Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January 17, 1862 - "The prospect of a fight improves"

Ozarks of Southern Missouri
As the Union army continued to consolidate its position at Rolla, 112 miles northeast of Springfield in Missouri, it send forward raiding and scouting parties to gather provisions and intelligence on the position and condition of General Sterling Price and the Missouri State Guard.
Some of the intelligence brought in by these parties was accurate and some what not, but it is surprising today to read how much of it made its way into newspapers of the time. The Memphis Daily Appeal, for example, republished a letter 150 years ago today (January 17, 1862) that correctly prophesied the coming Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas.

Detailing information sent back to Union headquarters by Colonel Eugene Carr, the unnamed writer detailed a minor raid in Missouri then provided more solid information about the forces gathering for battle:

…This same messenger brings further information that General Price has been reinforced by three thousand men and ten pieces of cannon from Arkansas, under Gen. McIntosh. It is the opinion of my informant that price intends to make another stand at Springfield. As an on dit in this connection, Gen. Price is reported to have said, if he had an army equal to the Federal army at Rolla, he would run the last Fed. From the State in ten days. - Memphis Daily Appeal, January 17, 1862.

 Brig. Gen. James McIntosh, C.S.A.
National Park Service Photo
The General McIntosh mentioned in the account was Brigadier General James McIntosh. A Florida native, he was the great-great nephew of the famed General Lachlan McIntosh of the American Revolution. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he resigned his commission in 1861 and offered his services to the Confederacy and became colonel of the 2nd Arkansas Mounted Rifles.

McIntosh fought at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri, in 1861 before leading Confederate forces in the stunning rout of Opothleyahola's Union-allied Creek and Seminole warriors at the Battle of Chustenahlah in what is now Osage County, Oklahoma, on December 26, 1861. The latter victory was so impressive that McIntosh was promoted to the rank of brigadier general.

The intelligence on McIntosh was inaccurate. Instead of moving to Price's support in Missouri, the general had just returned from the Battle of Chustenahlah and his men were back in their winter camps in Arkansas.

Despite such inaccuracies in intelligence, it was clear to both sides than forces were forming in Missouri and Northwest Arkansas for a major battle. In view of this, it was easy for the pro-Union writer of the newspaper account to forecast the coming Battle of Pea Ridge:

Upon the whole, the prospect of a fight improves for surely nothing can be wanting to secure so desirable thing except the willingness of the enemy. - Memphis Daily Appeal, January 17, 1862

While the battle was still seven weeks away, things would soon begin happening very fast as the Pea Ridge Campaign began to take shape.

I will continue to post on the campaign over coming days and weeks, so be sure to check back often. You can also learn more about the Battle of Pea Ridge at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/pearidgeindex.

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