Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas - Day One, Part Two

Elkhorn Tavern
This is part two of a post on the 150th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. To read the first part, please click here: The Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas - Day One, Part One.

The loss of three division commanders in such a short time on the Leetown sector of the battlefield completely disrupted the Confederate attack there. General Albert Pike did what he could to reorganize the shattered force, but there were no further Southern attacks that day on the Leetown front.

As the battle diminished at Leetown, however, it increased in severity along the Telegraph road. Van Dorn and Price drove forward against Carr's forces and heavy fighting erupted. Curtis ordered Generals Asboth and Sigel to change front from the Sugar Creek lines they had been holding and push to the relief of Colonel Carr.

Gen. Alexander Asboth, USA
Curtis himself accompanied Asboth, who boldly pushed forward ahead of his main body and rushed to Carr's assistance, arriving just in time:

...General Asboth had planted his artillery in the road and opened a tremendous fire on the enemy at short range. The Second Missouri Infantry also deployed and earnestly engaged the enemy. About this time the shades of night began to gather around us, but the fire on both sides seemed to grow fierce and more deadly. One of my bodyguard fell dead, my orderly received a shot, and General Asboth was severely wounded in the arm. - Gen. Samuel Curtis, USA, April 1, 1862.

At Pea Ridge, Asboth proved the estimation of him later written by General William Tecumseh Sherman that he was personally brave. Despite his severe wound, Asboth did not quit the field and continued to direct the fire of his cannon until they had completely used up their ammunition and had no choice but to fall back.
Telegraph Road, where Asboth stood with his artillery
...This caused another battery that I had located on the right of the road to follow, this latter fearing a want of support. The infantry, however, stood firm or fell back in good order, and the batteries were soon restored, but the caissons got quite out of reach. The artillery firing was renewed, however, and kept up till dark, the enemy firing the last shot, for I could not find another cartridge to give them a final round; even the little howitzers responded, "No cartridges." - Gen. Samuel Curtis, USA, April 1, 1862.

On the Confederate side, General Van Dorn reported that he learned at 3 p.m. that Generals McCulloch and McIntosh had been killed. Despite the failure of the attack on the Federal right flank, he decided to push forward the attack down the Telegraph road:
Confederate cannon at Pea Ridge
...I nevertheless pressed forward with the attack, and at sunset the enemy was fleeing before our victorious troops at every point in our front, and when night fell we had driven him entirely from the field of battle.
   Our troops slept upon their arms nearly a mile beyond the point at which he made his last stand, and my headquarters for the night were at the Elkhorn Tavern. We had taken during the day seven cannon and about 200 prisoners. - Gen. Earl Van Dorn, CSA, March 27, 1862.

While the Federal troops would prove the next day that they had not fled from the field, Van Dorn's report indicated that he had largely lost communication with McCulloch's Division and had no knowledge of what was happening on that part of the battlefield.
Gen. Sterling Price, CSA
General Price described the Confederate attack down Telegraph road in much greater detail:

...I now advanced my whole line, which gradually closed upon the enemy and drove them from one position to another, until we found them towards evening in great force on the south and west of an open field, supported by masked batteries.
   The artillery and infantry of my left wing were brought up to attack them, and they did so with a spirit and determination worthy of all praise. The fiercest struggle of the day now ensued; but the enemy was driven back and completely routed. My right had engaged the enemy's center at the same time with equal daring and equal success, and had already driven them from their position at Elkhorn Tavern. Night alone prevented us from achieving a complete victory, of which we had already gathered some of the fruits, having taken two pieces of artillery and quantity of stores. - Gen. Sterling Price, CSA, March 22, 1862.

Nightfall brought the bloody fighting to an end and then men of both sides slept on their arms I will post later tonight about what happened during the night and what went through the minds of the commanders of both sides as they prepared to fight again the next day.

Please click here to continue to The Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas - A Lull in the Battle.
You can read more about the Battle of Pea Ridge anytime at

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