Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Henry Rifle and the Battle of Prairie Grove

The Battle of Prairie Grove was fought 155 years ago today, and one of the participants was Major Albert C. Ellithorpe of the First Indian Home Guards. His regiment consisted primarily of refugee Seminoles and Muscogee Creeks from the Indian Territory and were part of James G. Blunt’s Kansas Division. This division arrived on the battlefield after soldiers from Francis J. Herron’s division had launched several bloody and futile attacks on Confederates from Thomas C. Hindman’s army. Ellithorpe’s regiment gave a “war yell” after positioning itself to the right of Herron’s Twentieth Iowa Infantry, and then the two regiments advanced toward the enemy. Ellithorpe had purchased a Henry rifle earlier in the year. This repeater had a sixteen-shot magazine and fired a .44 caliber bullet. Ellithorpe proudly wrote a month after the battle that, “my ‘Henry’ has done its work well I emptied 32 shots from it at the Battle of ‘Prarie Grove’ at a very short range. I think the gun has done good service.” The Major was so taken with the weapon that he asked for permission “to raise a battalion of sharpshooters” that would be equipped with the Henry rifle. For reasons unknown, his request was never granted. Were any other soldiers equipped with the Henry rifle at Prairie Grove? If any Henry bullets are ever excavated from the ground where the First Indian advanced, then they were probably fired by the redoubtable Major Ellithorpe.