|Confederate Position on night of March 7, 1862|
The night of March 7, 1862, brought an end to the bloody first day of the Battle of Pea Ridge. The moans and cries of the wounded echoed off the rocks of the ridge and the bodies of the dead carpeted the ground. On the Federal side of the battlefield, General Curtis positioned his line of battle in the edge of trees, with a wide and open field in front of them and there they slept on their arms for the night:
|Union Military Map of the Pea Ridge Battlefield|
Realizing that the fight would reopen the next morning along what had been his right flank, General Curtis completed the 180 degree pivot of his army by concentrating the entire Federal force along his final line of the day. The plan was for him to be able to resume the battle on the morning of the 8th with his entire army ready to fight on the front opened by the Confederates along the Telegraph road.
Inside Confederate Lines on the night of March 7, 1862
...In the course of the night I ascertained that the ammunition was almost exhausted, and that the officer in charge of the ordnance supplies could not find his wagons, which, with the subsistence train, had been sent to Bentonville. Most of the troops had been without any food since the morning of the 6th and the artillery horses were beaten out. It was therefore with no little anxiety that I awated the dawn of day.- Gen. Earl Van Dorn, CSA, March 27, 1862.
|Gen. William Y. Slack, CSA|
In addition, he had lost a large number of his senior officers in the first day's fighting. In McCulloch's Division, Generals Ben McCulloch and James McIntosh had been killed and Colonel Louis Hebert, who had then assumed command, was missing and feared dead. In Price's Division, General William Y. Slack had been mortally wounded during the early phases of the attack down the Telegraph road. He would die two weeks later.
|Col Stand Watie, CSA|
As Van Dorn and Price tried to prepare for a resumption of the action the next day, their men lay exhausted and hungry on the cold ground. They had not eaten in 36 hours and were dangerousloy low on ammunition. From the Federal side of the field they could hear with their own ears evidence that the enemy was preparing to resume the fight:
|Pea Ridge National Military Park|
View from the Union lines on the night of March 7, 1862
About the only good news received by any of the Confederate troops that night came in the middle of the night when Colonel Henry Little's First Missouri Brigade received an unexpected gift from the Union army:
...About midnight the sound of wheels approached. We opened our lines and admitted a caisson with ammunition, which, through mistake of the driver, came to seek one of the divisions of the Federal army in the ranks of his adversaries. - Col. Henry Little, First Brigade Missouri Volunteers (CSA), March 18, 1862.
So passed the night of March 7, 1862, and predawn hours of March 8, 1862, 150 years ago tonight. I will post on the second day of the battle tomorrow, so be sure to check back! Until then, you can read more at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/pearidgeindex.