Annual Battle of Honey Springs memorial goes virtual

Union soldier reenactors gather to do battle against Confederates in a reenactment of the Battle of Honey Springs in a previous year.

COVID-19 may have canceled the annual reenactment of the Battle of Honey Springs, but the event honoring the 157th anniversary of the battle will go on in a virtual format. 

“We hope you will join us as we commemorate the battle in a new way during this unprecedented time," said Lynn, director of Honey Springs Battlefield. "Because we are using this platform, even if you miss the program at 10:30 a.m., you can still enjoy the event by viewing it at a later time."

Dr. Bob Blackburn, Oklahoma Historical Society executive director, will be the featured speaker for the upcoming memorial that will be on Facebook. Blackburn will look back on the preservation and development of the battlefield. He is set to retire in January after a 40-year career with OHS.

The battle took place near Checotah and included many different cultures and tribes in the conflict. 

“It’s thought to be one of the most culturally diverse conflicts to ever take place in the entire Civil War, and that's accounting the 10,000 conflicts that took place," Lynn said. "You had American Indians fighting for both sides and African Americans that fought for the Union, which is very interesting.”

The 1st Kansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment was the first Black regiment to see battle during the Civil War for the Union. The Battle of Honey Springs was their fourth conflict they were involved with, Lynn said. 

The battle took place on Muscogee (Creek) land. The Creek and Cherokee nations were involved with the Battle of Honey Springs, and both tribes had factions fighting for the Union and the Confederacy. 

Of the 107 conflicts in Indian Territory during the Civil War, the Battle of Honey Springs was by far the largest. The battle involved approximately 9,000 men and resulted in approximately 200 deaths, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society. 

The engagement took place on July 17, 1863, after the Union's Major General James G. Blunt got news that the Confederate's General Douglas H. Cooper was going to meet with General William Cabell from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to attack Fort Gibson. Blunt ordered a night march on July 16 and took flatboats across the Arkansas River in the pouring rain to stop Cooper's brigade. The Union lost soldiers due to drowning while crossing the river, losing men before the battle started. 

Blunt and his men were outnumbered 3,000 to 6,000 but won the battle, allowing the Union to secure the Indian Territory for the remainder of the Civil War. One key component in the Union victory was the amount of artillery pieces they had, outnumbering them 12 to the Confederacy's four. 

More information about the Battle of Honey Springs will be available during the virtual presentation at 10:30 a.m. July 18 via www.facebook.com/honeysprings

If you watch

WHAT: Honey Springs Battlefield Virtual Remembrance.

WHEN: 10:30 a.m. July 18.

WHERE: www.facebook.com/honeysprings

Learn more

Email alynn@okhistory.org for information on how to become a member of Friends of Honey Springs. Email honeysprings@okhistory.org or visit friendsofhoneysprings.org, or call (918) 476-5572 for more information.

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