Battle of Van Buren
Troops poured through down-
town Van Buren during the
battle, shocking citizens and
Crawford County Courthouse
The original courthouse still
overlooks the main street in
Van Buren. It stood at the time
of the battle.
The Battle of Van Buren - Van Buren, Arkansas
The Battle of Van Buren - Van Buren, Arkansas
|Van Buren, Arkansas
This view of Van Buren and the Arkansas River was
taken from the heights overlooking the town.
Winter Battle on the Arkansas
Three weeks after the bloody stalemate at
Prairie Grove, Union and Confederate forces
battled again in Arkansas, this time for
control of the Arkansas River city of Van
Fought on December 28, 1862, the Battle of
Van Buren was the last outburst of the Prairie
Van Buren had served as a base of
operations for General Thomas Hindman's
march north through the Boston Mountains
and it was back to the community that he
withdrew following the fight at Prairie Grove.
The ferocity with which he had advanced out
of the mountains troubled the Federals, as
did the relative ease with which he withdrew
back down the Cove Creek valley to Van
Union generals James G. Blunt and Francis
Herron considered following across the
mountains, but winter weather intervened
and the Union army remained in its camps
around Prairie Grove three weeks after the
battle there. They were spurred to action
when scouts reported that Hindman's army,
camped at Van Buren and Fort Smith, was
receiving reinforcements for another advance
across the mountains.
The information was incorrect and, in fact,
Hindman's army was rapidly disintegrating,
but the Federals had no way of knowing this.
Deciding to launch a preemptive strike, Blunt
and Herron marched south into the
mountains on the morning of December 27,
1862. Blount advanced via the Cove Creek
road, while Herron's men came down the
Telegraph or Wire road.
The two wings of the army converged in
northern Crawford County at 3 o'clock the
next morning. After a brief rest, the united
force pushed toward Van Buren, a large
cavalry force in the lead.
Fighting broke out north of Van Buren at
Dripping Springs where the Union cavalry
attacked the camp of a regiment of Texas
horsemen under Lt. Col. R.P. Crump. The
Confederates fought back, but were quickly
driven from the field and began a fighting
withdrawal in the direction of Van Buren. The
Federal cavalry pushed them hard.
After a few brief skirmishes, the Confederate
cavalry and their Union pursuers topped
Logtown Hill on the northern edge of Van
Buren and thundered down the main road
into town. Their arrival in the community
happened so quickly that the people of the
town were caught completely by surprise:
On we traveled, chasing them through the
streets of Van Buren, to the great surprise
and astonishment of the citizens, who had
heard nothing of our coming.
The Confederates made for steamboats tied
up at the riverfront of Van Buren and tried to
make their escape across the Arkansas
River, but the Federals quickly unlimbered
artillery and opened fire on the boats.
Most of the Southern soldiers managed to
escape, but cannon and musket fire forced
three of the boats to shore. Around 100 men
were captured along with their horses, arms
and other supplies.
Two additional steamboats were burned by
the Confederates to prevent their capture.
At 2:30 in the afternoon, when the Union army
had full possession of Van Buren, General
Hindman ordered one of the Confederate
batteries to open on the town from across the
river. One shell nearly killed Generals Blunt
and Herron, buildings and homes were
damaged and six Union soldiers were either
killed or wounded.
Civilian casualties were also reported as the
Southern gunners rained an estimated 100
shells on the town.
Fighting continued up and down the river until
nightfall and the Federals were prepared to
continue the battle on the next morning, but
General Hindman withdrew his army from
the vicinity under the cover of darkness.
Realizing they were too far advanced to
sustain their position on the Arkansas River,
Blunt and Herron withdrew from Van Buren
and returned over the mountains to their
winter camps in Northwest Arkansas.
Federal troops returned to Van Buren and
Fort Smith the following year, seizing the
cities after defeating Confederate forces at
the Battle of Devil's Backbone.
The Arkansas River
As they reached the heights
overlooking Van Buren, Union
soldiers saw steamboats
moving away on the river.
The River at Van Buren
Union and Confederate guns
exchanged fire across the
Arkansas River during the
Battle of Van Buren.
Union cannon fired from the
high ground in Fairview
Cemetery during the battle
and dead from the fighting are
buried there. Please click here
to learn more...
Battlefields in Arkansas
|Copyright 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: December 28, 2013