Another account by an officer in the regular army.
The battle of Pea Ridge
was emphatically the Buena Vista
of this war. Commencing on the morning of the sixth of March by the attack of the combined confederate forces upon Gen. Sigel
's division, then stationed at Bentonville
, Gen. Sigel
sending his train ahead, and reserving one battery, with between eight hundred and a thousand men, commenced one of those masterly retreats which have already rendered his name famous.
Planting a portion of his guns, with his infantry to sustain them, he would pour the grape and shell into their advancing squadrons, until, quailing before the murderous fire, they would break in confusion.
Before they could re-form, Sigel
would limber up and fall back behind another portion of his battery, planted at another turn in the road.
Here the same scene would begone through with, and so on continuously for ten miles. What made this march a more difficult achievement was the condition of the roads, which were in many places very narrow and badly cut up. This brought Gen. Sigel
's division to the west end of Pea Ridge
, where he formed a junction with Gens. Davis
's and Carr
Night coming on, strong pickets were placed, the teams corralled, and the soldiers lay upon their arms.
During this day, Gen. Curtis
was diligently preparing earth-work defences, cutting timber, etc., to check the progress of the enemy along the Fayetteville
road, where they were confidently expected by him. During the day and night of the sixth, Van Dorn
moved his entire forces around the west side of our army, Gen. Price
occupying the Fayetteville
road, north of Gen. Curtis
's camp, while McCulloch
lay north of Gen. Sigel
The confederate forces fronting south, Price
's forces formed their left wing.
The distance of the main bodies of the two wings of each army apart was near three miles, thus forming, in fact, four distinct armies.
being opposed to Gen. Curtis
, who had with him Gens. Davis
's, and Asboth
's divisions, while McCulloch
were opposed to Sigel
, who had but one division — that of Gen. Osterhaus
. Gen. Curtis
was compelled to make a change of front.
In doing this, he withdrew all his forces from the south range of hills, except a few companies to guard the Fayetteville
road, and placed them almost two miles north, their front resting on the brow of a range of hills fronting to the north.
On the seventh the battle commenced on the right of our column, and raged furiously during the entire day, Col. Carr
's division bearing the brunt of it on our side.
The confederates, owing to their immensely superior numbers, the numerous and deep ravines, and the thick brush which covered the hills, succeeded in driving our right wing from the ground occupied in the morning.
The loss here was severe on both sides, the short range at which the fighting was done giving the rebel shot-guns, which were loaded with from fifteen to twenty buckshot each, a great advantage over our more deadly but single balls.
The confederate forces camped on the battle-ground, while our right wing fell back about from one half mile to a mile.
The entire fighting-ground occupied by this portion of the armies did not exceed three fourths of a mile in diameter.
The fighting on the left wing this day proceeded with various changes, and occupied a far greater field, extending over a space of from one and a half to two miles. McCulloch
commenced moving his forces to the south and east, evidently intending to form a junction with Van Dorn
, and by so doing surround our entire army on three sides, at the same time cut off totally all hope of retreat of our forces.
, detecting this movement, sent forward three pieces of flying artillery, with a supporting force of cavalry, to take a commanding position, and delay their movements until the infantry could be brought up into proper position for an attack.
These pieces had hardly obtained their position and opened fire, when an overwhelming force of the enemy's cavalry came down upon them like a whirlwind, driving our cavalry, scattering them, and capturing the artillery, and setting it on fire.
This onslaught, which was made in the most handsome style, allowed their infantry to reach unmolested the cover of a dense wood.
West of this wood was a large open field.
Here, and in the surrounding wood, a protracted struggle ensued between McCulloch
was ordered up to Col. Osterhaus
's assistance, and our forces thus strengthened finally routed and drove the enemy in all directions.
, and a number of the confederate officers were killed.
Thus, while the confederate forces had been successful on our right, we had equally been successful on our left.
, however, was in our favor — the discipline of our troops enabling our defeated wing to remain compactly together, while their defeated right, owing to their lack of discipline, and loss of commanding officers, was very much disorganized.
During the night of the seventh both armies lay upon their arms.
The confederates, however, managed to form a junction of all their forces upon the ground held by their left wing, which was naturally a position of great strength.
The morning of the eighth was one of the deepest anxiety on the part of our army.
The confederate forces held the only road for our retreat; both armies had drawn their lines close.
The woods and hills literally swarmed with foes.
The prisoners we had taken assured us that the confederates were perfectly sanguine of capturing our