The string on “mass desertions” has been extremely interesting, and I feel that a comment about those that did not desert Prairie Grove is in order. I find it amazing that more did not desert when events leading up to PG are considered. Those soldiers had gone through weeks of demoralizing conditions that included a series of disease-ridden encampments, lack of pay, dissatisfaction with officers, the epidemic at Camp Hope/Nelson, everyday deprivations of the soldier’s life, and a long, hard march in freezing temperatures just to get to the Mazard Prairie staging area.
Once there, Hindman pushed those guys north with just enough supplies for a “one shot” campaign. On top of all of this, they ended up at PG “between” two sizeable enemy forces, a situation that eventually negated the high ground advantage.
In addition, these troops (brought in just eight months before to replace those taken east by Van Dorn) were not what one might call battle-seasoned.
As previously mentioned, I find it amazing that more did not “find the bush,” and I am curious as to why they might have stuck with it. Could it have been good leadership on the regimental and company level, fear of appearing cowardly in front of friends, family, and neighbors (of which most companies were composed), or just plain stubbornness? What drove them (Sounds like a good dissertation subject)?