Saturday, March 3, 2012

March 3, 1862 - Van Dorn reaches the Boston Mountains

Confederate Camp in Boston Mountains
On March 3, 1862, 150 years ago today, Confederate General Earl Van Dorn reached the camps of the combined forces of Sterling Price and Ben McCulloch in the Boston Mountains between Fayetteville and the Arkansas River:

...[B]eing satisfied that the enemy, who had halted at Sugar Creek, 55 miles distant, was only waiting large re-enforcements before he would advance, I resolved to attack him at once. Accordingly I sent for General Pike to join me near Elm Springs with the forces under his command. - Gen. Earl Van Dorn, March 27, 1862.

Van Dorn's plan was solid, but he was so determined to attack that he moved before he had a full understanding of the logistics of the situation facing him. As a result he would outrace his supplies, a critical mistake if the coming battle should last for more than one day.

Gen. Albert Pike, CSA
On the same day, even before receiving the commanding general's orders, General Albert Pike had marched from Park Hill in the Cherokee Nation with O.C. Welch's squadron of Texans, the First Choctaw and Chickasaw Regiment and Colonel D.N. McIntosh's Creek Regiment. His immediate objectives were the towns of Evansville and Cincinnati, on the border between Arkansas and the Cherokee Nation. Colonel Stand Watie was waiting in Cincinnati with his Second Mounted Cherokee Rifles and would join Pike's force as he advanced.

Col. Stand Watie, CSA
Van Dorn, meanwhile, would march out from the camps in the Boston Mountains the next morning and engage the Federals at Pea Ridge just three days later on the 7th. 

His strategy was to swing around the right flank of the Union army of General Samuel Curtis, which was then encamped and entrenched on the north side of Sugar Creek in Benton County, Arkansas. If he could carry out this movement quickly and without being detected, Van Dorn believed he could launch simultaneous attacks on Curtis's right flank and rear, destroying the Union army before it knew what had hit it.

I will continue to post on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Pea Ridge tomorrow, so check back then to learn about the Confederate march from the mountains. Until then you can read more about the Battle of Pea Ridge at

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