Battle of Pea Ridge (March 6th-8th, 1862)

Many people who know a great deal about the Civil War in the East and even the war in Western theatre, know very little about the Trans-Western theatre. The Trans-western is made up of the battles west of the Mississippi. Battles were fought as far west as Arizona, but one of the more important Trans-western battles was fought at Pea Ridge Arkansas. Also known as the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern it is also known as the battle that saved Missouri for the Union.

Keeping Missouri in the Union was a major goal of the Federal government in the first year of the Civil War. It was the reason that the Battle of Wilson's Creek was fought and Pea Ridge as well. The Pea Ridge campaign began on Christmas Day in 1861. Union Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis led 10,500 soldiers with the goal of driving the Confederate forces and pro-slavery loyalists out of Missouri. Major General Sterling Price and pro-Confederate fighters were chased into Arkansas by mid-February. Near Fayettville, Rice joined forces with Brig. General Ben McCulloch create an army of 16,000 men. The combined 16,000 men came under command of General Earl Van Dorn with the plan of returning to Missouri and capture St. Louis. But Curtis' men dug in near Elk Horn Mountain and Elk Horn Tavern to block the movement. Van Dorn swung north and came in behind the Union troops, planning to strike at dawn on the 7th of March, but his troops were hungry, cold and tired and arrived hours behind schedule. Because some of the troops were so far behind, the Confederate army temporarily split in two, then reunited near Elk Horn Tavern but hte delays gave Curtis' Union troops time to change direction and prepare for the Confederate attack.

McCulloch's troops came under heavy fire near Leetown (you can still see the foundations of the town at the park today) with McCulloch and Brig. Gen. George McIntosh both being killed. With the command structure in chaos, the Confederates scattered from the field. Price's Missouri Confederates had better luck and pushed the Federals back and by night they held the ground near Elkhorn Tavern and Telegraph and Huntsville Roads. During that night McCulloch's troops found and joined with Price's men.

On the morning of March 8, Curtis counter-attacked in the Tavern area. A two hour artillery barrage crippled the Confederate line and a focused infrantry attack broke through the Confederate defenses. With ammunition running low Van Dorn ordered his troops to withdraw ending the battle of Pea Ridge. After the battle most of the Union and Confederate troops moved east of the Mississippi to continue the war. If you visit Corinth, Vicksburg, and other battlefields you'll see that many of the troops that fouhgt at Pea Ridge fought there as well. Missouri remained in the Union and stayed politically neutral during the war. There were many bloody fights along the Kansas and Missouri boarder before the War and during as pro-slavery and anti-slavery loyalists fought with the goal of making the territory in the west, free or slave.

At Pea Ridge the Union lost 1,384 men, while the Confederate lost 2,000.