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Pea Ridge

Civil War Campaign in the West

William L. Shea and Earl J. Hess

Publication Year: 1992

The 1862 battle of Pea Ridge in northwestern Arkansas was one of the largest Civil War engagements fought on the western frontier, and it dramatically altered the balance of power in the Trans-Mississippi. This study of the battle is based on research in archives from Connecticut to California and includes a pioneering study of the terrain of the sprawling battlefield, as well as an examination of soldiers' personal experiences, the use of Native American troops, and the role of Pea Ridge in regional folklore.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Series: Civil War America

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

Contents, List of Maps, List of Illustrations

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pp. v-ix

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pp. xi-xiii

In 1902 while speaking to a National Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic in Washington, B.C., Grenville M. Dodge recalled the beginning of his Civil War experience forty years before. Dodge had risen to the rank of major general and had participated in many famous operations in Tennessee and Georgia, but he told his audience that he was proudest of what he had accomplished as a young colonel in Missouri and...

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Chapter 1. Winter Campaign

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pp. 1-26

By the end of 1861 the struggle for Missouri had reached an impasse. Federal forces firmly held St. Louis and maintained a tenuous grip on the Missouri River Valley, but the secessionist Missouri State Guard defiantly stood its ground near Springfield in the southwest corner of the state. As the opposing forces other across the drab wintry landscape of the Ozark Plateau, developments were taking place that would put thousands of men in motion and shatter the stalemate. Missouri's fate...

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Chapter 2. Price's Running Stand

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pp. 27-44

The third and final effort to secure Missouri for the Union began on February 10, 1862. Early that morning the thousands of tents surrounding Lebanon were struck and the Army of the Southwest set out for Springfield in the best nineteenth-century fashion with bands playing and flags flying. Curtis set a steady but unhurried pace across the rolling terrain of the Springfield...

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Chapter 3. The Hunter and the Hunted

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pp. 45-61

Curtis had no detailed section maps of northwestern Arkansas, but there were numerous soldiers in the Army of the Southwest who were familiar with the area. The gently rolling upland of the Springfield Plateau is dotted with occasional hills and ridges and covered by a mix of woods and prairies. It extends south from Missouri to the Boston Mountains and west into the Indian...

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Chapter 4. Rush to Glory

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pp. 62-87

The campaign to liberate Missouri and retrieve the honor of Confederate arms in the West began in the Boston Mountains on Tuesday, March 4. Shortly after dawn the soldiers of the Army of the West formed up on Telegraph Road and moved briskly to the north through a curtain of falling snow Despite the cold, gloomy weather the rebels were in good spirits. A Texan...

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Chapter 5. Death of a Texan

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pp. 88-112

Friday, March 7, was a cold, clear, windless day. The temperature remained below freezing all morning, and patches of snow covered the ground. Thousands of Federal soldiers awoke stiff and chilled in their camps overlooking Little Sugar Creek and stamped around their campfires drinking scalding coffee. At Pratt's store Curtis ate a spartan breakfast in his headquarters tent...

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Chapter 6. Battle in the Brush

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pp. 113-133

When Mclntosh was informed of McCulloch's death, he told his cavalry commanders on Foster's farm to stay and "wait for orders." Without another word he trotted forward and joined his old regiment, Col. Benjamin T. Embry's 2nd Arkansas Mounted Rifles, which was dismounted and serving as infantry He immediately ordered the...

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Chapter 7. A Battle Half Won

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pp. 134-150

Hebert's four Confederate regiments had breached the thin Federal line in the vicinity of Leetown Road, but the Arkansas and Louisiana troops were disorganized and exhausted, the legacy of the desperate labors of the past four days. McNair realized that the rebel soldiers milling around the two cannons in the southeastern corner of Obersoris field were in...

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Chapter 8. Clash in Cross Timber Hollow

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pp. 151-169

The fighting near Leetown on March 7 was only one part of the battle of Pea Ridge. Two miles to the east at Elkhorn Tavern a far more intense and costly struggle raged all that day and much of the next for control of Telegraph Road. There the outcome of the battle was decided. Early on that decisive Friday, hours before the deaths of McCulloch and Mclntosh and the repulse of Hebert's brigade...

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Chapter 9. Perseverance beside a Tavern

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pp. 170-184

The first Federal reinforcements to reach Elkhorn Tavern arrived around 12:30 EM. The leading element of Vandever's 2nd Brigade was Capt. Mortimer M. Hayden's 3rd Iowa Battery. Hayden's unit was popularly known as the Dubuque Battery and consisted of four six-pounder guns and two twelve-pounder howitzers. When the little column of artillery rumbled up to the tavern, it was met by one of Carr's staff officers. ...

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Chapter 10. High Tide at Elkhorn

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pp. 185-206

The all-out Confederate assault on the thin Federal line at Elkhorn Tavern brought the fighting in Cross Timber Hollow to a terrible climax. Price's Missourians knew they had to drive the stubborn Federals back and gain a foothold atop Pea Ridge. Carr's midwesterners understood they had to hold their position until promised reinforcements arrived from Little Sugar Creek. With daylight slipping away and officers and men on both sides...

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Chapter 11. Soften the Heart

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pp. 207-222

Darkness spread across Pea Ridge and brought an end to the carnage but there was little rest for the weary on the cold, clear night of March 7-8. Moonlight filtering through the lingering haze of battle dimly illuminated a scene of surprising activity. Hundreds of soldiers wandered across the battlefield to succor the wounded or steal from the dead. Thousands more stumbled...

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Chapter 12. Thunder in the Ozarks

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pp. 223-242

As dawn broke over Pea Ridge on Saturday, March 8, an observer in the Federal camp described the morning sun as a "dull, copper tinted globe, slowly pushing itself up through the murky cloud of cannon smoke that even the long hours of a winter night had not dispelled." The entire battlefield was swathed in wispy layers of white that resembled morning fog. ...

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Chapter 13. Victory and Defeat

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pp. 243-260

The final act of the battle of Pea Ridge began about 10:30 A.M. on March 8 when Sigel ordered forward the 1st and 2nd Divisions of the Army of the Southwest. Several batteries advanced to within two hundred yards of the woods west of Telegraph Road and blasted the Confederate position with case shot and canister. Under normal circumstances such a Napoleonic tactic would have been fatal for the cannoneers and their horses, who were...

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Chapter 14. The Vulture and the Wolf

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pp. 261-283

Van Dorn awoke early at Van Winkle's Mill on Sunday, March 9, to find that a cold rain was falling. His mood must have matched the dreary weather as he composed a brief message to Johnston in Tennessee. The message contained several evasions and misleading statements. Van Dorn informed his superior that he had fought a battle in northwestern Arkansas but had failed to win. He stated that his "whole army" was...

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Chapter 15. Marching through Arkansas

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pp. 284-306

While the Army of the West reassembled along the banks of Frog Bayou, Van Dorn stayed close to his headquarters in Van Buren and immersed himself in correspondence and administrative duties. He continued to deny that Pea Ridge was a Federal victory. "I was not defeated, but only foiled in my intentions," he insisted in letters to General...

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Conclusion. A Military Analysis of Pea Ridge

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pp. 307-317

The Pea Ridge campaign was one of the earliest sustained operations of the Civil War. It provides a window through which we can glimpse the evolution of warfare in America in the mid-nineteenth century. While the campaign was traditional in many respects, the use of repeating rifles, dessicated vegetables, and telegraphic communication reflected the impact of industrialization. ...

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Appendix 1. The Legacy of Pea Ridge

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pp. 319-330

Pea Ridge lived on as a potent force in the lives of the participants and in the collective consciousness of the nation. Because it was an early battle, it spawned many new military leaders. Three Federal generals fought at Pea Ridge (Curtis, Sigel, and Asboth), and twelve officers of lower rank later became generals; half of these men rose in rank as a direct result of their performance at Pea Ridge. Of the four Federal division commanders, three went on to become...

Appendix 2. Order of Battle

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pp. 331-339


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pp. 341-386


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pp. 387-409


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pp. 411-417

E-ISBN-13: 9781469603063
E-ISBN-10: 1469603063
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807820421
Print-ISBN-10: 0807820423

Page Count: 432
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 1992

Series Title: Civil War America
The Civil War America series interprets the field broadly to include biography, military and nonmilitary history, works that explore the immediate background of the conflict, and studies of postbellum topics related to the war. A few diaries, sets of letters, and memoirs that make exceptional contributions to our understanding of the era also will appear as volumes in the series.