Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pea Ridge #6 - Skirmish at Springfield, Missouri

Gen. Samuel Curtis, USA
National Archives
On February 12, 1862 (150 years ago), Union General Samuel R. Curtis achieved the first major objective of the Pea Ridge Campaign, the capture of Springfield, Missouri.
The city that had been held so long by General Sterling Price and the Missouri State Guard fell to Federal troops after only minor skirmishing:

The flag of the Union floats over the court-house of Springfield, Mo. The enemy attacked us with small parties at 10.30 o'clock, 12 miles out, and my front guards had a running fire with them most of the afternoon [i.e. of the 11th]. At dusk a regument of the Confederate cavalry attacked the outer picket, but did not move it. A few shots from a howitzer killed 2 and wounded several. The regiment retreated to this place, and the enemy immediately commenced the evacuation of the city. I entered the city at 10 a.m. - Gen. Samuel Curtis, USA, February 12, 1864.

Cannon at Wilson's Creek
National Park Service

Upon taking Springfield on the morning of February 12th, Curtis ordered his cavalry to continue to press Price's retreating Confederates:

...My cavalry is in full pursuit. They say the enemy is making at stand at Wilson's Creek. Forage, flour, and other stores in large quantities taken. Shall pursue as fast as the strength of the men will allow.- Gen. Samuel Curtis, USA, February 12, 1864.

Elkhorn Tavern
The capture of Springfield was a pivotal moment in the developing Pea Ridge Campaign. The city was the last major Confederate defensive point between Curtis and the Arkansas border. His push south down the Wire or Telegraph Road would soon bring him across the line near a tavern known for the antlers of an elk that adorned it: Elkhorn Tavern.

The final advance on Springfield had pushed the Confederate forces under Sterling Price into full retreat. With insufficient manpower to make a stand against the oncoming Federals, Price had no choice but to retreat south for Arkansas. His objective now became the Boston Mountains and the thousands of Confederate troops in winter quarters in Northwest Arkansas. The men there under General Ben McCulloch offered not only supplies and safety, but the chance to form a large enough army to go back on the offensive.

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

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