Searching For Answers About the Civil War - A Visit to the Prairie Grove Arkansas Battlefield

Dear Henry,

It occurred to me that, despite living in a former Confederate State for more than four years now, I still do not understand the Civil war any more than I did when I visited the  Pea Ridge Civil War Site. So, I thought I would investigate the second Civil War battlefield in the area.

The Battle of Prairie Grove took place on December 7, 1862. It was a confrontation between the troops led by Confederate General Thomas Hindman and the Union Troops under Generals Herron and Blunt.

The battle took place along a ridge located on the property of Archibald Borden. He and his family had just sat down to breakfast when a collective group of around 20,000 men converged on their property and began fighting.

While the Confederate army had the terrain advantage of higher ground, the Union army had much better guns and more ammunition. The battle, therefore, was relatively evenly matched. Ultimately though, the Confederate army withdrew. This gave effective control of Northern Arkansas to the Union. Nevertheless, the war cost the lives of 2,700 men in total.

I walked through the battleground site and was staggered by that number. But, of course, the site isn't that big, and 2,700 men would have been stacked up like cordwood on that hill.

While the Borden family managed to escape any injuries during the fight, their house was burnt to the ground. The one that stands at the park is the family rebuilt after the war ended.

The park is very well set up. It has some of the historic buildings of Prairie Grove on a green and, of course, the Borden house. A self-guided mile-long walking loop takes you through the ridge where the bulk of the fighting occurred.

I didn't come away from the battleground with any more insight into why people believe owning another person was ok. Instead, I mourn the enormous number of lives lost because many people refused to let that belief go. The current estimate of the Civil War death toll is around 618,222. Still, after reading Drew Gilpin Faust's book: This Republic of Suffering, I understand that we will never honestly know how many soldiers died during the war. We will never know, for sure, how many civilians were lost, either.

And I think, finally, what makes the Civil War so hard to come to terms with, is that the "enemy" was also an "American."

Still, I hope the battleground sites remain open. We (as a nation) can't ever forget this happened.

xoxo a.d.

a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Roanoke, Virginia. 

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