previous next

[418] map, showing some of the topographic features of the country on the roads which we have traversed. Our troops were weary and somewhat exhausted in their long, forced marches and frequent conflicts. Our cavalry had especially suffered in the breaking down and loss of horses. But our troops were generally well armed, drilled, and anxious to encounter the enemy at any reasonable hazard. They were all intelligent, ardent, flushed with our repeated successes in many encounters on our way, and all conscious of the righteousness of their country's cause.

The arrival of Major-Gen. Van Dorn, on the second of March, in the camp of the enemy, was the occasion of great rejoicing, and the firing of forty guns. The rebel force was harangued by their chiefs with boastful and passionate appeals, assuring them of their superior numbers and the certainty of an easy victory. Despatches were published, falsely announcing a great battle at Columbus, Ky., in which we had lost three gun-boats and twenty thousand men; and thus the rebel hordes were assembled — the occasion was now open to drive the invaders from the soil of Arkansas, and give a final and successful blow for a Southern Confederacy.

The fifth of March was cold and blustering. The snow fell so as to cover the ground. No immediate attack was apprehended, and I was engaged writing. About two o'clock P. M., scouts and fugitive citizens came, informing me of the rapid approach of the enemy to give battle. His cavalry would be at Elm Springs, some twelve miles distant, that night, and his artillery had already passed Fayetteville. Satisfied of the truth of this report, I immediately sent couriers to Gen. Sigel and Col. Vandever, and ordered them to move immediately to Sugar Creek, where I also ordered Col. Carr to move with his division.

I also sent you a despatch, which may have been lost with other mail matter, which I have since learned was captured by the enemy. I told you I would give them the best reception possible. All my messengers were successful in delivering their orders. Col. Carr's division moved about six P. M. Col. Vandever had intelligence of the movement of the enemy before my messenger reached him, and made immediate change in his march, so that with great exertion, he arrived on the sixth. Gen. Sigel deferred his march from Cooper's farm till two o'clock in the morning of the sixth, and at Bentonville tarried himself, with a regiment and battery, till he was attacked about nine A. M.

I arrived at Sugar Creek at two o'clock A. M. on the sixth, and immediately detailed parties for early morning work in felling timber to obstruct certain roads to prevent the enemy having too many approaches; and to erect field-works to increase the strength of my forces. Col. Davis and Col. Carr, early in the day, took their positions on the high projecting hills commanding the valley of the creek, leaving the right of the line to be occupied by the First and Second divisions, which were anxiously expected. The valley of the creek is low, and from a quarter to a half-mile wide. The hills are high on both sides, and the main road from Fayetteville, by Cross Hollows to Keitsville, intercepts the valley nearly at right angles. The road from Fayetteville by Bentonville to Keitsville, is quite a detour; but it also comes up the Sugar Creek valley; a branch, however, takes off and runs nearly parallel to the main or telegraph road some three miles from it. The Sugar Creek valley, therefore, intercepts all these roads.

The Third and Fourth divisions had before noon of the sixth deployed their lines, cut down a great number of trees which thoroughly blockaded the roads on the left. Later in the day I directed some of the same work to be done on the right. This work was in charge of Col. Dodge, who felled trees on the road which run parallel to the main road to which I have before referred. This proved of great advantage, as it retarded the enemy some two hours in their flank movement. Breastworks of considerable length were erected by the troops on the headlands of Sugar Creek as if by magic, and a battery near the road-crossing was completely shielded by an extensive earth-work erected under the direction of Col. Davis by a pioneer company commanded by Capt. Snyder. About two o'clock P. M., Gen. Asboth and Col. Osterhaus reported the arrival of the First and Second divisions. This good news was followed immediately by another report that Gen. Sigel, who had remained behind with a detachment, had been attacked near Bentonville, and was quite surrounded by the enemy's advance forces. I immediately directed some of the troops to return to his relief. In the mean time he had advanced with his gallant little band, fighting its way within three or four miles of our main forces. The two divisions, turned back in double-quick, and a large cavalry force also started, all being anxious to join in a rescue of their comrades in peril.

Part of the First division under Col. Osterhaus, soon met the retreating detachment, and immediately opened with artillery and infantry, which checked the further advance and terminated the action for the day. In the retreat and final repulse, which occupied several hours, our loss was some twenty-five killed and wounded.

The enemy must have suffered more, as our artillery had telling effect along the road, and the rebel graves in considerable numbers bear witness of the enemy's loss.

The firing having ceased, I sent back the other troops that had joined the movement, and designated the positions on the right, which were promptly occupied by the First and Second divisions.

Our men rested on their arms, confident of hard work on the coming day. The accompanying map of the battle-ground will fully illustrate the positions then and subsequently assumed.

On my front was the deep, broad valley of Sugar Creek, forming the probable approaches of the enemy. Our troops, extending for miles, and generally occupying the summits of headlands on Sugar Creek. In my rear was a broken plateau, called “Pea Ridge,” and still further in my rear

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Franz Sigel (3)
E. A. Carr (3)
Vandever (2)
Osterhaus (2)
Jefferson C. Davis (2)
Snyder (1)
Earl Dorn (1)
J. C. Dodge (1)
Samuel Cooper (1)
Asboth (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
6th (4)
March 5th (1)
March 2nd (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: