Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pea Ridge #5 - Skirmish at Marshfield, Missouri

Union Approach to Springfield
Springfield at lower left, Marshfield in middle right, Bolivar at upper left.
The afternoon of February 9, 1862,150 years ago today, found General Samuel Curtis 18 miles in advance of Lebanon, pushing for Springfield, Missouri. The Pea Ridge Campaign was picking up speed.

Curtis's immediate objective was Springfield, Missouri, where Confederate General Sterling Price's Missouri State Guard lay in wait. All signs were that Price was preparing to retreat into Northwest Arkansas where he would be reinforced by thousands of men under Generals Ben McCulloch and James McIntosh, but there was no way for Curtis to know for sure.

One thing was for certain, his cavalry was getting closer and closer to Springfield. The First Missouri Cavalry (US), for example, had driven to Bolivar just 30 miles north of Price's headquarters. There they had captured a few stragglers, a heard of 125 cattle while "carrying terror and astonishment due north of Springfield."

Gen. Samuel Curtis, USA
National Archives
At Marshfield, 26 miles northeast of Springfield, a sharp skirmish took place when another Federal cavalry force entered the town:

...[A]t 4 o'clock a cavalry battalion, under Lieutenant-Colonel Wright, entered Marshfield, routing and pursuing a small party of the enemy's force that was running the mill. Pursuit was made, and Captain Montgomery overtook them, killing 2, wounding 3, taking 3 prisoners, several slaves, 3 Government mule teams, 2 common teams, all loaded with wheat designed for the enemy. None of our men were hurt. - Gen. Samuel Curtis, CSA, February 10, 1862.

Curtis reported that he was pleased with his march so far and that the latest intelligence indicated that Price was still in Springfield. Firing could be heard from that direction.

What that firing was is unclear. The presence of Union cavalry in both Bolivar and Marshfield told General Price that he was being approached from both the North and Northeast and that Federal troops were now within a single day's ride of his position at Springfield. Curtis's infantry, he knew, could not be far behind.

The time was coming when Price would have to either retreat or fight. And it was coming fast.

I will continue to post on the 150th anniversary of the Pea Ridge Campaign over coming days and weeks, so check back often. You can learn more about the Battle of Pea Ridge anytime at

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