1862 April 2: Third Day of the Battle of Pea Ridge
The Hudson North Star of April 2, 1862, prefaces its article on Pea Ridge with the fact that previous accounts of the battle had been too long to publish! Here, then, is their account of the third day—March 8—of the battle.
Battle of Pea Ridge.
Full particulars of this hard fought battle have reached us, but even a synopsis of the three days terrible fighting, would be too long for our columns. Our troops, less than 15,000 strong under the command of Generals CURTIS [Samuel R. Curtis] and SIGEL [Franz Sigel], after having made forced marches for over three hundred miles, were attacked by the rebels, nearly 30,000 strong, under the command of Price [Sterling Price], McCulloch [Ben McCulloch], and Van Dorn [Earl Van Dorn]. The victory won by our brave troops is the most decisive of the war.
We give below, a brief account of the battle on the third day :
“The enemy during the night advanced and took position one mile nearer our camp, occuping [sic] the extensive bluff to the left of Elk Horn Tavern, where they had batteries planted which commanded the corn fields and bottom lands on this side. The open wood this side of town, was also occupied by the enemy in formidable numbers. They had batteries pointed in all available positions commanding the approaches from this side. General Curtis designed to open the ball at daybreak, and give [sic] the necessary orders for a charge of front, the left wing having to be thrown obliquely forward.
The cannonade opened twenty-five minutes past seven, on Colonel Carr’s2 division, and the portion of the latter engaged fell back. General Davis3 advanced on the main road and took position on the right wing, while Colonel Carr moved to the center, and a desultory fire was kept up for a short time. About eight o’clock General Sigel’s division marched into the open field and took position on the left wing. His batteries were planted along the elevations in this position of the field, with alternate regiments of infantry.
The line as now formed was concave, with the wings advanced toward the enemy, while seven batteries were planted along its whole length. No more beautiful spectacle could be conceived than the “magnificently stern array” presented by our line of battle. The utmost confidence was at once restored, and our men felt reassured that victory was in our reach. The bluffs occupied by the enemy on the right were covered with the secesh as thick as they could stand, while the intervening woods in front of our centre were alive with them. Our batteries were soon opened all along the line, and a perfect wall of fire blazed out in rolling volumes. The enemy replied briskly with his batteries, with little effect, except disabling one of Sigel’s guns. The murderous cross-fire of our batteries crushed through the timber with terrific effect. The cannonade was terrible for two hours and a half, during which time the infantry advanced slowly under cover of our fire from the batteries. As soon as the enemy broke the infantry advanced with a yell in double-quick, sending volley upon volley of well aimed musketry. The Twelfth Missouri rushed forward and charged on a battery in the heavy timber, capturing three guns and a flag belonging to the Dallas Artillery. The Twenty-second Indiana also captured a gun and two cassons [sic]. At this time Gen. Sigel pushed the enemy’s right flank, while General Davis and Col. Carr drove forward his left flank. The flight became general, and the ravine near the Elk Horn Tavern was thronged with the dying enemy. The bluffs on the left, forming a natural fortification, where they had several regiments had a battery posted, were stormed by Col. Greusel’s4 brigade. The precipied [sic] here is seventy-five feet high. The Twelfth, Fifteenth and Seventeenth Missouri and Thirty-sixth Illinois scaled the hill and drove the enemy out, the brigade losing only eight men killed and twenty-two wounded. The top of the bluff was completely covered with their dead and wounded from our spherical case shot and shells. The arms and accouterments were scattered in all directions. A prisoner taken here stated that Van Dorn had not been seen for two hours, and they thought it time to leave. The victory was complete. The retreating enemy was pursued for two miles by company D, of Bowman’s battallion [sic], as the pursuit was kept up by the Benton Hussars and General Sigel to Keetsville. Prisoners, including offiers [sic], were taken in large numbers. Our loss in the battle was comparatively small, but the enemy’s was terribly severe. We killed Gen. Slack,5 and young Clark, son of Merriweather [sic] Clark,6 of St. Louis, who had his head taken off by a cannon ball. He commanded a battery gallantly, and had just given him the order to retreat when a ball struck him on his horse. Lieut. Col. McCulloch, son of the General, was also found among the dead, with his commission in his pocket, near Elk Horn Tavern.7
A secesh doctor who came afterward into our camp relates that on the morning of the battle he observed about 300 Indians daubing their faces all over black from the coal of the charred stumps.—The doctor inquired of one of the chiefs the significance of painting thus, when he was answered that “The Indians, when going into a fight, painted their faces red ; but when they are pinched with hunger they color black.” These fellows have had nothing to eat in two days.8
McCulloch was killed in the brush, on a slight elevation on the opposite side of the field, by Peter Pelican, a private in company B, Thirty-sixth Illinois. The attack in which the ubiquitous Ben was taken off was led by Captain Miller.—McCulloch wore a dress of black velvet, patent leather high-top boots, and he had on a light colored broad-brimed [sic] Texan hat. He was on a light-bay horse.—Pelican went up and took a good watch, now in possession of Colonel Greusel.”
1. Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1891-1895 (in the Special Collections of the UWRF University Archives & Area Research Center: E 464 .U6).
2. Eugene Asa Carr (1830-1910) was a graduate of West Point and a career military officer. At the Battle of Pea Ridge, Carr led the 4th Division, Army of the Southwest. He was wounded in the neck, arm, and ankle and was later awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions
3. Jefferson Columbus Davis (1828-1879) had the misfortune of having the same first and last names as the president of the Confederacy. He was a career military officer who had served in the Mexican War, and was serving in the Fort Sumter garrison when it was bombarded at the start of the Civil War. Davis led the 3rd Division, Army of the Southwest.
4. Nicholas Greusel (1817-1896) was a native of Bavaria. He had served as the captain of a Michigan company in the Mexican War, and he raised the 36th Illinois Infantry for the Civil War and became its colonel.
5. William Yarnel Slack (1816-1862) was a Missouri lawyer and politician, and general in the Confederate Missouri State Guard. He was mortally wounded at Pea Ridge.
6. Meriwether Lewis Clark (1809-1881) was the son of William Clark and was name for his father’s friend and companion in the Corps of Discovery, Meriwether Lewis. He graduated from West Point, but resigned from the Army in 1833. He was an architect, civil engineer, and politician before the Civil War. He was strongly pro-secessionist and served briefly in the Missouri State Guard. He then served as a major and colonel of artillery in the Confederate Army. He was not at the Battle of Pea Ridge. Meriwether Lewis had no children.
John Bullock Clark (1831-1903), not related to the Corps of Discovery Clark, was the colonel in charge of the Confederate’s Third Division at the Battle of Pea Ridge. Although he did not die in the battle, he may have been mistaken for the son of “Merriweather Clark.”
7. Another good story. Benjamin McCulloch did not have any children.
8. The 1st and 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles were part of Albert Pike’s Indian Brigade at the Battle of Pea Ridge.