Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pea Ridge #11 - The Burning of Camp Benjamin

Gen. Ben McCulloch, CSA
Aware now that his camps at Cross Hollow could not be defended, Confederate General Ben McCulloch ordered them destroyed.

Some of the finest winter quarters of the Civil War went up in smoke and flame as McCulloch's men pulled out to withdraw into the Boston Mountains. General Sterling Price's Missouri State Guard had already pushed into the mountains.

To protect the rear of his withdrawing column and carry out the destruction, McCulloch had cavalry cross the mountains from their winter camps in the Arkansas River Valley. Among the units that came over was the Sixth Texas, which reached Camp Benjamin 150 years ago today. The troopers saw to the destruction of the solid cabins that had once sheltered Colonel Louis Hebert's men:

...I was detailed to destroy the winter quarters in the vicinity of Cross Hollow and to bring up and protect the rear of the army, which was then falling back on Boston Mountains. As the thick, curling volumes of smoke and lurid glare of flame arose from Camp Benjamin my troops doggedly turned to the duty of rear guard for the army, and maintained this position until we were encamped upon the mountain. - Unidentified Member of Sixth Texas Cavalry, 1862.

Dripping Springs, Arkansas
Following the Wire and other roads south through the mountains, the Confederates fell back to the area around Dripping Springs in Crawford County. The cavalry blocked the passes into the mountains.

The movement put the forces under McCulloch and Price into positions they could easily defend. This gave them time to halt, rest, resupply and organize. McCulloch and Price had feuded quite a bit the previous year, but now they were forced to come together for the sake of their common cause. 

The Federals did not try to follow the Confederates into the mountains, but would advance as far south as Fayetteville in coming days. Their long advance, however, was all but over. The initiative would now turn to the Southern army and its new commander, General Earl Van Dorn.

I will continue to post on the 150th anniversary of the Pea Ridge Campaign over the next few weeks, so be sure to check back regularly. You can also learn more about the Battle of Pea Ridge at

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