Battle of Honey Springs
A series of walking trails lead
visitors through key areas of
the well-preserved site of the
Battle of Honey Springs.
Union Bivouac
Outnumbered Union forces
rested here briefly before
launching a smashing attack
against Confederate troops.
The Battle of Honey Springs (Elk Creek) - Checotah, Oklahoma
The Battle of Honey Springs (Elk Creek) - Checotah, Oklahoma
The Battle of Honey Springs - Checotah, Oklahoma
Honey Springs Battlefield
Monuments at Honey Springs Battlefield honor
soldiers from both sides and the multiple ethnic
backgrounds who fought in the engagement.
"The Gettysburg of the West"
One of the least known but most strategically
important battles of the Civil War took place
on July 17, 1863 in what was then the far
West.

The Battle of Honey Springs was a bloody
engagement fought to drive back Southern
forces that were threatening an attack on the
Union base of operations at Fort Gibson (Fort
Blunt), Oklahoma. A Union victory, the battle
was in many ways the turning point of the war
in the West.

Honey Springs in 1863 was an important
stopping point or "depot" on the Texas Road.
This wagon trace led south across the rolling
hills of Oklahoma and was a vital North-
South route through the Indian Territory
where the "Five Civilized Tribes" had been
resettled following the Trail of Tears.

The road crossed Elk Creek in the Creek
nation by an important bridge just north of
Honey Springs Depot. Confederate forces
under Brig. Gen. D.H. Cooper occupied the
vicinity during the summer of 1863 and
began massing supplies and troops for a
planned effort to recapture
Fort Gibson
(renamed Fort Blunt by the Federal troops
that now occupied the historic frontier post).

Learning of Cooper's presence at Honey
Springs, Union Maj. Gen. James H. Blunt
decided to move on the Confederates before
they could be reinforced and strike north.
Although he was suffering from a severe
fever, Blunt moved 3,000 men and 12 pieces
of artillery across the Arkansas River on July
15-16, 1863 and drove back Confederate
pickets guarding the Texas Road.

Blunt's troops immediately advanced south
on the Texas Road, skirmishing with
Confederates at Chimney Mountain at
around midnight on the 16th and then
reaching a ridge overlooking Elk Creek on
the morning of July 17th. Exhausted, the men
fell out to rest while Blunt and his officers
planned their attack.

The Confederates outnumbered the Union
force by around 1,700 men, but Blunt was a
highly aggressive officer and as soon as his
men at rested, he pushed forward the attack.

Aware of the danger to his supplies if the
Federals could get across Elk Creek, Gen.
Cooper formed his men in line of battle in the
timber on the north side of the creek with
their backs to the crossing. From the cover of
the trees, they could watch as Blunt formed
his men into a line of battle on the ridge to
the north and prepared to open fire on them
with his 12 pieces of artillery.

Unwilling to let the Union guns get into place,
the Confederates opened fire first, wheeling
their cannon into place and taking aim.The
Southern fire demolished one Union gun, but
the Federal gunners quickly found the range
and rained shot and shell on their Southern
counterparts.

A Confederate gun was smashed, but the
Southern troops continued to target clusters
of Union officers with an experimental rifled
cannon that proved highly effective.

Blunt committed his infantry and after two
hours of brutal fighting, finally managed to
punch a hole in the Confederate lines. The
critical moment came when Southern officers
mistakenly thought a portion of the Union line
was retreating and ordered a counter-attack.
The Confederates surged forward and were
only 25 paces from the soldiers of
the 1st
Kansas Colored Volunteers
when that
regiment unleashed a deadly volley into their
faces. Dozens of men fell dead and wounded
as the counter-attack was stunned to a halt.

The Confederate lines began to fall back and
Gen. Cooper ordered his men to withdraw
across Elk Creek.  Soldiers from Texas held
the vital bridge under heavy fire while the
Southern cannon were withdrawn.


The Southern forces continued to fight, but
the battle degenerated into a rout.  As his
forces collapsed, General
Cooper ordered a
general retreat.
Union forces seized large
quantities of supplies that the Confederates
were not able to destroy before they withdrew.


Honey Springs opened the door for the Union
capture of
Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Total losses in the battle vary from estimate
to estimate, but Confederates reported
casualties of 181 killed, wounded and
missing. Union forces reported losses of 17
killed and 60 wounded.


The battlefield is currently open Tuesday
through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is
closed on Sundays, Mondays and state
holidays. Admission is free. It is located at
1863 Honey Springs Battlefield Road,
Checotah, Oklahoma.

To reach the park from I-40 at Checotah, take
the U.S. 69 exit and travel north to the second
exit (Business U.S. 69). Turn west toward
Rentiesville as you come off the exit and
follow the paved road for two miles and turn
right on the road to Rentiesville. Travel
another 2 miles through Rentiesville, turn left
on Honey Springs Battlefield Road and follow
it all the way to the park gates.

Please click here to visit the official website.

The battle will be reenacted on November
8-10, 2013.  
Please click here for details.
Tour Road at Honey Springs
A paved road guides visitors
through the battlefield and
features interpretive panels
and trail heads at key points.
Confederate Position
The Confederates received
the Union attack in a wooded
area on the north side of Elk
Creek.
Water from Honey Springs
The Battle of Honey Springs
takes its name from the clear
water that flows from springs
near the southern edge of the
battlefield.
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Copyright 2011 and 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Updated: July 14, 2013
Civil War in Oklahoma & Arkansas