he Battle of Pea Ridge, March 7-8, 1862, was the decisive battle in the first two years in the trans-Mississippi theatre of the Civil War, denying Missouri to the Confederacy and putting Arkansas in a precarious strategic position. In time the Confederates lost the state capital, Little Rock, and their efforts were hampered to mount a serious challenge to Federal power in the region.
It was also the second largest battle west of the River in the entire war. The battle featured rival Indian tribes, some of whom scalped the casualties during the battle! The fight that swirled around Elkhorn tavern was as ferocious as the more familiar ones in the Eastern theatre of the war, with about three thousand men being struck down in the thickets and fields of northwest Arkansas.
Forty years later, former Union Major General Grenville Dodge declared that the Union army in the Pea Ridge Campaign did “more marching and endured more suffering than the great armies I was connected with east of the Mississippi . . . for hard fighting, long and weary marches, as well as privations and sufferings endured, no army can show a better record nor one deserving greater credit, than the Army of the Southwest.”
In our tour of this great battlefield, military historian Bill Potter will discuss the events in Arkansas and Missouri leading up to the remarkable opportunity presented to the more numerous Confederate army under Earl Van Dorn, to defeat or destroy the Union forces of Samuel Curtis, crossing the southern Missouri border into Arkansas. For two days, more than 26,000 men fought to the death, and it seemed that the South might be able to carry the war back toward St. Louis, or at least to the state outside that bastion of Unionism. We will drive and walk the entire battlefield, so well preserved and marked thanks to the efforts of the Walton family to preserve this rural treasure.
Regiments from Missouri and Arkansas fought on both sides in this battle, reminding us again that it was a brother’s war, one that would be bitterly contested by small forces of warriors on the backroads and farmsteads of the region, to the dismay and suffering of both soldiers and especially the families with no way of escape.
Space Is Limited, Registration Required for Admission
|8:30am||Tour begins at the Visitors Center of the Pea Ridge National Military Park
(15930 E Hwy 62, Garfield, AR 72732)
|1:30pm||Conclusion of tour|
Note: There is no food service at the battlefield, but there are some beautiful picnic sites.
• USA General Samuel Curtis
• USA General Franz Sigel
• USA General Grenville Dodge
• CSA General Earl Van Dorn
• CSA General Ben McCullough
• CSA General Sterling Price
• CSA General Albert Pike and the Indian Regiments
Key Ideas & Questions
• Holding Missouri in the Union
• Vital role of Missouri German regiments
• Significance of the death of leaders in battle
• Why was this region evidence of a real “civil war”?
• Why were Indian tribes involved?
• Did this battle end all fighting in NW Arkansas and Missouri?