previous next

Doc. 115.-the battle of Pea Ridge.

Official report of Major-General Curtis.

Captain: The brief telegraphic report which I gave the ninth inst., is not sufficient to present even the general outline of the battle of Pea Ridge, and with the reports of my Commanders of divisions, I now submit a more general detail.

My pursuit of Gen. Price brought me to Fayetteville, Arkansas. The entire winter campaign, from the twentieth of January to this time, including the march from Rolla to the Boston Mountains, two hundred and forty miles, was attended with continual exhibitions of toil, privations, conflict and gallantry, some of which I have telegraphed to headquarters, and may hereafter deserve more full development.

After reaching Arkansas, the forces of Gen. Price were rapidly reinforced by regiments which had been stationed in Arkansas and the Indian Territory. I therefore expected these combined forces would return upon us to give us battle, and in conformity with the orders of the General, of the twenty-second of February, I selected Sugar Creek as the strongest of several strong places taken from the enemy, to make a stand against any and all odds.

I reported my force to you on the twelfth February, after Col. Davis's division had joined me, with twelve thousand and ninety-five men and fifty pieces of artillery, including four mountain howitzers. My long line of communications required garrisons at Marshfield, Springfield, Cassville, and Keitsville, besides a constant moving force to guard my train. My force in Arkansas was, therefore, not more than ten thousand five hundred, cavalry and infantry, with forty-nine pieces of artillery, including the mountain howitzers, one piece having been sent out into Missouri, and thus prevented from joining us in the battle.

The scarcity of forage and other supplies made it necessary for me to spread out my troops over considerable country, always trying to keep them within supporting distance, convenient to rally on the positions selected for battle. On the fourth of March this force was located as follows:

The First and Second divisions, under Generals Sigel and Asboth, were four miles south-west of Bentonville, at Cooper's farm, under general orders to move round to Sugar Creek, about fourteen miles east.

The Third division, under Col. Jefferson C. Davis, acting Brigadier-General, had moved and taken position at Sugar Creek, under orders to make some preparatory arrangements and examinations for a stand against the enemy.

The Fourth. division was at Cross Hollows, under command of Col. E. A. Carr, acting Brigadier-General. My own headquarters were also at this place, within about twelve miles from Sugar Creek, on the main telegraph road from Springfield to Fayetteville.

Large detachments had been sent out from those several camps for forage and information--one from Cross Hollows to Huntsville, under command of Colonel Vandever, and three from Cooper's farm to Maysville and Pineville. One of those, under Major Conrad, with a piece of artillery and two hundred and fifty men, did not reach us until after the battle. All the others came in safe and joined in the engagement.

The enemy had taken position in the Boston Mountains, a high range that divides the waters of the White River and Arkansas. Gen. Price had rallied the forces that had fought at Carthage, Wilson's Creek, and Lexington, augmented by his exertions to recruit in Missouri during the winter. On his arrival from Springfield in Arkansas, he reported to Governor Rector that between four and five thousand of these had joined the confederate service previous to leaving Springfield. The circulation of all manner of extravagant falsehoods on his way induced the whole country to leave their homes, and for fear we would kill them, thousands joined his ranks. General McCulloch brought at least eleven regiments to the field, and General Pike five. Besides these regularly organized confederate troops which General Price met in Arkansas, there were many companies and regiments of Arkansas volunteers, most of the country people being required to take up arms. From this data, and the general opinion of the country, I estimated the force of the enemy to have been at least thirty thousand or forty thousand. This was the force in and near Boston Mountains, rallying to drive us from Arkansas and Missouri

The two armies thus constituted and located, were within hearing of each other's cannon, about thirty miles apart. I submit an accompanying [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 [419] the deep valley of Big Sugar Creek, or “Cross timbers.” My own headquarters and those of Gens. Sigel, Asboth, and other commanders of divisions, were near “Pratt's house.” The lines A, B, and C show the different fronts assumed during the progress of the battle.

The approach by Bentonville brought the enemy to my extreme right, and during the night of the fifth and sixth he began a movement round my flank by the road above mentioned, which crosses “Pea Ridge” some three miles north-west of the main telegraph road. I ascertained in the morning this flank movement of the enemy, which I perceived was to attack my right flank and rear. I therefore called my commanders of divisions together at General Asboth's tent, and directed a change of front to the rear, so as to fade the road, upon which the enemy was still moving. At the same time I directed the organization of a detachment of cavalry and light artillery, supported by infantry, to open the battle by an attack from my new centre on the probable centre of the enemy before he could fully form. I selected Col. Osterhaus to lead this central column — an officer who displayed great skill, energy, and gallantry each day of the battle.

The change of front thus directed reversed the order of the troops, placing the First and Second divisions on the left, their left still resting on Sugar Creek, Osterhaus and the Third division in the centre, and the Fourth division became the extreme right. While I was explaining the proposed movement to commanders, and Col. Osterhaus was beginning to rally and move forward his attacking column, a messenger brought me intelligence that my picket commanded by Major Weston, of the Twenty-fourth Missouri, had been attacked by infantry. This was at Elkhorn Tavern, where the new right was to rest. Col. Carr being present, he was ordered to move into position and support the Major as soon as possible.

This was the commencement of the second day's fight. It was about half-past 10 o'clock, and the officers separated to direct their several commands. The fire increased rapidly on the right, and very soon opened in the centre. After visiting the right, where I perceived the enemy was making a vigorous attack, and finding Col. Carr, under a brisk fire of shot and shell, coolly locating and directing the deployment, I returned to my central position near Pratt's house, and sent orders to Col. Davis to move near to Col. Carr, to support him. In the mean time Col. Osterhaus had attacked the enemy and divided his forces; but he was soon pressed with greatly superior numbers, that drove back our cavalry, and took our flying battery which had advanced with it. The Colonel, however, was well supported by his infantry, and soon checked a movement that threatened to intercept the deployment of other forces. I considered the affair so imminent, I changed my order to Col. Davis. and directed him to move to the support of the centre, which was his proper place according to my order for the change of front. My new line was thus formed under the enemy's fire; the troops generally moving in good order and gallant bearing.

Thus formed, the line was not continuous, but extended entirely across Pea Ridge, the divisions in numerical order, from left to right, Col. Osterhaus remaining in command of a detachment, and operating with Col. Davis in resisting McCulloch and McIntosh, who commanded the enemy's forces in the centre. I did not err in sending Col. Davis to this point, although Col. Carr, on the right, needed reinforcements. The battle raged in the centre with terrible fury. Col. Davis held the position against fearful numbers, and our brave troops nobly stood or charged in steady lines. The fate of the battle depended on success against the flank movement of the enemy, and here, near Lee Town, was the place to break it down. The fall of Gens. McCulloch, McIntosh, and other officers of the enemy, who fell early in the day, aided us in our final success at this most critical point; and the steady courage of officers and men in our lines chilled and broke down the hordes of Indian cavalry and infantry that were arrayed against us. While the battle thus raged in the centre, the right wing was sorely pressed, and the dead and wounded were scattered over the field. Col. Carr sent for reenforcements, and I sent him a few cavalry and my body-guard with the little mountain howitzers, under Major Bowen. These did good service at a most critical period. I urged Col. Carr to stand firm, that more forces could be expected soon. Subsequently Col. Carr sent me word that he could not hold his position much longer. I could then only reply by sending him the order to “per severe.” He did “persevere,” and the sad havoc in the Ninth and Fourth Iowa, and Phelps's Missouri and Major Weston's Twenty-fourth Missouri, and all the troops in that division, will show how earnest and continuous was their perseverance. Seeing no signs of approaching forces by the telegraph road, I sent him three pieces of artillery and a battalion of infantry of Col. Benton's command, (part of the Third division,) which had been located at Sugar Creek to guard the approaches. Each small accession to the Fourth division seemed to compensate an over-powering force. As to the left, I was repeatedly informed that it stood safe and firm, although threatened by the foe. About two P. M., my aid, Capt. Adams, who had communicated with that wing, informed me he had just seen Gens. Sigel and Asboth on Sugar Creek, and there was still no attack in that quarter and no appearance of an enemy. About this time the enemy's forces melted away in the brushy centre, and the fire gradually ceased. Believing the left and centre were no longer menaced, and the enemy was concentrating on the right, I again sent word to Col. Carr that he would soon be reinforced. I had now resolved to bring up the left and centre to meet the gathering hordes at Elkhorn Tavern. To inform myself of the condition of the extreme left, I went in person to that point. On my way I ordered forward the remainder of Col. Benton's command, three pieces and a battalion, which [420] had remained guarding the crossing of the main telegraph road.

I found Gens. Sigel and Asboth with the troops on the hill near the extreme left, where all was quiet, and the men, not having been under fire, fresh and anxious to participate in the fight. It was now safe to make a new change of front, so as to face Sugar Creek. I therefore ordered this force forward. Gen. Asboth moved by the direct road to Elkhorn Tavern, and Gen. Sigel went by Leetown to reinforce Davis, if need be, but to press on and reinforce Carr, if not needed in the centre. Both generals moved promptly. I accompanied Gen. Asboth, collecting and moving forward some straggling commands that I found by the way. It must have been near five o'clock when I brought the force to the aid of Col. Carr. He had received three or four shots--one a severe wound in the arm. Many of his field-officers had fallen, and the dead and wounded had greatly reduced his force. He had been slowly forced back near half a mile, and had been about seven hours under constant fire. His troops were still fiercely contesting every inch of ground. As I came up, the Fourth Iowa was falling back for cartridges, in line, dressing on their colors, in perfect order. Supposing with my reinforcements I could easily recover our lost ground, I ordered the regiment to face about. Col. Dodge came up, explaining the want of cartridges, but informed of my purpose, I ordered a bayonet charge, and they moved again with steady nerves to their former position, where the gallant Ninth was ready to support them. These two regiments won imperishable honors.

Gen. Asboth had planted his artillery in the road, and opened a tremendous fire on the enemy at short range. The Second Missouri infantry also deployed and earnestly engaged the enemy. About this time the shades of night began to gather around us, but the fire on both sides seemed to grow fierce and more deadly. One of my body-guard fell dead; my Orderly received a shot, and Gen. Asboth was severely wounded in the arm. A messenger came from Gen. Sigel, saying he was close on the left, and would soon open fire. The battery of General Asboth run out of ammunition and fell back. This caused another battery that I had located on the other side of the road. to follow; this latter fearing a want of support. The infantry, however, stood firm, or fell back in good order, and the batteries were soon restored, but the caissons got quite out of reach. The artillery firing was renewed, however, and kept up till dark — the enemy firing the last shot, for I could not find another cartridge to give them a final round; even the little howitzers responded, “No cartridges.” The enemy ceased firing, and I hurried men after the caissons and more ammunition; meantime I arranged the infantry in the edge of the timber, with fields in front, where they lay on their arms and held the position for the night. I directed a detail from each company to bring water and provisions; and thus, without a murmur, these weary soldiers lay, and many of them slept within a few yards of the foe, with their dead and wounded comrades scattered around them. Darkness, silence and fatigue soon secured for the weary, broken slumbers and gloomy repose. The day had closed on some reverses on the right, but the left had been unassailed, and the centre had driven the foe from the field.

My only anxiety for the fate of the next day, was the new front which it was necessary to form by my weary troops. I directed Colonel Davis to withdraw all the remainder of his reserve from the centre, and move forward so as to occupy the ground on Carr's immediate left. Although his troops had been fighting hard most of the day, and displayed great energy and courage, at twelve o'clock at night they commenced their movement to the new position on the battle-field, and they, too, soon rested on their arms.

Nothing further had been heard from General Sigel's command after the message at dark, that he was on or near the left. His detour carried him around a brushy portion of the battle-field, that could not be explored in the night. About two o'clock he reported at my headquarters with his troops, who he said were going to their former camps for provisions. The distance to his camp, some two miles further, was so great I apprehended tardiness in the morning, and urged the General to rest the troops where they then were, at my headquarters, and send for provisions, as the other troops were doing. This was readily concurred in, and these troops bivouacked also for the night. The arrangement thus completed to bring all four of my divisions to face a position which had been held in check all the previous day by one, I rested, certain of the final success on the coming day.

The sun rose above the horizon before our troops were all in position, and yet the enemy had not renewed the attack. I was hardly ready to open fire on him, as the First and Second divisions had not yet moved into position. Our troops that night rested on their arms in the face of the enemy. Seeing him in motion, I could not brook delay, and the centre, under Col. Davis, opened fire. The enemy replied with terrible energy from new batteries and lines which had been prepared for us during the night. To avoid raking batteries, the right wing fell back in good order, but kept up a continuous fire from the new position immediately taken. The First and Second division soon got under way, and moved with great celerity to their position on the left. This completed the formation of the line of battle. It was directly to the rear of the first, and was quite continuous, much of it on open ground. We then had our foe before us where we well knew the ground. The broken defiles occupied by him, would not admit of easy evolutions to repel such as could be made by us on the open plain. Victory was inevitable. As soon as the left wing extended so as to command the mountain, and rest safely upon it, I ordered the right wing to move forward so as to take position where I placed it the night previous. I repaired, [421] myself, to the extreme right, and found an elevated position considerably in advance, which commanded the enemy's centre and left. Here I located the Dubuque battery, and directed the right wing to move its right forward so as to support it, and gave directions to the advance of the entire right wing. Capt. Hayden soon opened a fire which proved most galling to the foe and a marker for our line to move upon. Returning to the centre, I directed the First Iowa battery, under Capt. David, to take position in an open field, when he could also direct a fire on the central point of the enemy. Meantime, the powerful battery of Captain Woelfley, and many more were bearing on the cliff, pouring heavy balls through the timber near the centre, splintering great trees and scattering death and destruction with tempestuous fury.

At one time a battery was opened in front of Hayden's battery on the extreme right, so near I could not tell whether it was the enemy or an advance of Hayden's, but riding nearer I soon perceived its true character, and directed the First Iowa and the Peoria battery, Capt. Davidson, to cross fire on it, which soon drove it back to the common hiding-place — the deep ravines of Cross Timber Hollow. While the artillery were thus taking position and advancing upon the enemy, the infantry moved steadily forward. The left wing advancing rapidly, soon began to ascend the mountain cliff, from which the artillery had driven most of the rebel force. The upward movement of the gallant Thirty-sixth Illinois, with its dark blue line of men, and its gleaming bayonets, steadily rose from base to summit, when it dashed forward into the forest, driving and scattering the rebels from these commanding heights. The Twelfth Missouri, far in advance of others, rushed into the enemy's lines, bearing off a flag and two pieces of artillery. Everywhere our line moved forward, and the foe as gradually withdrew.

The roar of cannon and small arms was continuous, and no force could then withstand the converging line and concentrated cross-fire of our gallant troops. Our guns continued some time after the rebel fire ceased, and the rebels had gone down into the deep caverns through which they had begun their precipitate flight. Finally our firing ceased. The enemy suddenly vanished. Following down a main road which enters a deep canon, I saw some straggling teams and men running in great trepidation through the gorges of the mountains. I directed a battery to move forward, which threw a few shots at them, followed by a pursuit of cavalry, composed of the Benton hussars and my escort from Bowen's battalion, which was all the cavalry convenient at the time. Gen. Sigel also followed in this pursuit toward Keitsville, while I returned, trying to check a movement which led my forces north, where I was confident a frightened foe was not likely to go. I soon found the rebel forces had divided and gone in every direction, but it was several hours before I learned that the main force, after entering the cañon, had turned short to the right, following obscure ravines, which led into the Huntsville road in a due south direction.

Gen. Sigel followed some miles north toward Keitsville, firing on the retreating force that ran away. Col. Bussey, with cavalry and the little howitzers, followed beyond Bentonville.

I camped on the field, and made provisions for burying the dead, and care of the wounded. The loss in the several divisions was as follows:

Commanded byKilled.Wounded.Missing.Killed.Wounded.Missing.Total.
First division, Gen. Sigel,42118938144
Second division, Gen. Asboth,33 176036119
Third division, Col. Davis,418 422569329
Fourth division, Col. Carr,62929549178701
Third Iowa Cav., Col. Bussey, 1 2418952
Bowen's battery, Major Bowen, 1 1226

This sad reckoning shows where the long-continued fire was borne, and where the public sympathy should be most directed. The loss of the enemy was much greater, but their scattered battalions can never furnish a correct report of their killed and wounded.

The reports of division and other officers of my command, are all submitted with such details as were seen or understood by local commanders. They give interesting incidents, and notice many deserving heroes.

I mentioned in my telegraphic report of the ninth of March, with high commendations, and I now repeat the names who have done distinguished service. These are my commanders of divisions: Gens. Sigel and Asboth, Col. and acting Brig.-Gen. Davis, and Col. and acting Brig.-Gen. Carr. They commanded the four divisions.

I also present commanders of brigades: Cols. Dodge, Osterhaus, Vandever, White, Schaefer; Pattison and Grewsel. The three first named I especially commend.

I also renew the just thanks due to my staff-officers, Capt. T. S. McKenny, A. A. A. General, Capt. W. H. Stark, Capt. John Ahlfeldt, Lieut. J. M. Adams, and Lieut. Stilt, all acting aids: also, A. Hoopner, my only engineer. To these I must add Major Bowen, who commanded my body-guard, and with the mountain howitzers did gallant service in every battle-field in the pursuit, and especially at Pea Ridge. Captain Stevens, Lieut. Matteson, and Lieut. Crabtree, of this battalion, also deserve honorable mention. Major Weston, of the Twenty-fourth Missouri, Provost-Marshal in camp, and in battle did gallant service. Lieut. David, ordnance officer on my staff, took charge of the First Iowa battery, after Capt. Jones was wounded, and did signal service. I must also thank my commanders of posts, who supported my line of operation, and deserve like consideration, as their duties were more arduous: Col. Boyd, at Rolla; Col. Wains, at Lebanon; Colonel Mills, at Springfield; and Lieut.-Col. Holland, at Cassville.

To do justice to all, I would spread before you the most of the rolls of this army, for I can bear testimony to the almost universal good conduct [422] of officers and men, who have shared with me the long march, the many conflicts by the way, and final struggle with the combined forces of Price, McCulloch, McIntosh and Pike, under Major-Gen. Van Dorn, at the battle of Pea Ridge.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Samuel R. Curtis, Major-General. Headquarters army of the South-West, cross timbers, Ark., March 1, 1862.
Capt. N. H. Mclean, Assistant Adjutant-General, St. Louis, Mo.

Report of Major-General Sigel.

headquarters First and Second divisions, Camp Pea Ridge, Ark., March 15, 1862.
General: I have the honor to lay before you the following reports in regard to the actions of the First and Second divisions from the filth to the ninth day of the month.

Expedition to Pineville on the Fifth of March.

On the evening of the fifth the main body of the two divisions was encamped near McKisick's farm, thirty-two miles southward of Bentonville, and one mile from the fork of the roads leading west to Maysville and north-east to Pineville. The Second Missouri, under Col. Schaefer, and one company of cavalry were stationed at Osage Mills, (otherwise called Smith's Mills,) five and a half miles south-east of McKisick's farm, whilst our pickets guarded all the other avenues to the camp. For the purpose of reconnoitring the country toward the Indian territory, and to detain the rebels of. South--west Missouri from following Price's army by the State-line road, Major Conrad, with five select companies of infantry, sixty men of cavalry, and two pieces of Woelfley's battery, was ordered to proceed on the first day to Lindsey's prairie, where he arrived in the evening, sixteen miles south-west of McKisick's farm, on the second, (the fifth,) to Maysville, and to return on the third day to our own camp.

Such was our position on the evening of the fifth, when I received orders from you to send a detachment of cavalry to Pineville, where there were said to be some two or three hundred rebels, who disturbed and endangered the Union people of McDonald County. I directed Major Mezaros, with eighty men, to march at ten o'clock P. M., on the north-western road to Pineville, whilst Capt. V. Rilmansegge was sent to Major Conrad, at Maysville, to lead his sixty men of cavalry, with one piece of artillery and twenty infantry, at ten o'clock in the night, from Maysville to Rutledge and Pineville, and to act in concert with Major Mezaros. A home guard company, stationed between Pineville and Keitsville, was ordered to occupy at night the roads leading to Neosho and Kent, and thereby prevent the secesh from escaping in that direction. Major Mezaros and Capt. V. Rilmansegge should approach the town from the east, south-east and south-west. It was understood that these detachments should attack the town simultaneously at five o'clock in the morning. Just a few minutes before ten o'clock in the morning, when Mezaros was prepared to leave the camp, I received news from Col. Schaefer, at Osage Mills, that his pickets posted in the direction of Elm Spring were fired upon by the enemy. This, in addition to your own despatches, reporting the enemy's force at Fayetteville, and a strong party of cavalry advancing toward Middle-town, and besides this, your order to march to Sugar Creek, made me at once aware of the dangerous position of my command. I therefore ordered Col. Schaefer to break up his camp immediately, to send the cavalry company to Osage Springs to cover his right flank, and to march with his regiment to Bentonville, leaving Osage Springs to the right, and McKisick's farm to the left. All other troops I ordered to be prepared to march at two o'clock in the morning. In regard to the expedition to Pineville, it was too late to countermand the movement under Capt. Von Rilmansegge, but to return to Sugar Creek as quickly as possible without ruining his horses, so that they could be of some use in the ensuing battle. Major Conrad was made aware of our situation, and instructed to join us at Sugar Creek by some circuitous road leading north-east. The result of the expedition was not very great, but satisfactory. The attack was made according to the instructions given, and at the present time, but only one captain, one lieutenant, and fifteen men of Price's army, were found in the town and made prisoners — the others had left some days previous. The commands of Major Mezaros and Capt. Rilmansegge arrived safely on the sixth, in our camp at Sugar Creek, bringing with them their prisoners. Unfortunately they had to leave behind and to destroy a printing-press and types taken at Pineville, as the roads they took were too bad to bring this important material along. Major Conrad, with his detachment, found his way to Keitsville and Cassville, which place he left on the ninth, and arrived at the former place with Col. Wright, some time after I had opened the road to Cassville in the pursuit of Price's force, which retired from Keitsville to Berryville.


retreat from M'Kisick's farm by Bentonville, to camp Halleck, on Sugar Creek.

At two o'clock in the morning of the sixth, the troops encamped at McKisick's farm, moved forward toward Bentonville in the following order:

Advance-guard under Asboth--one company of Fourth Missouri cavalry, (Fremont hussars,) Second Ohio battery, under command. of Lieut. Chapman; Fifteenth Missouri volunteers, under command of Col. Joliat.

Train of First and Second divisions, escort and guarded by detachments of the respective regiments.

The First division under Col. Osterhaus.

The Flying battery, the Fifth Missouri cavalry (Benton hussars,) and the squadron of the Thirty-sixth Illinois cavalry, under Capt. Jenks.

Before leaving camp I detached Lieut. Shippart, of company A, Benton hussars, with twenty men, to Osage Springs, to communicate with Colonel [423] Schaefer, and to bring news to Bentonville as soon as the enemy would approach that place.

The advance-guard of Gen. Asboth arrived at Bentonville at four o'clock, when I directed him to halt until the train had come up more close. He then proceeded to Sugar Creek, followed by the train. Meanwhile the Second Missouri, under Col. Schaefer, and one part of the First division arrived in town. I ordered this regiment, as well as the Twelfth Missouri, under command of Major Wengelin, the flying battery, under Capt. Elbert, and the whole disposable cavalry force under Col. Nemett, comprising the Benton hussars, the Thirty-sixth Illinois cavalry, under Capt. Jenks, and a squad of thirteen men of Fremont hussars, under Lieut. Fred. Cooper, to occupy and guard the town, to let the whole train pass and remain at my disposition as a rear-guard.

At eight o'clock the train had passed the town, and was moving on the road to Sugar Creek, with the intention not to be too close to the train, and awaiting report from Lieut. Sheppard's picket at Osage Springs. Two hours elapsed, when, ten minutes after ten, it was reported to me that large masses of troops, consisting of infantry and cavalry, were moving from all sides toward our front and both flanks.

After some observation, I had no doubt that the enemy's advance-guard was before us. I immediately called the troops to arms and made them ready for battle. As Bentonville is situated on the edge of Osage prairie, easily accessible in front, and covered on the right and left and rear by thick woods and underbrush, I ordered the troops to evacuate the town and to form on a little hill north of it. Looking for the Second Missouri, I learned, to my astonishment, that it had already left the town, by a misunderstanding of my order. I am glad to say that this matter is satisfactorily explained by Col. Schaefer, but in the same time, I regret to report that this regiment was ambuscaded on its march, and lost in the conflict thirty-seven men in dead, wounded and prisoners.

The troops now left to me consisted of about eight companies of the Twelfth Missouri, with an average of forty-five men, five companies of Benton hussars, and five pieces of the flying battery — in all about six hundred men. The troops I directed to march in the following order: Two companies of the Twelfth at the head of the column, deployed on the right and left as skirmishers, followed by the flying battery, one company of the same regiment on the right and one on the left of the pieces, marching by the flank, and prepared to fire, by ranks, to the right and left, the remainder of the regiment being behind the pieces, two companies of cavalry to support the infantry on the right and left, and the rest of the cavalry, under command of Col. Nemett, with one piece of artillery following in the rear. In this formation, modified from time to time, according to circumstances, the column moved forward to break through the lines of the enemy, who had already taken position in our front and on both flanks, while he appeared behind us in the town in line of battle, reinforced by some pieces of artillery. The troops advanced slowly, fighting and repelling the enemy in front, flank-ward, and rear, wherever he stood or attacked. From the moment we left the town, at half-past 10 in the morning, until half-past 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when we met the first reenforcements — the Second Missouri, the Twenty-fifth Illinois, and a few companies of the Forty-fourth Illinois--we sustained three regular attacks, and were uninterruptedly in sight and under the fire of the enemy. When the first reinforcements had arrived, I knew that we were safe, and left it to the Twenty-fifth and Second Missouri, and afterward to Col. Osterhaus, to take care of the rest, which he did to the best of my satisfaction.

It would take too much time to go into the detail of this most extraordinary and critical affair, but, as a matter of justice, I feel it my duty to declare that, according to my humble opinion, never have troops shown themselves worthier to defend a great cause than on this day of the sixth of March.


battle of the Seventh--near Leesville and on Pea Ridge.

In the night of the sixth, the two divisions were encamped on the plateau of the hills near Sugar Creek, and in the adjoining valley, separating the two ridges extending along the creek. The Second division held the right, the First the left of the position, fronting toward the west and south-west in order to receive the enemy, should he advance from the Bentonville and Fayetteville road. Col. Davis's division forming the centre, was on our left, and Col. Carr covered the ground on the extreme left of our whole line.

Early in the morning report came in that troops and trains of the enemy were moving the whole night on the Bentonville road around our rear, toward Cross Timber, thereby endangering our line of retreat and communication to Keitsville, and separating us from our reinforcements and provision-trains.

This report was corroborated by two of my guides, Mr. Pope and Mr. Brown, who had gone out to reconnoitre the country. I immediately ordered Lieut. Schramm, of my staff, to ascertain the facts, and to see in what direction the troops were moving. On his return he reported that there was no doubt in regard to the movement of a large force of the enemy in the aforesaid direction. You then ordered me to detach three pieces of the flying battery to join Col. Bussey's cavalry in an attack against the enemy in the direction of Leesville. Col. Osterhaus was directed to follow him with three regiments of infantry and two batteries. At about eleven o'clock the firing began near Elkhorn Tavern and Leesville. To see how matters stood, I went out to Col. Carr's division, and found him a short distance beyond the tavern engaged in a brisk cannonade. (Several pieces partly disabled and partly without ammunition were returning, whilst another advanced from the camp. As the enemy's [424] fire was directed to the place where I halted, I ordered two pieces of the battery which came up to take position on an elevated ground to the left, and shell the enemy. After a few shots the fire of the enemy opposite our position became weaker, and I sent the two pieces forward to join their battery.) I then returned to look after my own troops, and passing along the road met the Iowa Third, (cavalry,) which had been sent in advance of Col. Osterhaus, and which now escorted their Lieutenant-Colonel, who was severely wounded, back into camp. I immediately sent you to order the regiment back to Leesville, which order was given, and the regiment returned. I met Lieut. Gasson, of the flying battery, who reported to me that our cavalry had been driven back by an over-whelming force, and our three pieces taken by the enemy, as there was no infantry to support them. I now ordered Major Mezaros, and the other two pieces of the flying battery, to reinforce Col. Osterhaus, but during their march I learned that Col. Davis had been directed to advance with his whole division to Leesville, which induced me to send only Major Mezaros to that point, and directed the two pieces of the flying battery to act as reserve, and to join the troops left in their encampment. Proceeding to the camp to see what was going on there, and whether we were safe in our rear, (toward Bentonville,) I found the following troops assembled in their respective positions: The Seventeenth Missouri and a detachment of sixty men of the Third Missouri, the Twenty-fifth and the Forty--fourth Illinois, two pieces of Woelfley's battery, (twelve-pounders,) two companies Thirty-sixth Illinois cavalry, and nearly the whole Second division, comprising the Second and Fifteenth Missouri, Carlin's battery, and two companies of the Benton hussars. It was about two o'clock in the afternoon when the cannonading and musket-firing became more vehement, and when you ordered me to reinforce Col. Carr, at Elkhorn Tavern, and Col. Davis and Colonel Osterhaus, near Leesville, as both forces, especially those at Leesville, were, according to your reports, pressed hard and losing ground. I therefore sent Gen. Asboth with four companies of the Second Missouri, under Col. Schaefer, and four pieces of the Second Ohio battery, under Lieut. Chapman, to assist Col. Carr. Major Paten, with the Seventeenth Missouri, one company of the Third Missouri, two companies of the Fifteenth Missouri, two pieces of the flying artillery, under Captain Elbert, and two companies of the Benton hussars, under Major Heinricks, I ordered to advance on the Sugar Creek road toward Bentonville, to demonstrate against the rear of the enemy. Two pieces of the Second Ohio battery, with six companies of the Second Missouri, remained in their position to guard the camp, and two companies of the Forty-fourth Illinois, with twenty men of the Thirty-sixth Illinois cavalry, under Captain Russell, were sent forward in a north-western direction, to remain there as a picket between Leesville and the Sugar Creek road. With all other troops — the Fifteenth Missouri, the Twenty-fourth and Forty-fourth Illinois, and two pieces Captain Woelfley's battery — I marched to Leesville to reenforce Cols. Davis and Osterhaus. My intention was to throw back the enemy from Leesville into the mountains and toward Bentonville, and then by a change of direction to the right to assist Gen. Asboth and Col. Carr, by deploying on their left. On my march to Leesville, I heard Major Paten's firing on the Bentonville road. Arrived at Leesville, the firing in front ceased, whilst it recommenced with new vehemence on the right, at Elkhorn Tavern. At this moment Captain McKenney, A. A. G., requested me, by order of Gen. Curtis. to send some more reinforcements to the right, which I did by detaching five companies of the Twenty-fifth Illinois and four pieces of Hoffman's battery, stationed in reserve at Leesville, to Elkhorn Tavern. I then proceeded beyond the town to the battle-field, which I found in full possession of Cols. Davis and Osterhaus. As no enemy could be seen, except a small detachment on a distant hill, I requested Col. Davis to protect my left flank by sending his skirmishers and one regiment of infantry forward through the woods, whilst I proceeded with the Twenty-fifth Illinois and four pieces of Woelfley's and Hoffman's batteries on the road to the south-east, which was already opened by the Forty-fourth Illinois and Fifteenth Missouri. After making one mile, and passing two hospitals of the enemy, I ordered Col. Osterhaus to follow me with the Twelfth Missouri and Thirty-sixth Illinois, and a section of artillery, which troops came up promptly, except the two pieces--twelve-pounders — that remained with Col. Davis. We advanced slowly, and after making half a mile more, we reached an open field, where we took our position, and from which we could easily discern the camp-fires of our friends and those of our enemies near Elkhorn Tavern. I now sent immediately to Gen. Curtis to apprise him of my position, and that I was ready to cooperate with him. Meanwhile night had fallen in, and although the cannonading was renewed on the right, I did not believe that after a hard day's work the enemy would make a final and decisive attack. In order, therefore, to disguise our position, from which I intended to advance in the morning, I kept the troops in the strictest silence, and did not allow the building of camp-fires, or any other movement further than two or three hundred paces distant. So we remained until one o'clock in the morning, when I found it necessary to remove the troops by a short and convenient road into our common camp, to give them some food, sleep, and a good fire, and to prepare them for battle. To show the whole position of the First and Second divisions on the evening of the seventh, allow me, General, to make the following statement:

Beginning on the left, Major Paten, with the Seventeenth Missouri, one company of the Third Missouri, two companies of the Fifteenth Missouri, two pieces of the flying artillery, and two companies of the Benton hussars, was stationed on the Sugar Creek and Bentonville road. The entrance of the road from this side was guarded by two pieces of the Second Ohio battery, and [425] six companies of the Second Missouri. Toward the north, (Leesville,) two companies of the Forty-fourth Illinois and twenty men of the Thirty-sixth Illinois cavalry remained on picket. On the right, near Elkhorn Tavern, were the following troops: Four companies of the Second Missouri, five companies of the Twenty-fifth Illinois, four pieces of the Second Ohio battery, and four pieces of Capt. Hoffman's battery. In the field to the left of Gen. Asboth and Col. Carr, under my immediate command, were the Twelfth Missouri, the Fifteenth Missouri, the Twenty-fifth, Thirty-sixth, and Forty-fourth Illinois, two pieces of Captain Woelfley's, and two pieces of Capt. Hoffman's batteries. The Fremont and Benton hussars and one section of Capt. Woelfley's battery returned to camp with Col. Davis. The detachment of Major Conrad, consisting of six companies of infantry, detailed from the Third, Fifteenth, and Seventeenth Missouri, and the Thirty-sixth Illinois, and one piece of Capt. Woelfley's battery, was encamped a few miles west of Keitsville.

One piece of Capt. Woelfley's battery was spiked and then taken by the enemy, but retaken and unspiked. Three pieces of Capt. Elbert's flying battery had been lost near Leesville, the trails burnt by the enemy, and the guns left on the battle-field. Another piece of this battery had broken down on the retreat from Bentonville to Sugar Creek, but the gun was recovered and brought into camp.


battle of the Eighth-near Elkhorn Tavern.

The different combats of the seventh had fully developed the plans of the enemy. It was evident that his main forces were stationed near and at Elkhorn Tavern, and that he would make all efforts to break through our lines on the Fayetteville road, and thereby complete his apparent victory. I therefore resolved to recall all troops and different detachments of the First and Second divisions from wherever they were stationed, (with the exception of four companies of the Second Missouri, and four pieces of artillery from the Second Ohio battery, sent to their original position at Sugar Creek,) and to fall upon the right flank of the enemy should he attack or advance from Elkhorn Tavern. At daybreak of the eighth the following troops were assembled near and around my headquarters, awaiting orders:

First division, Col. Osterhaus--Two companies of Third Missouri Volunteers, Twelfth and Seventeenth Missouri, Twenty-fifth, Thirty-sixth, and Forty-fourth Illinois ; Woelfley's battery, five pieces; Hoffman's battery, six pieces; Capt. Jenks's squadron of the Thirty-sixth Illinois.

Second division, Gen. Asboth--Second Missouri, six companies, Fifteenth Missouri, two pieces Second Ohio battery, Lieut. Chapman's battalion, four companies Fourth Missouri cavalry, (Fremont hussars,) six companies Fifth Missouri cavalry, (Benton hussars,) two pieces of Capt. Elbert's flying battery.

It was about seven o'clock in the morning when the firing began on the Keitsville road, this side of Elkhorn Tavern. I was waiting for Col. Osterhaus and Lieut. Assenussen, of my staff, who had gone out to reconnoitre the ground on which I intended to deploy, and to find the nearest road to that ground. The Forty-fourth Illinois had already been sent in advance to form our right when the above-named officers returned and the movement began. In less than half an hour the troops were in their respective positions, the First division forming the first line, the Second division with all the cavalry, the reserve, two hundred and fifty paces behind the first line. To protect and cover the deployment of the left wing, I opened the fire on the right with a section of Capt. Hoffman's battery, under Lieut. Frank, and the five pieces of Capt. Woelfley's battery. The enemy returned the fire promptly and with effect, but was soon outflanked by our position on the left, and exposed to a concentric and most destructive fire of our brave and almost never-failing cannoneers.

After the first discharges on a distance of eight hundred paces, I ordered Capt. Woelfley and Lieut. Frank to advance about two hundred and fifty yards, to come into close range from the enemy's position. Whilst I threw the Twenty-fifth Illinois forward on the right, to cover the space between the battery and the Keitsville road, Col. Schaefer, with the Second Missouri, was ordered to the extreme left, and by forming against cavalry, to protect our left flank. This movement proved of great effect, and I now ordered the centre and left to advance two hundred paces, and brought the reserve forward on the position which our first line had occupied. I then took a battery commanded by Capt. Klausand, belonging to Col. Davis's division, nearer to my right, and reported to you that the road toward Elkhorn Tavern was open, and we were advancing. About this time, when the battle had lasted one hour and a half, the enemy tried to extend his line further to the right, in occupying the first hill of the long ridge commanding the plain and the gradually rising ground where we stood. His infantry was already lodged upon the hill, seeking shelter behind the rocks and stones, while some pieces of artillery worked around to gain the plateau. I immediately ordered the two howitzers of reserve, (Second Ohio, under Lieut. Granswood,) and the two pieces of Capt. Elbert's flying battery, to report to Col. Osterhaus, on the left, to shell and batter the enemy on the hill. This was done in concert with Hoffman's battery, and with terrible effect to the enemy, as the rocks and stones worked as hard as the shell and shot. The enemy's plan to enfilade our lines from the hill was frustrated, and he was forced to lead a precipitate retreat with men and cannon. Encouraged by the good and gallant behavior of our troops, I resolved to draw the circle a little closer around the corner into which we had already pressed the enemy's masses, and ordered a second advance of all the batteries and battalions, changing the position of the right wing more to the left, and bringing the troops of the reserve, the Fifteenth Missouri and the whole cavalry, behind our left [426]

Arrested by Klause's battery on the right, and cooperating with the troops of the Third and Fourth divisions, who advanced with new spirit on the Keitsville road, the enemy was over-whelmed by the deadly power of our artillery, and after about an hour's work, the firing on his side began to slacken, and nearly totally ceased. To profit this favorable moment, I ordered the Twelfth Missouri, the Twenty-fifth and Forty-fourth Illinois to throw forward a strong force of skirmishers, and take the woods in front, where the enemy had planted one of his batteries. At the same time, I ordered the Seventeenth Missouri Volunteers, which had arrived during the battle from the Bentonville road, to climb the hill on our left, and to press forward against the enemy's rear. The Thirty-sixth Illinois was also ordered to assist this movement, and to hold communication between the Twelfth and Seventeenth Missouri Volunteers, whilst Colonels Schaefer and Joliat, with the Second and Fifteenth Missouri, followed slowly, and Colonel Demett with his cavalry guarded the rear.

The rattling of musketry, the volleys, the hurrahs, did prove very soon that our troops were well at work in the woods, and that they were gaining ground rapidly. It was the Twelfth Missouri Volunteers, under Major Wengelin, which at this occasion took Dallas's artillery and their flag, followed close behind and on the right by part of the Third Missouri, the Forty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Illinois, and on the left by the Thirty-sixth Illinois. The Seventeenth Missouri, under Major Paten, had meanwhile arrived on the top of Pea Ridge, forming the extreme left of our line of battle.

The enemy was routed, and fled in terror and confusion in all directions. It was a delightful moment when we all met after twelve o'clock on the eminence where the enemy held position with his batteries a few minutes before, and when you let pass by the columns of your victorious army.

To pursue the enemy, I sent Capt. Von Reilmansegge, with one company of Fremont hussars, forward. The Seventeenth and Third Missouri followed in double-quick time, assisted by two pieces of Elbert's flying artillery. Other troops of the First division, all under Colonel Osterhaus, came up and continued their march toward Keitsville.

At the fork of the Bentonville and Keitsville roads, I detached the Forty-fourth Illinois, Col. Knoblesdorf, two pieces of artillery of the flying battery, and a squad of thirty Fremont hussars, to proceed a short distance on the road to Bentonville, and to guard that road. Arrived at Keitsville with the greatest portion of my command, I found that one part of the enemy had turned to the Roaring River and Bentonville, while others had turned to the left. I also received your order to return to Sugar Creek, which I did, and met the army on Sugar Creek, at four o'clock on the evening of the ninth.

A list of the dead, wounded, and missing of this command has already been transmitted to you, and a special report, mentioning those officers and men of my command who deserve consideration for their conduct in action, together with the reports of the different commanders of regiments and corps, will follow to-day, as some of the reports have not come in yet.

I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

F. Sigel, Brig.-Gen. Commanding First and Second Divisions. To Brig.-Gen. S. R. Curtis, Commanding South-Western Army.

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 Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Leetown (Arkansas, United States) (26)
Bentonville, Ark. (Arkansas, United States) (23)
Leesville (Missouri, United States) (15)
Elkhorn Tavern (Arkansas, United States) (14)
Arkansas (Arkansas, United States) (11)
Pineville (Missouri, United States) (9)
Fayetteville, Ark. (Arkansas, United States) (8)
Pea Ridge, Ark. (Arkansas, United States) (6)
Springfield, Mo. (Missouri, United States) (5)
Missouri (Missouri, United States) (5)
Maysville (Arkansas, United States) (5)
Osage Springs (Arkansas, United States) (4)
Grayson, Ky. (Kentucky, United States) (4)
Cassville (Missouri, United States) (4)
Cross Hollows (Arkansas, United States) (3)
Rolla, Mo. (Missouri, United States) (2)
Osage Mills (Arkansas, United States) (2)
Oklahoma (Oklahoma, United States) (2)
Huntsville (Alabama, United States) (2)
Wilson's Creek (Missouri, United States) (1)
White River (Arkansas, United States) (1)
St. Louis (Missouri, United States) (1)
Smiths Mills (Ohio, United States) (1)
Peoria (Illinois, United States) (1)
Osage Prairie (Arkansas, United States) (1)
Neosho, Mo. (Missouri, United States) (1)
McDonald (Missouri, United States) (1)
Marshfield, Mo. (Missouri, United States) (1)
Elm Springs (Arkansas, United States) (1)
Dubuque (Iowa, United States) (1)
Dallas, Ga. (Georgia, United States) (1)
Columbus, Ky. (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Boston Mountains (Arkansas, United States) (1)
Big Sugar Creek (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Berryville (Arkansas, United States) (1)
Bentonville (North Carolina, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

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 (7)
March 5th (2)
9th (2)
March 15th, 1862 AD (1)
March 1st, 1862 AD (1)
March 9th (1)
March 6th (1)
March 4th (1)
March 2nd (1)
February 22nd (1)
February 12th (1)
January 20th (1)
7th (1)
5th (1)
2nd (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: