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[72] to Bentonville, which by that time had been evacuated by Sigel. Sigel left the north side of the town as Price's division entered on the south; his departure marked by burning depots and forage piles.

Van Dorn says in his report: ‘Owing to bad roads and delay, though the distance from Bentonville to Elm Springs is only eleven miles, it was 11 o'clock before the leading division (Price's) reached the village. If we had arrived an hour sooner, we could have cut off Sigel and beaten the enemy easily the next day.’ Colonel Gates pressed upon the retreating Germans and charged their rear guard on the road to Springfield, killing and wounding several of the guard, and capturing a baggage-wagon laden with arms and ammunition. He accelerated Sigel's march by continuing the pursuit and attack until the enemy disappeared in the uncertain light of the winter night. Sigel continued his march in the darkness until he joined the main body in its stronghold, on the heights commanding the valley of Sugar creek.

Snow fell during the night, and clothed both hill and valley in a mantle of white. The hills are high on both sides; the valley deep, about half a mile in width. The main road from Fayetteville to Springfield, via Cross Hollows, crosses the valley at right angles, and the road from Fayetteville leading to Keetsville, Mo., after making a circuit through the hills, also passes through this valley. Going north, a road takes off to the left nearly parallel with it, some three or four miles distant, returning to the Telegraph road on the ‘divide,’ called Pea ridge, or Peavine ridge. These roads Curtis had blockaded with trees felled across them. He had erected formidable breastworks on the headlands, and the approach by the main road from Bentonville he had ‘completely shielded by earthworks.’

As Van Dorn well knew, to attack the enemy's line from the south, with his infantry and artillery in chosen positions, would be storming a stronghold. He resolved

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Sigel (5)
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