|The ground across which the Union army attacked|
The sun rose over the Pea Ridge battlefield on March 8, 1862, 150 years ago today, to find the Union army completing its 180 degree change of front and the Confederate army hungry, exhausted and low on ammunition:
...The sun rose above the horizon before our troops were all in position and yet the enemy had not renewed the attack. I was hardly ready to open fire on him, as the First and Second Divisions had not yet moved into position. Our troops that rested on their arms in the face of the enemy, seeing him in motion, could not brook delay, and the center, under Colonel Davis, opened fire. The enemy replied with terrible energy from new batteries and lines which had been prepared for us during the night. - Gen. Samuel Curtis, USA, April 1, 1862.
|Col. Jefferson C. Davis, USA|
The Southern batteries simply could not match the intensity of fire of the Federal guns. A portion of Van Dorn's army was positioned in the large rock and ravines of the mountain and the exploding shells shattered rock in all directions, inflicting gruesome injuries on these soldiers.
Curtis ordered forward his infantry in a staggered attack that began with the advance of his left:
|Position from which the Union left wing attacked|
|Telegraph Road, along which part of the Southern army retreated|
Hungry, tired, out of ammunition, the Confederates realized the battle was lost. According to Van Dorn, he ordered a withdrawal from the field that was carried out orderly and with little pursuit. General Albert Pike, however, told a different story. Pike was not even informed that Van Dorn was leaving the field and went forward for orders to find that the Federal troops were 150 yards away and that the Confederate commander was long gone:
|Gen. Albert Pike, CSA|
...I rode again to the front and halted the leading battery at the foot of the next level, ordered it into line, facing the rear, gave the necessary commands myself, and had three guns brought into position. Two regiments of infantry were standing there in lines ranging up and down the valley, the flank of each to the enemy. I directed them to form in the rear of the batteries; but at this moment a shell was sent by the enemy up the road from the point of the hill around which we had just passed. The cry of "The cavalry are coming" was raised and everything became confusion. - Gen. Albert Pike, CSA, March 14, 1862.
|Gen. Samuel Curtis, USA|
Victor of Pea Ridge
Other officers, particularly those of the Missouri State Guard, also fought delaying actions as the army retreated. It is worth noting that the 200 or so mounted men of Colonel Stand Watie's First Cherokee Rifles were among the last Confederate troops to leave the field.
The Battle of Pea Ridge ended in disaster for the Confederacy, 150 years ago today.
I will post more on the aftermath of the battle in 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.