Samuel C. Curtis
The general responsible for
the great Union victory at Pea
Ridge, Major General Curtis
was the overall commander
west of the Mississippi at the
time of the Battle of Van Buren.
The Battle of Van Buren - Union Reports - The Battle of Van Buren, Arkansas - The Battle of Van Buren, Arkansas
(The following reports are from the Official Records, Series 1, Volume XXII.)

Union Reports

December 29, 1862

Report of Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis, U.S. Army

The Army of the Frontier, under Generals Blunt and Herron, moved over Boston
Mountains on Saturday. Advanced without halting to Van Buren; drove the enemy
across the Arkansas; killed and wounded a few; took three steamboats, camp
equipments, and 100 prisoners. The march of 45 miles, with all arms of service,
over the mountains and through the deep mud of the valley was a most arduous
and gallant affair.

(Saml. R. Curtis, Major-General to H.W. Halleck, General-in-Chief)


Headquarters Army of the Frontier
Van Buren, Ark.
December 28, 1862

Report of Brig. Gen. James G. Blunt, U.S. Army

General:  The Stars and Stripes now wave in triumph over Van Buren. On learning
that Hindman had been re-enforced and contemplated making another attempt to
force his way to Missouri, I determined to make the attack upon him.

Leaving my transportation north of the mountains, I marched with 8,000 of my best
troops and thirty pieces of artillery, from Prairie Grove at 8 o’clock yesterday
morning upon this place; distance, 50 miles. At 10 o’clock this morning my
advance came upon two regiments of rebel cavalry at Dripping Springs, 8 miles
north of the river. Dashing upon them with 3,000 cavalry and four mountain
howitzers, a brisk running fight took place, which was kept up into the town,
resulting in the capture of all their transportation – 40 wagons, with six-mule
teams, camp and garrison equipage, 100 prisoners, a large amount of
ammunition; four steamers and the ferry-boat were also captured. The latter, in
attempting to cross the river with rebel troops, was shelled from the howitzer.
When in the middle of the river the boats were disabled and a number of men
killed. The remainder jumped overboard and swam to shore. Three large
steamers, heavily laden with Government supplies, had got up steam and
attempted to escape down the river, but were pursued by the cavalry 5 miles and
brought to by the fire of the carbines, and returned to the levee. The enemy then
brought their artillery to the opposite bank of the river and commenced shelling the
town, for the purpose of driving out my cavalry, but resulting in no other damage
than the destruction of some buildings; my artillery, coming up soon, silenced
their batteries. Quite a number of the enemy have been killed during the day’s
operations. The only casualties on our side are 5 or 6 men slightly wounded. My
long-range guns are now shelling the rebel camp across the river, 5 miles below
this place. If the enemy does not retire during the night, I shall endeavor to cross
my troops over the river in the morning and offer them battle.

(Brigadier General James G. Blunt to Major General Samuel R. Curtis)


Headquarters Army of the Frontier
Van Buren, Ark.
December 30, 1862

Report of Brig. Gen. James G. Blunt, U.S. Army

The enemy retreated during the night of the 28th in the direction of Arkadelphia.
About 600 sick and wounded Confederates were abandoned at Fort Smith, with
instructions to take care of themselves. I sent a small force to Fort Smith to destroy
two steamers there, but the rebels had saved us the trouble by burning tem before
they retreated. The four steamers captured at Van Buren, also the ferry boat, were
burned by my order. Last night as much of the sugar and other supplies as I had
transportation to remove were landed. The remainder, including about 13,000
bushels of corn, shipped from Little Rock for the rebel army, shared the fate of the
boats. As it is impossible to sustain an army here, for the want of forage and
supplies, until they can be brought up the river, or the animals subsist upon grass,
I shall therefore commence moving my troops back today north of the

(Brigadier General James G. Blunt to Major T.J. Weed, Assistant Adjutant General,
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas)


Hdqrs. 2d and 3d Divs., Army of the Frontier
Van Buren, Ark.
December 29, 1862

Report of Brig. Gen. Francis J. Herron, U.S. Army

We have bearded the tricky rebel, General Hindman, in his den. Yesterday
morning we left north side of mountains, General Blunt taking Cove Creek road
and I taking Telegraph road. It was a terrible trip. We formed junction at daylight
this morning, and pushed the cavalry into Van Buren without halting. Two
regiments of cavalry were encamped at Dripping Springs and showed fight, but
after killing a few and wounding some, they left, crossing the river on two boats at
the wharf. We captured two boats and the ferry boat, the transportation of two
regiments, and 100 prisoners, including several officers. It is a good joke on
Hindman. He is across the river, 5 miles from here, with his whole force. We claim
the country to the Arkansas River.

(Brigadier General F.J. Herron to Major General Samuel R. Curtis)


Headquarters Second and Third Divisions
Prairie Grove, Ark.
December 31, 1862

Report of Brig. Gen Francis J. Herron, U.S. Army (Excerpt)

…Arriving on the hill overlooking the town, we found three steamboats leaving the
wharf and the ferry, making good time over the river. We chased them with the
cavalry, overtaking the first one a mile below town, and, by a well directed fire of
musketry, brought her to. Colonel Cloud followed the other two 10 miles, capturing
both, and bringing them back to the wharf. They were all loaded with corn and
other stores. In the mean time the cavalry were scouring the country, and wagons
were being brought in from every direction.

About 2.30 o’clock (we had arrived at 12 o’clock) a battery opened on the town
from the opposite side of the river, and shelled the town for an hour. One of our
men was killed and 5 wounded. General Blunt and myself made a narrow escape.
We soon hurried up a long range battery, and drove them off. The transaction was
diabolical, to say the least of it, the town being full of women and children. At least
100 shells were fired into the houses, doing great damage, only one citizen being
hurt that I know of. We remained there over night and until dark the next night,
moving the command back to Dripping Springs.

The captures are numerous. After feeding all the corn we could, there remained
between 15,000 and 20,000 bushels, which we destroyed, also burning the three
boats captured – the ferry boat and two boats that were laid up at the wharf. We
have over 50 six mule teams taken; 250 head of fine cattle, and a large number of
horses, &c. Te camp equipage was all destroyed, and the wagons loaded with
Government sugar and brought with us. The telegraph operator, instruments, and
official dispatches of Hindman were taken. I will send the telegrams to you; they
are a curiosity.

Hindman’s whole force was encamped within miles, on the south bank of the
river. They at once evacuated Fort Smith; destroyed all their stores on hand and
burned two steamboats, and traveled, leaving 4,000 sick in a very destitute
condition. The divisions of Frost, Shoup, Roane, and Fagan retreated in great
confusion, each one taking the first road they came to, and without any plan for
concentrating. They are demoralized and broken up, and I think this section is rid
of Hindman. My opinion is they will go to Marshfield, in Texas, and cross over to
Vicksburg. I also think Little Rock will be abandoned, and a new demonstration
will cause them to abandon the whole line of the Arkansas River. I would like to be
at Helena with a good division just at this time, and have a chance to operate. We
cannot subsist on the river until the mouth is opened, there being nothing above
Little Rock. Hindman has told the people on the river that all was well; that it was
an impossibility for us to cross the mountains; that, if we did, he would never let
one man get back, &c. This demonstration has done more to demoralize the army,
to create a distrust in the leaders, and to satisfy the people that we can
accomplish what we undertake, than anything done in this quarter. They are ready
and willing to give it up.

The march down and back was terrible. We crossed the mountains in the night,
and was more of a contract than I had yet got. It required 12 horses to draw the
artillery over, and sometimes 50 men on a rope, in addition. The feat, however,
was accomplished without losing anything.

I left Van Buren at 7 o’clock on the evening of the 29th, and met General Schofield
10 miles north of that place. He returned to Prairie Grove without visiting Van
Buren, and today assumed command of the army. General Blunt returned to Rhea’
s Mills, and I am still at Prairie Grove.

I sent you today a Fort Smith paper, containing a flattering notice of Judge Tibbetts,
of Fayetteville, and the obituary of Governor Claib. [F.] Jackson.

The army is in excellent health and condition, but need shoes badly. Somehow
they cannot be had.

Hoping that one little column of your forces have wound up the year in a manner to
suit you, I remain, very truly, yours,

(Brigadier General Francis J. Herron to Major General Samuel R. Curtis)
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