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Pea Ridge, battle of.

When the Confederates under General Price fled into Arkansas in February, 1861, General Curtis and a strong force of Nationals pursued him. Curtis crossed the Arkansas line on Feb. 18 and drove Price and his followers over the Boston Mountains. He then fell back and took a position near Pea Ridge, a spur of the Ozark Mountains. Meanwhile Price had been joined by Gen. Earl Van Dorn, a dashing young officer who was his senior in rank, and now took chief command of the Confederates. Forty heavy guns thundered a welcome to the young general. “Soldiers!” cried the general, “behold your leader! He comes to show you the way to glory and immortal [107] renown. He comes to hurl back the minions of the despots at Washington, whose ignorance, licentiousness, and brutality are equalled only by their craven natures. They come to free your slaves,

Battle of Pea Ridge.

lay waste your plantations, burn your villages, and abuse your loving wives and beautiful daughters.” Van Dorn came from western Arkansas with Generals McCulloch, McIntosh, and Pike. The latter was a New England man and a poet, and came at the head of a band of Indians whom he had lured into the service. The whole Confederate force then numbered 25,000 men; the National troops, led by Curtis, did not exceed 11,000 men, with 50 pieces of artillery.

On March 5 Curtis was informed by his scouts of the swift approach of an overwhelming force of Confederates; he concentrated his army in the Sugar Creek Valley. He was compelled to fight or make a disastrous retreat. Choosing the former, he prepared for the struggle. Meanwhile Van Dorn, by a quick movement, had flanked Curtis and gained his rear, and on the morning of the 7th he moved to attack the Nationals, not doubting his ability to crush him and capture his train of 200 wagons. Curtis's troops were in battle order. His 1st and 2d divisions, on the left, were commanded respectively by Generals Asboth and Sigel; the 3d was under Gen. J. C. Davis, and composed the centre, and the 4th, on the right, was commanded by Colonel Carr. His line of battle extended about 4 miles, and there was only a broad ravine between his troops and the heavy Confederate force. Towards noon the battle was opened by a simultaneous attack of Nationals and Confederates. A very severe conflict ensued, and continued a greater part of the day, with varying fortunes to each party, the lines of strife swaying like a pendulum. At 11 A. M. the pickets on Curtis's extreme right under Major Weston were violently assailed, and Colonel Osterhaus, with a detachment of Iowa cavalry and Davidson's Peoria Battery, supported by Missouri cavalry and Indiana infantry, attacked a portion of Van Dorn's troops before he was fairly ready for battle. Colonel Carr went to the assistance of Weston, and a severe engagement ensued. Thus the battle near Pea Ridge was opened.

Osterhaus met with a warm reception, for the woods were swarming with Confederates. His cavalry were driven back, [108] when General Davis came to his rescue with General Sigel, who attacked the Confederate flank. Soon afterwards Davis fought severely with McCulloch, McIntosh, and Pike. Then the battle raged most fiercely. The issue of the strife seemed doubtful, when the 18th Indiana attacked the Confederate flank and rear so vigorously with ball and bayonet that they were driven from that part of the field, when it was strewn with the dead bodies of Texans and Indians. The Confederates now became fugitives, and in their flight they left their dead and wounded on the field. Among the latter were Generals McCulloch and McIntosh, mortally hurt. Osterhaus, and Sigel with his heavy guns,

Map of battle of Pea Ridge.

now went to the assistance of Colonel Carr on the right. But Carr had held his ground. There were no indications that the Confederates wished to renew the fight, for it was now sunset. The Nationals bivouacked on the battle-field that night among the dead and dying.

The contest was renewed at dawn (March 8), when the Nationals hurled such a destructive tempest of shot and shell upon the Confederates that the latter soon broke and fled in every direction in the wildest confusion. Van Dorn, who had been a greater part of the day with the troops that fought Carr, concentrated his whole available force on Curtis's right. The latter had been vigilant, and at 2 A. M. he had been joined by Sigel and his command. The whole four divisions of the army were in position to fight Van Dorn at daylight. With batteries advantageously planted, and infantry lying down in front of them, Curtis opened a terrible cannonade. Battery after battery of the Confederates was silenced in the course of two hours, and so horrible was the tempest of iron that Van Dorn and his followers were compelled to fly to the shelter of the ravines of Cross Timber Hollow. At the same time, Sigel's infantry, with the troops of the centre and might, engaged in the battle. Van Dorn fled so suddenly, and in such a scattering manner, that it was difficult for Curtis to determine the main route of his retreat. General Price had been posted some distance off, and he, too, participated in the flight. The Confederate army, made so strong and hopeful by Van Dorn's speech twenty-four hours before, was now broken into fragments. This conflict, called the battle of Pea Ridge by the Nationals and Elkhorn by the Confederates, was a sanguinary one. The Indians under Pike shamefully tomahawked, scalped, and mangled the bodies of National soldiers. It is said they were maddened with intoxicating drink before the battle. The Nationals lost 1,351 killed, wounded, and missing. The loss of the Confederates was never reported. It was probably about the same as that of the Nationals.

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