On this day in 1862, the Battle of Cane Hill, was fought between Union and Confederate troops in Washington County, Arkansas. The Rebels sought to recover territory lost after the battle of Peabody Ridge. The battle was fought after the push by Confederates under General John Marmaduke into the northwest of Arkansas. The battle came during a counteroffensive by the Union army under General James Blunt. The aim of the Union offensive was to push the Confederates back into the Boston mountains, where they would be of little threat to the Union.
Confederate General Thomas Hindman moved his army, numbering also 12,000 men into Fort Smith and was about to traverse the Boston Mountain and attack the Union positions. The Yankees were almost one hundred miles from any reinforcements. The Confederates hoped that they could push the Union out of Arkansas, entirely and use the newly captured territory, as a launch pad for attacks on Missouri.
The Confederates advanced and they sought out General Blunt with his approximately 5,000 troops, less than half of the Confederate army strength. The Rebels hoped to push Blunt’ force out of the area. The Northern units were far from their base and had no prospect of reinforcements. The Union commander decided to attack promptly and decided to move further south. Then as the Rebels approached they were attacked during a night attack by the Yankees. The Southern army, under the command of General John Marmaduke, was thrown into confusion and retreated back towards the Boston Mountains. A small detachment of Confederates was left behind to cover the retreat of the Rebels. Blunt was delayed just enough for the Confederates to reach the hills and safety in northwestern Arkansas. The conflict lasted less than a day and it was not a very bloody encounter. In total the Yankee lost less than fifty men and the Confederates lost only 41. By the standards of many of the Battles in the Civil War, it was only a skirmish, but it was a strategically significant battle.
This brief battle was not the end of the fighting. Just over a week later the Union and the Confederates armies clashed again at the Battle of Prairie Grove, in Arkansas. Blunt confident after his recent success and despite his much smaller force advanced into Arkansas. The Confederates under Hardiman attacked the Union army at Prairie Grove. Hardiman once again was not able to make his superior numbers count and Blunt was able to withstand the attack. The Confederates lost more men than the Union. Hardiman once more attacked the Union in the area on December the 7th and he once again failed to expel Blunt and his Yankees from North East Arkansas, despite his numerical superiority.