The Battle of Honey Springs, 1863

July 17, 1863

The Battle of Honey Springs was fought between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America on July 17, 1863, during the Civil War and ended in a Union victory. It was the largest battle fought in Indian Territory and the victory gave Union forces control of the region.

Battle of Honey Springs, 1863, Cavalry Charge, Illustration

This illustration depicts General James G. Blunt (USA)  leading his forces to victory at the Battle of Honey Springs. Image Source: House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College.

Battle of Honey Springs Facts

  • Date — July 17, 1863.
  • Location — Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).
  • Opponents — United States of America and the Confederate States of America.
  • Union CommanderJames G. Blunt.
  • Confederate Commander — Douglas H. Cooper, William L. Cabell.
  • Winner — The United States of America won the Battle of Honey Springs.
  • Campaign — Operations to Control Indian Territory.
  • Theater — Trans-Mississippi Theater.
  • Also Known As — Affair at Elk Creek.

Battle of Honey Springs Summary

On June 9, 1863, Union officials placed James G. Blunt in command of the District of the Frontier. On July 17, 1863, Blunt’s forces defeated Brigadier General Douglas H. Cooper’s Confederate troops at the Battle of Honey Springs. The conflict was the largest engagement of the Civil War fought in the area that later became Oklahoma. It was also notable because the majority of men who fought in the battle were Indians. Blunt’s force also included the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry. Blunt’s victory essentially gave the Union control of the Indian Territory for the remainder of the war (see Civil War Timeline, July–December 1863).

Battle of Honey Springs History

Union and Confederate troops had engaged in frequent skirmishes around Honey Springs Depot. 

Union General James G. Blunt anticipated that Confederate troops, primarily composed of Indians led by General Douglas H. Cooper, were gathering and would soon launch an attack on his position at Fort Gibson. 

This video from the Oklahoma Historical Society provides a detailed overview of the Battle of Honey Springs.

Blunt decided to confront the Confederates at Honey Springs Depot before they could be reinforced by General William Cabell’s brigade, which was advancing from Fort Smith, Arkansas.

On July 15, Blunt started crossing the swollen Arkansas River. By midnight on July 16–17, he had assembled a force of 3,000 soldiers, including whites, Indians, and African American troops, and was marching toward Honey Springs. Skirmishes with Confederates took place early on the morning of the 17th, leading to full-scale combat by midafternoon.

The Confederate troops encountered difficulties due to wet gunpowder, and the situation worsened as rain began to fall. After withstanding a Union attack, Cooper withdrew his men to secure fresh ammunition. 

Meanwhile, there was confusion in the Confederate lines, and Cooper learned Blunt was about to turn his left flank. This prompted a Confederate retreat, and despite some rearguard actions, many troops were unable to mount an effective counterattack and ultimately fled. 

Any hopes of the Confederates capturing Fort Gibson were ended. With the victory, Union forces gained control of Indian Territory north of the Arkansas River.

Battle of Honey Springs Casualties and Statistics

United States of America

  • USA Forces Engaged — District of the Frontier.
  • USA Casualties — Estimated to be 79–200.

Confederate States of America

  • CSA Forces Engaged — 1st Brigade, Native American Troops.
  • CSA Casualties — Estimated to be 180–500.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title The Battle of Honey Springs, 1863
  • Date July 17, 1863
  • Author
  • Keywords Battle of Honey Springs, Affair at Elk Creek, Operations to Control Indian Territory
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date May 30, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 13, 2024