Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pea Ridge #4 - Signs of a Retreat into Arkansas

Gen. Sterling Price, CSA
A report from a war correspondent in Rolla, Missouri, 150 years ago today included information that indicated General Sterling Price was preparing to evacuate Springfield, Missouri.

The Union army was clearly about to descend upon him and, while the writer does not seem to have fully understood what he was reporting, his dispatch clearly indicated that Price was getting ready to withdraw his Confederate forces into Northwest Arkansas.

While first noting claims that Price had told the Confederate soldiers of the Missouri State Guard that they were surrounded and must must, the reporter went on to note clear intelligence that a retreat might be in the works. The Confederate general, he reported, was collecting "large supplies of provisions ont he road leading from Springfield to Fayetteville."

Old Wire Road between Springfield and Fayetteville
National Park Service
The pro-Union writer seems to have interpreted this as an indication that Price was receiving large reinforcements from Arkansas, but in reality he appears to have been positioning supplies in anticipation of a retreat by his men from Springfield south into Benton County, Arkansas.

The journalist's interpretation of what the Union army was up to was much more accurate:

Gen. Franz Sigel, USA
National Archives
...The news from the West indicates that the preparations against the enemy are nearly completed. The forces for this movement are nearly all concentrated at the point where it is intended to move against the Rebels. In a few days the whole command will probably be on the march Westward. Generals SIGEL and ASBOTH'S divisions have reached Lebanon, and Major WRIGHT'S battalion of cavalry has moved thirteen miles west of that point. - Unnamed Correspondent reporting from Rolla, Misosuri, February 8, 1862.

The division of Colonel Jefferson C. Davis, meanwhile, was reported to be nearing Lebanon.

The leading cavalry of the Union army was now within 40 miles of Springfield and the first significant skirmishing of the Pea Ridge Campaign would take place the next day.

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

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