Pea Ridge, Battle of

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Pea Ridge, Battle of (1862).The Battle of Pea Ridge, 6–8 March 1862, resulted from a Union army campaign to clear Missouri of Confederate forces during the Civil War and to begin a major offensive down the Mississippi River valley. Brig. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis's Army of the Southwest drove Maj. Gen. Sterling Price's Missouri State Guardsmen from southwestern Missouri into northwestern Arkansas in February 1862. Reinforced by Brig. Gen. Benjamin McCulloch's division and placed under the command of Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn, the entire Confederate force was designated the Army of the West. With 16,500 men, Van Dorn attacked Curtis's 10,250 men. Limited fighting occurred on 6 March as Confederate units harassed a Union detachment marching from Bentonville to join Curtis at Pea Ridge. On 7 March, Van Dorn completely outflanked Curtis's army and attacked in two columns, cutting the Federal line of communications. Curtis changed the front of his entire army from south to north.

Fierce fighting occurred on two separate battlefields: McCulloch's division was crushed near Leetown village; McCulloch and his immediate subordinate were killed, nearly destroying the chain of command. Near a hostelry called Elkhorn Tavern, Price's division almost crushed Col. Eugene Carr's Federal division in the bloodiest fighting of the battle, but Carr held firm. After concentrating his army that night, Curtis drove off the remainder of Van Dorn's men on 8 March. Curtis's victory was the turning point of Union efforts to dominate the Trans‐Mississippi region. Van Dorn's army was transferred east of the Mississippi River, and Curtis marched across Arkansas, nearly capturing Little Rock. Pea Ridge, which Southerners named the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern, involved the Confederate use of Native American troops, with Cherokee recruits scalping several Federals. The Confederate casualties were 2,000; Union losses, 1,384.
[See also Civil War: Military and Diplomatic Course; Confederate Army; Native Americans, U.S. Military Relations with.]


William L. Shea and and Earl J. Hess , Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West, 1992.

Earl J. Hess

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