Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pea Ridge #7 - Exchanging Valentines of lead at Crane Creek, Missouri

Valentine's Day of 1862 (150 years ago today) found the Union army pushing closer and closer to Northwest Arkansas.

General Curtis and General Franz Sigel were advancing south along roughly parallel routes, hoping to trap Price before he could escape across the Ozark Plateau and into the Boston Mountains of Arkansas. As was often the case in such movements, howevever, Curtis and Sigel had difficulty communicating.
Map showing Crane Creek, McDowell's and Cassville
Notice the route of the Wire Road connecting all three.

At 7 p.m. on February 14, 1862, Curtis dispatched a message to Sigel from McCullah's Store that his cavalry had engaged Confederate troops at Crane Creek:

...Whether he will stand there or not is very uncertain, but I think it will be hard for his train and heavy artillery. He will probably move on through. I will try to attack him in rear to-morrow, but will delay if he stops until you can reach him. I regret that I can get no report from you, but hope you got my reply to yours this morning. I find one or two companies of Benton Hussars here, and will take them with me, as the nearest and best way for them to rejoin you. I hope you are able to reach the enemy or strike his flank at McDowell's since he is now probably passing Crane Creek. - Gen. Samuel Curtis, USA, February 14, 1862.

Gen. Franz Sigel, USA
Crane Creek is located in Southwest Missouri about half-way between Springfield and the Arkansas line. The modern town of Crane sits on the creek, which is a trout-fishing draw for anglers from throughout the region.

The Union cavalry by February 14th had penetrated the country 30 miles below Springfield and the Missouri State Guard was on the verge of being forced entirely from its home state. By road Curtis and the advance elements of his army were now 49 miles from Arkansas.

McDowell's, where Curtis hoped that Sigel would be able to strike Price from the flank, was about 20 miles southwest of Crane Creek between the modern cities of Cassville and Aurora.

General Sterling Price, meanwhile, was moving rapidly hoping to escape the attempt by Curtis and Sigel to trap him with their pincer movement. His main body spent the day pushing south on the old Wire Road, aiming for the Arkansas border and the support of General Ben McCulloch's forces in Washington and Benton Counties.

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

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