Friday, February 17, 2012

Pea Ridge #9 - The Battle of Dunagin's Farm, Arkansas

Old Wire Road passes Elkhorn Tavern
The Union army continued to push south down the Wire Road on the morning of February 17, 1862, passing through Cassville and into the rolling mountain country south of that city.

The route of Curtis's cavalry took it across the Arkansas state line just north of Elkhorn Tavern and then through the fields and woods that would soon be the scene of the Battle of Pea Ridge. As the mounted forces reached Sugar Creek, they once again encountered stiff resistance from the Confederates, this time under the command of Colonel Louis Hebert of Louisiana.

Col. Louis Hebert, CSA
Pushing up to the creek and forming for the attack, Wright's Battalion of Missouri Cavalry and McConnell's Battalion of the 3rd Illinois Cavalry drove forward on the Wire Road and into the teeth of a Confederate crossfire:

...Colonel Ellis, leading the charge, took the road and received a heavy cross-fire from the enemy. As I approached, I discovered a heavy column of the enemy on either side of the road. I at once deployed my battalion to the right and charged their lines. Major McConnell went to the left. For a few minutes the fight was well contested on the right, the heavy timber and dense underbrush affording good coverage for the enemy. I ordered a saber charge after firing our carbines and pistols, but soon found that the brush was too dense to make it rapid enough. - Lt. Col. Clark Wright, Clark's Battalion, February 17, 1862.

Aerial View of Dunigan's Farm Battlefield 

Unable to cut through the Confederate resistance with sabers, Lt. Col. Wright ordered his men to return sabers and shift to their carbines. This tactic work and his battalion pushed forward, focing the Southern left from its position in the brush and into open ground beyond. This accomplished, Wright's Missourians fell back about 200 yards and reformed. Their loss was 1 killed and 3 wounded.

Curtis reported that the battle had been opened with artillery fire by the Confederates, to which his own cannon had replied, but that the cavalry charge succeeded in driving the Southern defenders from their high ground. He did not attempt to estimate Southern losses, but reported his own total losses in the fight as 13 killed and 15-20 wounded:

USGS Topo Map of Dunigan's Farm Battlefield
...My advance encamped on the battle ground. General Sigel's command is 4 miles back and will reach me this morning. Have sent cavalry forward to annoy and explore. Cross Hollow is their next point, 12 miles ahead. I shall also await the arrive of the First and Second Divisions, as this is their great boasted trap for the Federal Army. - Samuel R. Curtis, February 18, 1862.

The Battle of Dunigan's Farm is also known as the Battle of Battle of Little Sugar Creek. The Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas named it one of its Most Endangered Places for 2011. Please click here to read their comments.

 An important delaying action of the Pea Ridge Campaign, the stand by Hebert at Dunigan's Farm gave Price time to fully extract his Missouri State Guard from danger and reach the reinforcements waiting in Northwest Arkansas under General Ben McCulloch.

I will continue posting on the 150th Anniversary of the Pea Ridge Campaign over coming days, so be sure to check back regularly. You can read more about the Battle of Pea Ridge anytime at

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