Pea Ridge National Park Visitor Center
Park Visitor Center
Cannon's Ready To Do Battle
A big issue and objective of the Federal government was to keep border states like Missouri in the Union and at least politically neutral throughout the Civil War. There was another battle fought nearby for this reason and that was in 1861 near Springfield. Missouri. The Battle of Wilson's Creek was in August 1861. The Pea Ridge Campaign began on Christmas Day in 1861 when Brig. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis was appointed as commander of the Federal Southwestern District of Missouri. His major task was to drive the Confederate and pro-confederate forces out of Missouri. By mid February 1862 his troops had run the opponent into Arkansas. The opposition troops were commanded by Maj. Gen. Sterling Price and included the pro-confederate Missouri State Guard.
Just south of Fayetteville, Arkansas in the Boston Mountains Gen Price joined forces with Brig. Gen. Ben McCullouch Confederate troops. On March 4 1862, Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn assumed command of the combined 16,000-man army. He intended to push into Missouri and capture St. Louis. This was through some very rough hilly and mountainous terrain. Brig. Gen. Curtis had 10,500 Federal troops dug in on the bluffs of Little Sugar Creek not far from Elk horn Tavern and nearby Elk horn Mountain which is a part of the greater Pea Ridge plateau. These troops in their dug in positions stood in the path and blocked the route that Gen Van Dorn wanted to go. Realizing that a head on attack against the Federal troops dug in on the bluffs would be suicidal so he swung north to come in behind them. His plan was to get behind them and attack at dawn March 7, 1862. His men were tired, hungry and cold following the three day difficult march. They arrived several hours behind schedule. And in fact the troops under the command of Gen McCulloch were so far behind schedule that Gen Van Dorn decided to temporarily divided his army. He ordered McCulloch to go west to the end of Elk Horn Mountain, then turn east along Ford Road and rejoin Gen Price near Elk horn Tavern. This may have been good military strategy but the timing was terrible. The 3 day delay permitted Gen Curtis to turn his troops around and reposition themselves to face the attack. As Gen McCulloch's troops, including two regiments of Cherokee Indians under the command of Brig. Gen. Albert Pike were caring out this maneuver they ran into heavy fire near Leetown. In this battle Gen McCulloch and Brig Gen James McIntosh were killed. The senior ranking colonel was captured. This left them with no command structure and McCulloch's troops scattered from the battle field.
In the meantime Gen Van Dorn and Gen Price were attacking east of Elk horn Mountain and they slowly pushed the Federal troops back and by nighttime they held Elk horn Tavern and the crucial Telegraph and Huntsville roads. During the night the survivors of McCulloch's Leetown fight joined them. On the morning of March 8, 1862 Gen Curtis counter-attacked in the Elk horn Tavern area. This attacked opened with a 2 hour cannon barrage that crippled the Confederate lines. This was followed by a intense infantry attack which broke the Confederate defenses. Gen Van Dorn realizing he was running out of ammunition ordered his troops to withdraw. The Battle of Pea Ridge was over. Missouri remained in the Union but did provide men and supplies to both sides.
An interesting bit of history surrounds the original Telegraph Road ( also known as the Trail of Tears ) because it was the road traveled by thousands of Cherokee and other American Indians in the winter of 1838 to 1839 in the forced relocation from their homelands. It got the name of Wire Road because the telegraph lines ran alongside of it to link the nation. It was also the road the Butterfield Overland stage used from 1857 to 1861. and of course both armies used it in the Battle of Pea Ridge.
Trail Of Tears
Change Of Plans And Strategy
Nerve Center Of Union Forces. The Fate Of the Battle Lay Across The Field From This Camp.
Wounded Men Being Cared For In Leetown, Arkansas. It Was Said That Every House In The Town Flew A Yellow Hospital Flag Where Surgeons Carried Out Their Duties.
Close Up View Of Wounded Heading Into Leetown For Treatment
General McCulloch had his troops in the woods beyond the split rail fence He wanted to personally make a scouting trip to look at the enemy. Some troops asked that go but he insisted on doing it himself. He rode his horse along the edge of the woods dressed in his shiny velveteen uniform and a Union sniper shot and killed him. Gen. McIntosh was also killed here.
Stand Your Ground. The Battle Hinges At this Critical Point Of The Battle Of Pea Ridge
" Dutch " Regiments
Cannons Lined Up For Action
Fierce Fighting At Close Hand. Save The Cannons/Capture The Cannons
Hand To Hand Fighting
Unexpected Battle Near Elk horn Tavern. Federal Troops Retreat In face Of Superior Numbers
Long, Cold Hungry March
The Plaque Tells The Story
Fierce Fighting Caused Federal Troops To Pull Back
This Is Highest Point Overlooking The Battle Fields Below
View Of Battle Field From Highest Point On The Mountain
This Would Have Been The Battle You see In The Photo Above. Park Visitor Center Is In Top Left
Confederate Troops Took Refuge In These Rocks Only To Find The Next Day They
Were Trapped And Were Slaughtered When Federal Cannons Opened Fire On Them
Highest Point On The Mountain. These are The Rocks Some 30 Feet Tall Were Where
Confederate Troops Took Refuge
Elk horn Tavern As It Looks Rebuilt. Original Was One Story Sits By The Road With Many Names
Wire Road, Telegraph Road, Trail Of Tears. You See The Telegraph Poles And The Butterfield
Overland Stage Coach As It May Have Stopped Here
Deer In The Woods
Seven Deers Crossed The Road In Front Of Me
The deers crossed the road in front of me about a quarter of a mile from the exit of the park. My final thoughts about the conflict here. It is interesting that this was only a two day battle just like Gettysburg. It was won by the Federal forces. It was one of the major battles to settle the dispute. It was also the place where the Confederate command structure made some significant mistakes. Major General Van Dorn who was overall commander did not like some of the commanders under him and for what ever reason he did not share the overall battle plans with them. When his armies were divided and two of his general officers were killed the lower level commanders did not know what to do or where to go and they were out of contact with Van Dorn. As a result many of these troops just stopped where they were after retreating, sat down and waited. Also, at one point in an effort to move faster the Confederate general left his supply and ammunition wagons behind only to desperately need them in a later battle. I will not attempt to lay blame or say the outcome would have been different. Like Gettysburg some of these battle were fought with one army on high ground shooting down on the advancing enemy. This is a deadly situation to be in if you are the enemy trying to advance.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Pea Ridge National Military Park. It is clean, well maintained and the visitor center has excellent displays and knowledgeable staff as well as volunteers dressed in period appropriate attire at some points in the park. As I have traveled extensively overseas and lived in many places in the United States I have never failed to be amazed by the fact that so many people are not knowledgeable about the history of the area where they live and have never visited the historical areas. I myself grew up a few miles from this battle field and had never visited it to my shame. Well this closes out this portion of my Christmas trip so I leave you with the following thought.
Remember God loves you so much that He gave His one and only Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins if we will only accept the free gift of salvation. You know we receive Christmas gifts but they have to be opened to know what is inside. God's gift of salvation has to be accepted ( opened if you will ) to actually receive the gift.
I love you.