Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pea Ridge #10 - The Action near Bentonville, Arkansas

Gen. Alexander Asboth, USA
Having concentrated his main army behind Sugar Creek and pushed back Hebert's men the previous day (see Pea Ridge #9 -The Battle of Dunagin's Farm), Union General Samuel Curtis ordered Brigadier General Alexander Asboth to push forward to Bentonville on February 18, 1862, 150 years ago today.

A former Hungarian freedom fighter and the Chief of Staff who had helped General John C. Fremont organize the Union army to defend Missouri the previous year, Asboth was at his best when operating with cavalry in advance of an army. He moved quickly and efficiently at 9:30 a.m.:

...Following Sugar Creek 4 1/2 miles, I struck the Cassville and Springfield Road (which leaves the Wire road at a point 6 miles behind Sugar Creek Crossing, where the First and Second Divisions were last encamped), and after surprising a dismounted rebel cavalry picket 4 miles this side of Bentonville and taking some of their horses and all their saddles and bridles, I occupied Bentonville at 20 minutes past 12 o'clock. - Gen. Alexander Asboth, USA, February 19, 1862.

Fremont Hussars (Civil War Drawing)
The Action near Bentonville was a quick skirmish. The Union force consisted of the Benton and Fremont Hussars from the Fourth and Fifth Missouri Cavalry Regiments (US) and two pieces of light artillery under Captain Elbert of the First Missouri Flying Battery. Sweeping aside the cavalry picket outside of town, Asboth rolled into Bentonville on horseback to find the town occupied by part of Colonel Frank Rector's Seventeenth Arkansas Infantry (CS).

General Asboth (foreground) and his dog
The Confederates were removing equipment and supplies from Bentonville. There are two versions of what happened next. Major C. Schaeffer Bornstein, Chief of Staff, reported that there was a brief battle::

...After a short engagement the rebels were driven to flight, leaving behind a large amount of provisions, arms, wagons and horses. Besides that, our forces captured a number of prisoners, and took possession of their regimental flag, which they found hoisted at the courthouse. - Major C. Schaeffer Bornstein, USA, March 4, 1862.

 General Asboth reported, however, that there was no resistance in the town:

Civil War map showing Bentonville, Arkansas
...Bentonville was entirely deserted upon our taking possession of it. In a short time, however, we collected from the bushes in its vicinity about 60 men, 32 of whom, being rebel soldiers or taken with arms, I brought in as prisoners.... To the others, sick and wounded and non-combatant inhabitants of the town, I administered the oath of allegiance. - Gen. Alexander Asboth, USA, February 19, 1864.

Asboth reported that the Confederate troops from Bentonville had evacuated their camp there to reinforce the main Southern position at Cross Hollows. After doing some scouting of the area, he returned to the primary Union camps at 7:30 p.m. and presented the captured flag to General Curtis.

The taking of Bentonville with such relative ease convinced General Curtis that he could move a flanking force around to the west from his position at Sugar Creek to force Confederate General Ben McCulloch's main body from its camps at Cross Hollows. McCulloch realized this as well and immediately prepared to evacuate that position and its comfortable winter quarters.

I will continue to post on the 150th anniversary of the  Pea Ridge Campaign over coming days and weeks, so be sure to check back regularly. You can always read more about the Battle of Pea Ridge at

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