Monday, July 27, 2009

145th Anniversary of the Battle of Massard Prairie, Arkansas

Today marks the 145th anniversary of the Confederate victory at the Battle of Massard Prairie, Arkansas.

Fought on July 27, 1864, the battle took place in what is now the southeastern quadrant of the important city of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Confederate forces led by Brigadier General Richard Gano and composed of both white and Native American soldiers swept down from nearby ridges and destroyed a full battalion of the 6th Kansas Cavalry in one of the great open field charges of the Civil War.

The battle, along with a second attack a few days later, was instrumental in driving Union troops into the primary fortifications at Fort Smith and eliminating their ability to effectively scout the movement of Confederate forces in the region. As a result, Southern troops were soon able to cross the Arkansas River and push north through the Cherokee Nation to achieve their dramatic victory at the Battle of Cabin Creek, which resulted in one of the greatest seizures of Union supplies by Confederate forces during the entire Civil War. The Battle of Massard Prairie opened the door for the major victory.

Although small when compared to many other battles of the war, Massard Prairie was significant for a number of reasons. In addition to creating the opportunity for the victory at Cabin Creek, it also marked one of the last great cavalry charges in American history. Confederate troops charged on horseback across miles of open prairie to achieve their victory. It was included one of the few documented instances of Union forces scalping Confederate dead after a battle. And finally, it deprived the Union troops at Fort Smith of desperately needed horses while providing Confederate forces with modern weaponry that would prove instrumental in coming actions.

The site is now marked by Massard Prairie Battlefield Park near the intersection of Red Pine and Morgan in Fort Smith. The park features a walking trail across the site of some of the key fighting, a memorial flag staff and a small monument. To learn more, please visit or consider purchasing my book, The Battle of Massard Prairie, available now at or at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park in Northwest Arkansas.

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