the enemy in horses killed was ten times our own." Still another wrote, "From 10PM until midnight, Vaughn's battery and the infantry supporting it were subjected to repeated attacks from the enemy. These, however, were successfully repulsed without serious loss. The night was cold, but the troops, without complaining, lay out on the open prairie with no fire to warm or shelter to protect them.

In an account publiched two years after the close of the War, one of Shelby's men wrote of the fighting in the afternoon, "Every horse and seventeen of Collins' men lay dead and wounded among the guns...Two of Collins' guns were withdrawn by hand. One of Shelby's reports stated that, "The artillery duel was terrible and magnificent. The broad prairie stretched away smoothly as a sea of glass. The long lines of cavalry on either side of the Guns, and over all the bursting bombs and the white powder clouds came fast and furious. For three hours the fight went on."

Of the night engagement, one wrote: Darkness came down upon the vast Prairie, yet the battle was not ended. Steele showed signs of advancing and Marmaduke ordered Shelby to attack and check him effectively. Deploying his entire brigade, except Gordon's regiment, as skirmishers, he engaged Steele's whole army. The horizon from east to west was one leaping incessant blaze of about 6,000 muskets lighting up the very sky and making night hideous with the screaming missiles. The batteries, too, joined in the combat and burst like volcanoes from the solid earth, throwing large jets of flame at every discharge. By midnight Steele had made no advance and Shelby withdrew his troops.

Another descripiton of the night battle is given in one of Shelby's reports. He says, " I ordered Collins once more to position on the naked prairie and deployed about 400 men as skirmishers along their entire front, and a real night battle began. For three hours more the fight went on, the whole heavens lit up with bursting bombs and the falling flames of muskets. Their advance was checked for the night, and at 12PM I drew off after eight hours of severe fighting. Nowhere does the record so indicate, but it would seem that other Confederate troops would have been placed in line with those of Dockery and Shelby, along the high land of the prairie, confronting the Union forces.

On Monday, April 11, there was little action until the afternoon. A soldier in the Thirty-third Iowa later recalled that "It was a beautiful day, and the singing of birds in the thicket near us contrasted oddly with the occasional booming of the cannon and the continued skirmishing on some part of the line. As for us, we hunted rabbits, played euchre, read old novels, wrote away at letters, slept, and so on, as though there were no thoughts of battle in the world."

In the afternoon, about 2:30, the entire Union line was drawn up in battle array and a forward movement began. The line of cavalry, infantry and artillery, extending some two or three miles across the prairie, was an imposing sight. Even the Union troops themselves were impressed. The Confederates, too, must have been.

Toward evening the Union line halted for some time on the high prairie. There was considerable skirmishing in front. There was also considerable artillery action. As night came on, the Union troops withdrew and at least a part of them went back to occupy the same camp they had occupied the night before. This was true of the Thirty-third Iowa and probably, to some extent, of the other units as well.

On Monday night the troops commanded by Shelby and Marmaduke left Prairie De Ann and camped on Prairie De Rohan, the present site of the city of Hope, some 12 miles to the south. The same evening Price withdrew most of the other troops from the fortifications on the southwestern side of the prairie to a point eight miles east of Washington. He stated that he did this in order to find a more suitable location for making a successful stand against the Union advance. It is also possible that Price had been influenced to withdraw the Confederates from the prairie by the formidable showing made by the Union troops in their advance on Monday afternoon.

On Tuesday morning about daylight the entire Union army began advancing over the prairie toward the Confederate entrenchments on the western side. Price had left a small force here with orders to withdraw as the Union forces advanced. At times the skirmishing was reported to be "quite lively." The Confederates gradually withdrew. About 9 o'clock the Union troops reached the edge of the woods and entered the Confederate entrenchments which had just been evacuated. They found "nearly a mile of rifle pits with positions for artillery, and nearly a mile of felled timber thrown up as breastworks." It is these entrenchments that can still be seen along the western edge of the prairie, to the north and the south of Hwy 371, in the vicinity of Miller's store.

As the Confederates withdrew, the Union cavalry was sent in pursuit, as if it were Steele's intention to follow Price in the direction of Washington, but the main column, with the wagon train, took the road eastward across the prairie in the direction of Camden. After following the Confederates for several miles, the Union cavalry returned to the prairie and joined the rest of the Union forces in the march eastward. That night, Tuesday, April 12, the head of the Union column encamped on Terre Rouge Creek, several miles to the east of the present city of Prescott. Other Union troops camped along the road in the rear of these, and many, especially Thayer's troops, did not leave the prairie until the next day, Wednesday, April 13.

When General Price discovered that the Union army had changed its course and was moving in the direction of Camden, he decided to return to the prairie and attack its rear as it withdrew. Gano's Texas brigade and Walker's Choctaw Brigade, commanded by General Samuel B. Maxey, together with Dockey's Brigade, now returned, recrossed the prairie and attacked Thayer's troops as they were leaving the prairie in the afternoon about 1 o'clock. For four hours the fighting continued. Thayer deployed his men in the edge of the timber and here he stationed the Second Indiana Battery. During the entrenchment this battery fired more than 200 shots, solid and shell, an average of about one a minute throughout the afternoon. At length the Confederates withdrew, and were pursued back across the prairie for a distance of some four miles. About 5 o'clock the pursuit ended and the fighting ceased. Under cover of the night, Thayer withdrew his troops from the prairie, renewed the march, and "marched all night through a swamp" to the east of Moscow. In this engagement, known as the "Battle of Moscow," Thayer reported a loss of seven killed and twenty-four wounded. The Confederate loss was not reported.

The fighting at Moscow brought to an end the fighting on the prairie. The Union troops moved on to Camden. Here they remained for ten days. While there, one detachment fought the Battle of the Poison Springs, another, the Battle of Marks' Mills. On the way from Camden to Little Rock the entire army was attacked at Jenkins' Ferry on the Saline River. Here both armies suffered considerable loss, but the Union forces managed to escape across the river and get back to Little Rock. The expedition had accomplished nothing. Prairie De Ann had been the turning point in the expedition.

"The Action at Prairie De Ann" was written by J.H. Atkinson, Little Rock, Arkansas. A copy is on file in the Prescott- Nevada County Depot Museum office, Prescott, Arkansas.

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