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2 Price'sRunningStand T he third and final effort to secure Missouri for the Union began on February 10, 1862. Early that morning the thousands oftents surrounding Lebanon were struck and the Army of the Southwest set out for Springfield in the best nineteenth-century fashion with bands playing andflagsflying.Curtis set a steady but unhurried pace across the rolling terrain ofthe Springfield Plateau. Mercifully, the weather wasunseasonably mild and the roads were dry. On the evening of February 12 the Federals reached Piersoris Creek.Springfieldlayonly eight miles ahead.1 Price now was resigned to the fact that Springfield was untenable. He feared that the approaching Federal army was much larger than his own, and he did not want to risk everything "with greatly unequal numbers upon result of one engagement." While the Federals settled in for the night at Pierson's Creek, the Missouri rebels made ready to abandon Springfield for the third time in seven months.2 lb cover his withdrawal Price sent Col. Elijah Gates's 1st Missouri Cavalryto drive in the Federal pickets. Just after dark Gates's command sallied forth from Springfield and struck a battalion of the 3rd Illinois Cavalry posted a mile and a half forward of the Federal main body. The Illinoisans held their ground and were reinforced by infantry, cavalry,artillery,and a flock of high-ranking officers including Curtis,Sigel, and Davis. When Federal cannons opened fire, the rebels disengaged and fell back to Springfield3 28 HI Pea Ridge While the skirmish at Pierson's Creek was under way,the Missouri army slipped away from Springfield. Soldiers formed ranks in the darkness and trudged along Telegraph Road to the old battlefield at Wilson's Creek, ten miles to the south. After a brief stop for breakfast the Missourians continued another twelve miles to McCullah'sSpring and camped for the night of February 13. Price was deeply depressed over the sudden change in his fortunes and could not decide whether to halt or continue drifting south toward the Arkansas-Missouriline. In his distracted condition he allowed three days to pass before he informed his Confederate allies in Arkansas of the loss of Springfield.4 Curtis also was unaware that the Missouriarmy was inflight.The skirmish at Pierson's Creek reinforced the widespread belief in the Armyofthe Southwest that the rebels would not give up Springfield without a fight. The next morning the Federals were gripped by a mix of apprehension and excitement as they advanced toward the rebel lair. Five miles east of Springfield the Federals approached a fog-shrouded ravine. Curtissuspected that if Price intended to make a stand, he would do it here. Curtis deployed his entire command into line of battle and sent hundreds of skirmishers toward the ominous ravine.5 A particularly adventurous company of skirmishers from the 4th Iowa scrambled in and out of the ravine and advanced all the way to Springfield without encountering a single rebel. The lowans hastened back to the army on liberated horses and mules to report that the enemy appeared to be altogether gone. Relieved and not a little puzzled by this unexpected turn of events, Curtis ordered an immediate advance. At 10:00 A.M. on February 13 the vanguard of the Army of the Southwest entered Springfield and raised the stars and stripes over the Greene County courthouse amidst "great rejoicing."The flag would remain flying there for the duration of the war.6 Most of Springfield's citizens had fled either north or south, and the town was a shambles. A Federal officer wandered through homes and shops cluttered with "straw,bunks,boards, old clothes, fragmentsof corn bread... and other rubbish, the walls defaced with charcoal sketches and rebel rhymes, descriptive of the way in which 'Lien dide and sigiel flu,' at Wilson's Creek, the prospects of France and England interfering with 'Lincoln's war,' and other kindred subjects delightful to a 'secesh' ear." Carcasses and offal littered the streets, and flocks of crows and buzzards hovered overhead. In their rush to escape, the rebels left four hundred invalids, perhaps half as Price's Running Stand \\\ 29 many stragglers, and a number of storehouses onlypartially emptied of supplies and equipment.7 Curtis established his headquarters in the same house Price had used. There the Federals found more evidence ofOldPap's hasty departure: tables heaped with military paperwork, including correspondence from Mclntosh and Hebert, and a pantry full of food fit for a commanding general. Curtis considered...


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