Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pea Ridge #12 - The Union Army rests at Sugar Creek

Map showing Pea Ridge Battlefield and Sugar Creek (at top)
News reports the front in Northwest Arkansas began to appear in regional newspapers on February 21, 1862, 150 years ago today.

 A special correspondent to the St. Louis Democrat got a message out from Springfield the previous evening. He reported that the main army was continuing to rest at Sugar Creek, near what would soon become the Pea Ridge Battlefield:

A messenger left our army at 10 o'clock A.M. yesterday, and reached here at 4 P.M. to-day. The army retsed at Sugar Creek, eight miles beyond the Arkansas State line.

Since the skirmish on Monday fourteen of the enemy were ascertained to be killed and three wounded. Capt. Switzler received a severe wound int he neck. Adjutant-General McKinney is wounded, though not dangerously. Our troops were bivouacking about eight miles from Cross Hollow, where Price had taken up his quarters. Cross Hollow is a deep ravine, through which runs the Fayetteville road, and is crossed by two other ravines, forming a level area in the valley between the salient point of six promontories. - Report to St. Louis Democrat dated Springfield, Missouri, February 20, 1862.

Topographic Map. Camps were along Creek at bottom.
The reports indicated that a battle was soon expected between General Curtis' Union Army and the Confederate force under Generals Price and McCulloch.

Later in the day a second report came in, describing the Battle of Dunigan's Farm which had taken place four days earlier (see: Pea Ridge #9 - The Battle of Dunigan's Farm).

Second Dispatch - Springfield, Mo., Feb. 20 - From the escort which accompanied the messenger from General Curtis to this place I have gathered some additional particulars of the skirmish at Sugar Creek on Monday. The enemy were concealed in the woods which line both sides of the road. The country is broken, hilly woodland. The First Missouri Cavalry, while charging up the hill, were fired upon by the ambushed foe concealed beyind the trees. After receiving a murderous fire, inw hich thirteen of our men fell and five were wounded, the cavalry fell back and formed in line. Major Brown came up and shelled the woods with his mountain howitzers. The enemy replied with their artillery. The latter ceased firing, and our advance fell back to their camp. Major Brown was wounded in the wrist. Capt. Switzler, of Wright's Battalion, Fourth Cavalry, and Major T.C. McKinney, assistant adjutant-general, are also reported among the wounded. - Report to St. Louis Democrat, dated Springfield, Missouri, February 20, 1862.

The report indicated that a number of Confederates had been captured but otherwise noted that details were meager.

Contrary to the first report, there was no real prospect of an immediate battle. Both armies took advantage of the lull to rest and and reorganize after the first phase of the campaign. Both had been in constant motion for weeks and the rest was needed.

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

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