The Battle of Cane Hill

November 28, 1862 in Washington County, Arkansas

Union Forces Commanded by
Brig. General James G. Blunt
Strength Killed Wounded Missing / Captured
± 5,000 4 36 ?
Confederate Forces Commanded by
Brig. General John S. Marmaduke
Strength Killed Wounded Missing / Captured
± 2,000 75 300 ?
Conclusion: Confederate Victory
Prairie Grove Campaign

At the Battle of Cane Hill, Union troops under Brig. Gen. John Blunt drive Confederates under Brig. Gen. John Marmaduke back into the Boston Mountains in northwestern Arkansas.

The battle was part of a Confederate attempt to drive the Union army back into Missouri and recapture ground lost during the Pea Ridge Campaign of early 1862, when Union forces secured parts of northern Arkansas.

In late November, Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman moved his army of 11,000 soldiers into Fort Smith, and prepared to move across the Boston Mountains into the extreme northwestern corner of Arkansas. Awaiting him there was Blunt's 5,000 Federals. Hindman hoped to attack Blunt's force, which was over 70 miles from the nearest Union reinforcements.

Hindman detached Brig. Gen. John Marmaduke's 2,000 Confederate cavalry from Van Buren north to occupy the Cane Hill area. Hearing of this movement, Brig. Gen. James Blunt advanced to meet Marmaduke's command and destroy it, if possible. Marmaduke was to hold Blunt in place while Hindman moved the rest of his force through the mountains.
Blunt disrupted the Confederate plan by advancing south when he heard of Marmaduke's approach. Marmaduke was not prepared to meet Blunt, who was 35 miles further south than expected.

On November 28, Marmaduke's troops were surprised and outnumbered when Blunt suddenly attacked. Marmaduke began a hasty retreat and ordered Col. Joseph Shelby's cavalry brigade to fight a delaying action while the rest of the Confederates headed for the mountains and to protect their supply trains. Shelby gradually gave ground until establishing a strong defensive perimeter on Cove Creek where he repulsed a determined attack. Blunt pursued Marmaduke's forces for 12 miles before the Confederates reached the safety of the hills.

The Union army withdrew to Cane Hill, while the Confederates returned to Van Buren. Although fighting well, Marmaduke's withdrawal was a setback for Hindman's plans for recapturing northwest Arkansas. Though the conflict lasted for 9 hours, casualties were light.

This small engagement was a prelude to a much larger clash, and Union victory, at the Battle of Prairie Grove. Blunt's advance left him dangerously isolated from Union forces in Springfield, Missouri, but when Hindman attacked again on December 7, he still failed to expel Blunt from northwestern Arkansas. The victory at Prairie Grove a few weeks later, solidified Union control of the region.

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