Don’t miss the Prairie Grove Battle Reenactment Dec. 3 and 4 because you’ll have to wait two years to see it again. The reenactment only takes place on even numbered years at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park.
The battle reenactment starts with about 10 minutes of cannon fire from both sides. Hearing and seeing the battle unfold before your eyes on the ground the men fought and died for is one of the best ways to obtain a true sense of the Civil War and the Battle of Prairie Grove.
The Battle of Prairie Grove was the last time two armies of almost equal strength faced each other for supremacy in northwest Arkansas. When the Confederate Army withdrew from the bloody battlefield at Prairie Grove on the night of Dec. 7, 1862 it was clear Missouri and northwest Arkansas would remain in Federal hands. In this one-day battle, there were about 22,000 men almost evenly divided between sides. There were about 2,700 casualties.
The battle reenactment takes place on some of the same ground the armies fought over during the skirmish, which includes the Borden House and valley below. The hillside is used as a natural amphitheater for viewing it. Most of it takes place in the valley, but there are two charges up the hill toward the Borden House.
Union and Confederate troops will be dressed in uniforms and accouterments of authentic style and material. Weaponry used will include black powder rifles or muskets, carbines, shotguns, revolvers, swords, sabers, pistols and cannons. Infantry, artillery and mounted cavalry units will take part in the battle demonstration, which lasts about one hour and 15 minutes. The park is recognized nationally as one of America’s most intact Civil War battlefields.
Authentic Confederate, Union and civilian camps will be set up, and the public is welcome to walk through them. Even medical personnel reenactors immerse themselves in the staged demonstrations, tossing fake amputated limbs to the ground after operations. In addition to the battle reenactment, there will be many activities throughout the weekend, including various military drills, cooking, spinning, and lace making demonstrations and other living history programs. Some of these events will take place in the park’s Ozark Pioneer Village, which represents life in the Ozarks during that era. All the activities are free. The only cost associated with the event is $5 per vehicle for parking.
“Sutlers Row” will feature a number of vendors selling 19th century reproduction items such as uniforms and weapons, as well as books, and souvenirs.
The public is encouraged to get to the park at least an hour in advance if not earlier. There are lots of activities to enjoy before the reenactment, plus it takes time to park and walk to the site. Also consider ear plugs – those cannons are loud. People spread blankets on the ground to watch from the hillside. Some people bring lawn chairs.
The park’s Hindman Hall Visitor Center contains exhibits, a gift shop and a book store. Recently renovated, The exhibits give a timeline of Arkansas seceding to battles in this region to an overview of the Battle of Prairie Grove.
Admission to the event is free, but parking on the park grounds is $5. The battlefield is located on U.S. 62 in Prairie Grove. For more information, visit arkansasstateparks.com or call (479) 846-2990.
9 a.m. – All camps open to the public, each day
1 p.m. – Presentation marking the Battle of Prairie Grove, each day
5 p.m. – All camps closed to the public, last self-guided tour ends
7 p.m. – Period Dance at the Latta Barn
10 a.m. – Period church service at log church & Catholic mass at the Jim Parks Shelter
4 p.m. – Closing of all encampments to public