Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13, 1862 - A Link Between Pea Ridge and Horseshoe Bend

Gen. Ben McCulloch, CSA
Among the remarkable connections that thread their way through Southern history is the story of the son of a soldier of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend who lost his life while commanding a Confederate division that included soldiers from the CherokeeNation.
Brigadier General Ben McCulloch fell on March 7, 1862, at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. The commander of one of the two Confederate divisions engaged in that battle, McCulloch led a force that included Brigadier General Albert Pike's brigade from the Indian Territory. Among the men in Pike's brigade were warriors from the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Creek Nations.

McCulloch, in turn, was the son of Lieutenant Alexander McCulloch, an officer in the army of Major General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Alabama. Horseshoe Bend, many believe, started the Creek Nation on a road that would lead to its forced removal to what is now Oklahoma just three decades later. A large force of Cherokee warriors fought on Jackson's side in that battle and figured prominently in his victory.

Gun Hill at Horseshoe Bend Battlefield
McCulloch's father fought at the Alabama battle.
Fought on March 27, 1814, the Battle of Horseshoe Bend was a bloody defeat for the followers of the Red Stick movement within the Creek Nation. Led by Jackson in person, a U.S. Army stormed Red Stick fortifications at the town of Tohopeka. Most of the warriors fought to the death, prompting one eyewitness to observe that the Tallapoosa River "ran red with blood." More than 800 Creek warriors died, while Jackson's force suffered losses of 49 killed and 154 wounded.

In addition to Alexander McCulloch, noteworthy individuals on the field included Sam Houston, Sequoyah, Menawa, Major Ridge, William McIntosh and others. The famed frontiersman Davy Crockett once claimed to have been there, but was not. (Note: Crockett did fight in other battles of the Creek War).

Leetown Area of Pea Ridge Battlefield
McCulloch fell while leading the Confederate attack at Leetown.
On March 13, 1862, the New Orleans Times-Picayune memorialized General Ben McCulloch in a column that reminded readers of his father as well:

Ben McCulloch, whose loss on the field of battle will be mourned by his countrymen, was the son of Alexander McCulloch, who was a lieutenant and aid to Gen. Coffee, of Tennessee, in the battles of Talladega and Horse Shoe Bend, and who resigned his commission in March, 1814.
Ben was born in Rutherford county, Tenn., in 1814. He was a captain of Texas Rangers in the Mexican war, and was distinguished for courage and conduct in the battle of Monterey. On the 11th of July, 1846, he was appointed quartermaster, with the rank of major. He was also distinguished in the battle of Buena Vista, and as the commander of a spy company, before that battle, for a most daring and successful reconnoisance. He resigned his staff appointment in 1847. At his death he was a brigadier general, commanding a division, and chiefly composed of Arkansas and Texas troops. The 3d Louisiana, Col. Hebert, was attached to this division.

General Ben McCulloch was first buried on the battlefield at Pea Ridge, but his body rests today at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.
To learn more about the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/AlabamaHSB.
To learn more about the Battle of Pea Ridge,  please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/pearidgeindex.

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