Yesterday we went to the Pea Ridge National Military Park. This civil war battle occurred early in the war , March 7 and 8 1862, in the freezing cold of northwestern Arkansas. This was a really cool place to visit , I had little knowledge of this battle before.
Missouri was not to fall into Confederate hands so the union under General Curtis and his 11,000 man army had been driving them deeper and deeper until they fell behind the Boston Mountains in northwest Arkansas. There the confederates formed up and now were under the command of General Earl Van Dorn, who’s army now consisted of 16,000 men. He decided to strike and capture St. Louis. There were few roads to move an army and the union knew this they set up a defense at Little sugar creek , just below the pea ridge plateau, his main army was atop this area, waiting. Van Dorn found this out and managed to move around the entire union army on the night of March 6th, it was no easy feat, in the cold and snow. However in doing so to gain speed he left behind his wagons of food, clothing and most importantly ammunition, this would come back to haunt him. Half his army fell behind so he split his forces and ordered General McCullochs to take command of that half and attack from the west while he made his way east. On the morning of March 7th the union was completely surprised they were under attack from the rear. As McCullochs was moving his troops he was shot dead, by union troops approaching, also shot dead was Brig. Gen Mcintosh. Without any command structure this half of the army had no idea what to do and were useless in the first days fight. Van Dorn’s troops on the other hand hit hard, the union held out as best they could but had to retreat back. A few stubborn German speaking brigades of union infantry had had enough and decided to hold there ground. They stopped the advance of the main body of confederates for awhile but they too had to fall back. As nightfall came Van Dorn had taken the Famous Elkhorn tavern and the crucial two roads Telegraph road, and Huntsville road. Believing he had victory in his grasp as he had cut off the supply route to the union, he felt confident the morning would bring swift victory. Not to be on the morning of March 8th General Curtiss counterattack, he amassed 23 cannon to bombard the tavern area, for tow hours the cannonade battered the confederates, then came the long one mile charge of 10,000 union soldiers, this broke the back of the weary confederates. Having little ammunition left, as there were no ammunition wagons around, he had to break off the attach and retreat. His men would never trust Van Dorn again. The union lost about 1,100 men and the confederates lost over 2,000 men in battle. The confederates would never again try to invade the Missouri state again.
Stop 1: Above, Trail of Tears, A trail dedicated to all American Indians.
Stop 2: Above Pratt’s Store/General Curtis’ Headquarters, here he set up his defense line below at the Little Sugar creek At this site stood Lewis Pratt’s general store. Besides the store, it is believed that there were several other buildings on the site.
Stop 3: Above, LeeTown, Founded in the 1840s by John W. Lee, a farmer from Kentucky . Leetown was one of the earliest settlements in Northwest Arkansas. The town sat in the middle of a broad, wooded plateau bordered by Pea Vine Ridge to the north and the Little Sugar Creek to the south. It is historically significant for its role as a field hospital or the U.S. Army during the Battle of Pea Ridge. Most buildings and structures were used as field hospitals. Nothing remains of the once thriving community of Leetown except for this open field and the grave of Robert Braden. He was born in 1864 and died here in 1866.
Stop 4: Above,Leetown Battlefield-Day 1, this is where the confederates came out of the woods behind Lee town, they surprised the union as they were facing the other way. However they were able to shoot dead two Confederate Generals, which caused the attack to stall
Stop 5, Above, the armies clash here a little behind Leetown in an open field, fighting back and forth , the confederates work there way around to the Elkhorn Tavern and capture it from the Union cutting off there supply route. Union cannon stop the advance and the days fighting is over.
Stop 6 and 7 Above are overlooks, stop 7 had the best view of the battlefield. My picture shows the field today in pristine condition still. Behind me is the Elkhorn Tavern and Historic Telegraph Road, which the Confederates captured. Below this hill in the woods was the confederate army waiting for morning to come . From here it is where General Van Dorin claimed victory was his in the morning. The plaque picture is what he faced in the morning, a reinforced union line of over 10,000 men and cannon. They opened fire on the morning of March 8, cannon fire lasted two hours. The confederates being out of ammunition had to end the fighting and withdraw.
Stop 8 Above Elkhorn Tavern Above, Built in 1836 as a one story home and stage coach stop on the pea ridge plateau along the Telegraph road. Was described as a place of “Abundant good cheer” until the war came. Built to a two story in the 1850’s, and during the Pea Ridge battle used as a supply depot for the union then captured by the confederates. The house was burned to the ground by Confederate guerrillas in 1863, with the present building being a historic replica. In my pictures I am standing in the historic Telegraph road, looking at the Tavern and out away from it all covered in grass now long ago lost to history.
There are only two monuments here, they were erected in the late 1880’s. A 25th reunion was held here when the monuments went up, after that memories fade, and bodies grow tired. In 1956 President Eisenhower signed into law the creation of Pea Ridge as a National Military park.
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Nice tour. Thank you for the history lesson