Thursday, January 12, 2012

January of 1862: Fleeing from Missouri into Arkansas

Gen. Sterling Price, C.S.A.
In a letter dated January 4, 1862, a correspondent of the Missouri Republican newspaper reported that a mass exodus of both people and military supplies was underway out of the "Show Me State" and into Arkansas.
The report was based largely on conversations with a Union prisoner of war just returned to Federal lines from General Sterling Price's Confederate army, then based at Springfield, Missouri. The released prisoner saw signs that Price himself was preparing to fall back into Northwest Arkansas, despite claims to the contrary:

...[I]f not intending to retire further South, they are at least making every preparation necessary for a hasty retreat in the event of an attack. Besides driving all the hogs South, they are gathering up all the horses, mules and wagons in the country. If it is their design to remain in Springfield this winter, it is difficult to account for their preparation of means of transportation. Moreover, the Secessionists themselves with their families, are retiring into Arkansas.

Similarly, the former p.o.w. mentioned that the people of Missouri were removing their slaves south into Arkansas in large numbers:

Elkhorn Tavern at Pea Ridge National Military Park
...Of these there is a constant daily emigration, sometimes as high as a hundred passing in one day. This was through the one point of Springfield, equally large number were reported going South through Greenfield. It is thus secession and war protects the peculiar institution. I understood these slaves are chiefly from Central Missouri, and it was reported in Springfield...that a gang of one hundred and fifty slaves, from the Missouri river counties, was recently captured by our troops under Jennison and Montgomery.

The report was carried in many Northern newspapers and was indicative of the chaos then taking place along the border between Arkansas and Missouri. It provides a good account of the general exodus of Secessionist citizens south from Missouri into Arkansas in the months leading up to the Pea Ridge Campaign.

As the citizens fled into Arkansas 150 years ago this month, the Battle of Pea Ridge was only two months away.  You can read more about that battle by visiting

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