TwHP Lessons

The Battle of Prairie Grove: Civilian Recollections of the Civil War

[Cover photo] Archibald Borden House, c. 1868, with replica six-pounder cannon.
(Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park)


ecember the 7th, 1862, will long be remembered especially by those of us who lived here and witnessed the battle of Prairie Grove. It was a beautiful, cold, frosty Sunday morning.... About 10 o'clock the cannonading began and about noon war began in earnest. When it seemed everyone would be killed.

--Mrs. Julia West Pyeatt
Witness to the Battle of Prairie Grove, as a child

Julia West was fourteen years old when she viewed the carnage and destruction of the battle at Prairie Grove, Arkansas. Yet, the images of that day and those that followed were vividly etched in her memory forever. She was not the only young spectator at the battle, but she did have one of the best views of the conflict.

Looking south from her home on West Hill, Julia beheld the splendor and horror of battle when the men of the Union Army of the Frontier encountered the Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi. The southern troops waited atop the heavily-wooded Prairie Grove ridge stretching from the large yellow two-story Borden House on the east end to the small log Morton House on the west end of the ridge. The only rebels visible were those in the clearings around the homes and the Fayetteville-Cane Hill road which bisected the ridge. Footsore Yankees advanced across open corn, wheat, and hay fields in the valley to face the Southern foe.

While none of the original houses remain, the valley fields continue to produce hay and wheat. Descendants of the West family still live on their hill. On the east end of the ridge stands the second Borden House; built in 1868 to replace the one burned the day after the battle. Only memories remain as testament to a battle that changed many families' lives forever.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. The Prairie Grove Battlefield

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. The Recollections of Julia West Pyeatt
 2. The Recollections of Caldonia Ann
 Borden Brandenburg

 3. The Memoir of Nancy Morton Staples

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. The Borden House
 2. Nancy Morton Staples at the Morton House
 3. The Morton Cellar

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Reliability of Historic Sources
 2. Modern Civil Wars
 3. The Civil War in Your Area
 4. Monuments and Memorials

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This lesson is based on Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



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