Battle of Poplar Grove, 7 March 1900

Battle of Poplar Grove, 7 March 1900

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Battle of Poplar Grove, 7 March 1900

The battle of Poplar Grove (Boer War) saw the failure of both a Boer attempt to defend Bloemfontein and a British attempt to capture the main Boer army in the Orange Free State.

The Boers at Poplar Grove were badly outnumbered. In the aftermath of the surrender at Paardeberg, only around 6,000 men were left to defend the Orange Free State capital. They had a new commander, Christiaan De Wet, who began work on a new defensive line on the hills around Poplar Grove. His main problem was that the morale of the Boer commandoes was at a very low ebb after Cronjé’s surrender.

The British commander, Lord Roberts, decided to send two infantry division straight at the Boer position, while the cavalry made a wide flanking move to the south, coming up behind the Boers to prevent their escape. His main problem was the poor condition of his cavalry horses. Many of them had been lost during the successful relief of Kimberley, while the remaining horses had been on short rations since the loss of the main supply column at the start of the operations in February. Worse, the commander of the cavalry, Sir John French, can best be described as being in a sulk. His mood was not improved by a dressing down he had received after the chief supply officer forgot to include the sick and injured horses in his calculations of required rations and accused the cavalry of taking too much food.

As a result, French moved very slowly on the morning of 7 March. He started late, and stopped twice to take long breaks to rest his horses. As a result the cavalry were nowhere near where they needed to be when the infantry advance began.

That advance never needed to turn into an attack. The British infantry came into view from the Boer camp at about 8 a.m. Demoralised by recent events, the burghers simply turned and fled. De Wet blamed the fiasco on Cronjé’s surrender, only two weeks earlier, although it probably helped save his army. If the Boers had stood and fought at Poplar Grove then French would have been able to get into place to cut off their retreat, and the entire army might have been lost. As it was, three quarters of De Wet’s men abandoned the fight, at least for the moment. When he made his next stand at Driefontein it was with only 1,500 men.

Bartolomeu Dias, a Portuguese navigator, discovered the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 The Dutch settlement in the area began in March 1647 A Dutch expedition of 90 Calvinist settlers, under the command of Jan van Riebeeck, founded the first permanent settlement near the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 Cape Colony established in 1652. 31 December 1687 a community of Huguenots arrived at the Cape from the Netherlands. See also Huguenots in South Africa.

    by the British 14 June 1795 by the British 14–16 June 1795 by the British 1975 relinquished control of the territory in 1803 by the British from 19 January 1806 until incorporated into the independent Union of South Africa in 1910

Historical Events in 1900

    Irish leader John Edward Redmond calls for a revolt against British rule Boers attack at Ladysmith, about 1,000 killed or injured

Event of Interest

Jan 6 Maurice Ravel's "Albaradode Gracioso" premieres in Paris

Event of Interest

Jan 10 Lord Roberts & Lord Kitchener reach Capetown

Music Premiere

    The United States Senate accepts the Anglo-German treaty of 1899 in which the United Kingdom renounces its claims to the Samoan islands The US gains control over Tutuila in Samoa and several smaller Pacific islands Jan Blockx's "Tÿl Uilenspiegel" premieres in Brussels The second contingent of Canadian troops sails from Halifax to fight in South Africa against the Boers

Event of Interest

Jan 26 Henrik Ibsen's "Naar vi Dode Vaaguer" premieres in Stuttgart

    Social Democrat Party of America (Debs' party) holds 1st convention Foreign diplomats in Peking, China, write formal notes of protest demanding that the Chinese Government stop the Boxes and other groups leading attacks on Westerners and Christians. Boers under Joubert beat British at Spionkop Natal, 2,000 killed American League organized in Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Minneapolis The final report of the USA's Philippine Commission is released, favouring territorial government for the islands with home rule in local affairs, but with US assumptions of ultimate responsibility for the government. Gustave Charpentiers opera "Louise" premieres in Paris Rival forces fight for control of the Union Park ball grounds in Baltimore Gubernatorial candidate William Goebel is assassinated in Frankfort, Kentucky British troops under Gen Buller occupy Vaal Krantz, Natal The United States and the United Kingdom sign treaty for Panama Canal The Battle of Vaal Krantz, South Africa (Boers vs British army) British troops vacate Vaal Krantz, Natal Dwight Davis establishes a new tennis trophy, the Davis Cup Peter Ostlund skates world record 500m (45.2 sec) Date of events in Australian movie "Picnic at Hanging Rock" Russia responds to international pressure to free Finland by tightening imperial control over the country

Event of Interest

Feb 15 Boer War: Siege of Kimberley broken by British troops under Lieutenant-General John French after a 124 day siege. Kimberley defense led by Cecil Rhodes.

    1st Chinese daily newspaper in US publishes (Chung Sai Yat Po, San Francisco) Stanley Cup, Montreal Arena, Westmount, Quebec: Montreal Shamrocks beat Winnipeg Victorias, 5-4 to take challenge series, 3-1 Battle at Paardeberg, 1,270 British killed/injured British troops occupy Monte Christo, Natal British troops occupy Hlangwane, Natal Battle at Wynne's Hill, South Africa (Boers vs British army) Battle at Hart's Hill, South Africa (Boers vs British army) Steamer "Rio de Janeiro" sinks in San Francisco Bay Battle at Pietershoogte during the Boer War Boer General Cronjé surrenders to British in Pardenberg, South Africa In London, the Trades Union Congress and the Independent Labour Party (formed in 1893) meet, results in a Labour Representative Committee and eventually the modern Labour Party in 1906 General Buller's troops relieve Ladysmith in Natal US Steel Corporation organizes American Hall of Fame founded After a meeting in Indianapolis, USA, a group forms the Social Democratic Party and nominates Eugene Debs as its candidate for President in the forthcoming election (becomes the Socialist Party in 1901) Battle at Poplar Grove South Africa, President Kruger flees NL decides to go with 8 teams They exclude Baltimore, Cleveland, Louisville & Washington (in 1953 Boston Braves move to Milwaukee) Stanley Cup, Montreal Arena, Westmount, Quebec: Montreal Shamrocks outclass Halifax Crescents, 11-0 to sweep challenge series, 2-0 Battle at Driefontein, South Africa (Boers vs British army) Regents for the King of Uganda and leading chiefs sign a treaty with Great Britain agreeing to the organization of the government, taxation, courts, military, and other functions of their country, which is under British protection.

Event of Interest

Mar 11 British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury rejects peace overtures from the Boer leader Paul Kruger (on 5 March) as demanding too-favourable terms

    President Steyn of Orange Free state flees from Bloemfontein British troops occupy Bloemfontein, capital of the Orange Free State (Boer War) In France the length of the working day for women and children is limited by law to 11 hours. Dutch botanist Hugo de Vries rediscovers Mendel's laws of genetics US currency goes on gold standard after Congress passes the Currency Act AL meets in Chicago, Ban Johnson announces AL league will be Chicago White Stockings, Washington Senators, Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Blues, Boston Americans, Philadelphia Athletics and Baltimore Orioles Sir Arthur Evans rediscovers the bronze age city of Knossos in Crete, home of the legendary Minotaur

Event of Interest

Mar 16 Isadora Duncan giver her first dance performance in Europe, in London

    In South Africa, British troops relieve Mafeking, besieged by the Boers since 13 October, 1899. Ajax soccer club forms in Amsterdam, The Netherlands (33 Eredivisie titles, 18 KNVB Cups, 4 Champions League) named after legendary Greek hero Japan uses its influence over Korea to deny Russia's efforts to obtain a naval station at Korean Port of Masampo, the lead up to the Russo-Japanese war US Secretary of State John Hay announces that all nations to whom he sent notes calling for an 'open door' policy in China have essentially accepted his stand New York City Mayor Robert Anderson Van Wyck breaks ground for a new underground "Rapid Transit Railroad" that would link Manhattan and Brooklyn. US Socialist Party forms in Indianapolis 1st edition The (Free) People (Netherlands, probably Amsterdam) Recognising that the war in South Africa is going to take a major commitment, Parliament passes the War Loan Act, calling for £35 million to support the fight against the Boers. Dutch 2nd Chamber accepts Compulsory education law

Event of Interest

Mar 30 62nd Grand National: Algy Anthony wins aboard Ambush II owner is Prince Of Wales (King Edward VII)

Battle of Poplar Grove, 7 March 1900 - History

Poplar Grove National Cemetery

The eight-acre Poplar Grove National Cemetery is the final resting place for 6,181 Union soldiers, Native American Civil War soldiers, and one British soldier from WWI. The majority of the soldiers buried in the cemetery died in one of the last engagements of the Civil War, when Union troops moved to isolate the Virginia town of Petersburg from the Confederate capital of Richmond. The federal government established the national cemetery in 1866. The last burials were of three unknown Union soldiers on Memorial Day in 2003. Today, the cemetery is one of four components of the Petersburg National Battlefield, a National Park Service unit preserving the battlefield and its landmarks. The battlefield&rsquos visitor centers feature exhibits, films, and tours to illustrate how the Union actions against Petersburg led to the surrender of General Robert E. Lee and the end of the Civil War. Poplar Grove National Cemetery is one of 14 national cemeteries managed by the National Park Service.

After unsuccessful attempts to directly assault and capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Union General Ulysses S. Grant devised a new strategy to slowly choke the city. The new target became the town of Petersburg, 25 miles south of Richmond and an important supply center for the capital. After a series of fruitless attacks on Petersburg in mid-June of 1864, Grant adopted a strategy to surround Petersburg and methodically cut the rail and road supply lines feeding Richmond. For ten months, Union soldiers set in trenches around the town and fought the Confederate forces holding Petersburg. Sniper fire, light artillery engagements, and mortar shelling filled the days as Grant&rsquos men gradually wore down the thinly stretched Confederate defense.

In mid-March 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered a surprise attack against the Union at Fort Stedman at the western side of Petersburg. Considered Lee&rsquos last grand offensive move of the war, the attack failed. On April 1, 1865, Union forces routed a Confederate defense at Five Forks and gained control of the last rail line from Petersburg to Richmond. This final blow forced Lee to retreat, abandoning both Petersburg and Richmond. A week later Lee surrendered in Appomattox, Virginia.

In the wake of the Civil War, the U.S. government established numerous national cemeteries in Virginia at the site of intensive battles and other engagements. In 1866, the Army&rsquos Office of the Quartermaster General selected a site for a cemetery to hold the remains of Union soldiers who died during the siege of Petersburg. The site selected was a former Union camp south of Petersburg. The 50th New York Engineers built the camp in October 1864, which consisted of a central parade ground surrounded by barracks, officers&rsquo quarters, and the Poplar Grove Church.

After the war, most of the old camp buildings were removed and remains were brought from sites around the Petersburg area. By 1867, nearly 5,200 burials lie in the Poplar Grove National Cemetery.

1893 Site Plan of Poplar Grove National Cemetery
Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
(click on image to enlarge)

Beginning in 1871, the federal government implemented a series of improvements for the cemetery, including the cemetery&rsquos brick enclosure wall and iron gates, marble headstones for the graves, and the erection of a superintendent&rsquos lodge near the cemetery&rsquos entrance. The lodge is a one-and-one-half story brick building in the Second Empire style, notable for its mansard roof and dormer windows. The lodge&rsquos design is of a standard plan created by Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs, and is one of the 17 remaining Second Empire-style Meigs lodges found at the Civil War era national cemeteries.

Additional improvements at Poplar Grove National Cemetery included the construction of an iron rostrum (1897) and restrooms and maintenance facilities (1929). In 1915, a tornado swept through the cemetery, destroying 139 trees. Many of these trees were replaced during the 1930s. In 1933, the appearance of the cemetery was radically altered when the upright headstones were laid flat into the ground in order to facilitate landscape maintenance.

In 1957 the government officially closed Poplar Grove National Cemetery to interments. Since that time, little has changed to the physical landscape within the cemetery. In 1991, the National Park Foundation purchased roughly four acres west of the cemetery in order to provide a small space for parking and to serve as a wooded barrier as residential growth encroaches upon the cemetery property.

Poplar Grove National Cemetery, a part of Petersburg National Battlefield, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 8005 Vaughan Road in Petersburg, VA. For information on visiting the cemetery please see the National Park Service Petersburg National Battlefield website or call the park&rsquos visitor center at 804-732-3531. While visiting, be mindful that our national cemeteries are hallowed ground and be respectful to all of our nation&rsquos fallen soldiers and their families. Additional cemetery policies may be posted on site.

The cemetery is one of four components of the national battlefield, a unit of the National Park Service. The Eastern Front Visitor Center in Petersburg introduces the siege of Petersburg and its impact of the war. Other components of the park include General Grant&rsquos Headquarters at City Point in Hopewell, and the Five Forks Battlefield in Dinwiddie.

The National Park Service&rsquos American Battlefield Protection Program provides a brief summary of the Siege of Petersburg. Additional information on the battle is available from the Civil War Preservation Trust.

Poplar Grove National Cemetery is one of seven national cemeteries in the Richmond area. The others include: Fort Harrison and Richmond National Cemeteries in Richmond Seven Pines National Cemetery in Sandston Cold Harbor National Cemetery in Mechanicsville City Point National Cemetery in Hopewell, and Glendale National Cemetery in Richmond.

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Spanish settlers built the Mission San Antonio de Valero, named for St. Anthony of Padua, on the banks of the San Antonio River around 1718. They also established the nearby military garrison of San Antonio de Béxar, which soon became the center of a settlement known as San Fernando de Béxar (later renamed San Antonio). The Mission San Antonio de Valero housed missionaries and their Native American converts for some 70 years until 1793, when Spanish authorities secularized the five missions located in San Antonio and distributed their lands among local residents.

Did you know? Ten years after Texas won its independence and shortly after it was annexed by the United States, U.S. soldiers revived the "Remember the Alamo!" battle cry while fighting against Mexican forces in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.

Beginning in the early 1800s, Spanish military troops were stationed in the abandoned chapel of the former mission. Because it stood in a grove of cottonwood trees, the soldiers called their new fort 𠇎l Alamo” after the Spanish word for cottonwood and in honor of Alamo de Parras, their hometown in Mexico. Military troops𠄿irst Spanish, then rebel and later Mexican–occupied the Alamo during and after Mexico’s war for independence from Spain in the early 1820s. In the summer of 1821, Stephen Austin arrived in San Antonio along with some 300 U.S. families that the Spanish government had allowed to settle in Texas. The migration of U.S. citizens to Texas increased over the next decades, sparking a revolutionary movement that would erupt into armed conflict by the mid-1830s.

Gandhi’s first act of civil disobedience

In an event that would have dramatic repercussions for the people of India, Mohandas K. Gandhi, a young Indian lawyer working in South Africa, refuses to comply with racial segregation rules on a South African train and is forcibly ejected at Pietermaritzburg.

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When his contract expired, he spontaneously decided to remain in South Africa and launch a campaign against legislation that would deprive Indians of the right to vote. He formed the Natal Indian Congress and drew international attention to the plight of Indians in South Africa. In 1906, the Transvaal government sought to further restrict the rights of Indians, and Gandhi organized his first campaign of satyagraha, or mass civil disobedience. After seven years of protest, he negotiated a compromise agreement with the South African government.

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North Carolina Historic Sites and Museums Highlighting the Civil War

Historic markers and a museum tell the story of the March 1865 battle. Highlights include Chicora Cemetery and Lebanon, the 1825 plantation home used as a Confederate hospital.

Battle of Chicamacomico Races
Civic Center-Route 12, Rodanthe

Outdoor monument commemorating the October 1861 battle.

Bellamy Mansion Museum
503 Market Street, Wilmington

The Union used this spectacular plantation home as its military headquarters following the fall of Wilmington in 1865.

Bentonville Battleground State Historic Site
5466 Harper House Road, Four Oaks

The largest battle fought in North Carolina and the last major Confederate offensive of the war took place here. Harper House (on the site) served as a Union field hospital during the battle.

Cape Fear Museum
814 Market Street, Wilmington

Established in 1898 as a repository for Confederate relics, the museum presents exhibits that explore the history of Wilmington, blockade running, and the Battle of Fort Fisher.

Fort Anderson State Historic Site
8884 St. Philip’s Road Southeast, Winnabow

The fall of Fort Anderson in February 1865 allowed the Union to take Wilmington and cut supply lines to the Confederate army. Visitors can see the nearly 90 percent of the earthen fort that remain today.

Fort Branch
N.C. 1416, Fort Branch Road, Hamilton

On the banks of the Roanoke River, this earthen fort protected the CSS Albemarle construction site and a railroad bridge. Seven original cannons are on exhibit.

Fort Fisher State Historic Site
1610 Fort Fisher Boulevard, Kure Beach

Fort Fisher, the largest Confederate earthen fort, protected blockade runners bound for Wilmington loaded with goods critical to the South.

Fort Macon State Park
East Fort Macon Road, Atlantic Beach

Union troops captured this casemated fort in April 1862 after a land and sea bombardment. Visitors can view restored rooms and explore a museum.

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
1401 National Park Drive, Manteo

This pre-Colonial site contains exhibits on the Civil War and the Freedmen’s Colony.

Liberty Hall Plantation
409 South Main Street, Kenansville

Tour the nineteenth-century home of the Kenan family and view exhibits and a video presentation highlighting plantation life during the Civil War. The nearby Cowan Museum (free admission) has an extensive collection of rural artifacts.

Museum of the Albemarle
1116 U.S. 17 South, Elizabeth City

Part of the North Carolina Museum of History Division, this museum features an overview of the Civil War in the Albemarle region and offers exhibits on slavery and antebellum plantation life.

Museum of the Cape Fear
801 Arsenal Avenue, Fayetteville

This museum, part of the North Carolina Museum of History Division, features Civil War exhibits and the remains of an arsenal used to supply weapons and ammunition to the South.

Poplar Grove Plantation
10200 U.S. 17 North, Wilmington

Costumed interpreters lead visitors through this antebellum plantation and demonstrate nineteenth-century crafts.

This museum interprets the Battle of Plymouth, the CSS Albemarle, and Union occupation of the town.

Somerset Place State Historic Site
2572 Lake Shore Road, Creswell

This historic site examines the people who lived and worked at one of North Carolina’s largest plantations and the Civil War’s impact on plantation life.

Wayne County Museum
116 North William Street, Goldsboro

This museum presents an exhibit about Union general William T. Sherman’s march through Wayne County on his way to Raleigh.

Explore the battlefield where Confederate troops tried to halt Major General John Schofield’s march on Goldsboro.


Confederate general Wade Hampton used this historic house, built in 1790, as his headquarters. Also at this site, General Joseph E. Johnston prepared documents used to surrender to General William T. Sherman in 1865.

Bennett Place State Historic Site
4409 Bennett Memorial Road, Durham

Walk the grounds where the largest Confederate troop surrender occurred.

Burwell School Historic Site
319 North Churton Street, Hillsborough

This site examines antebellum Hillsborough and the impact of the Civil War on the Burwell family, the slaves who lived and worked there, and the students who attended Burwell’s School for Young Ladies.

Greensboro Historical Museum
130 Summit Avenue, Greensboro

The site of a Confederate hospital, this museum exhibits rare Civil War weapons, historical prints, paintings, and other artifacts. A cemetery containing the graves of Civil War veterans lies on the museum grounds.

Historic Stagville
5825 Old Oxford Highway, Durham

Dedicated to historic structure preservation and African American cultural history, this site offers tours of Civil War–era slave quarters, a house, and a barn.

Malcolm Blue Farm
N.C. 5 South (Bethesda Road) and Ives Drive, Aberdeen

Union troops commandeered this farm and nearby Bethesda Church in March 1865. Today an exhibit details the Battle of Monroe’s Cross Roads.

Mendenhall Plantation
603 West Main Street, Jamestown

Home of Quaker abolitionist Richard Mendenhall, the plantation houses such artifacts as a false-bottomed wagon used in transporting slaves to freedom.

North Carolina Museum of History
5 East Edenton Street, Raleigh
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Sunday, noon to 5:00 P.M.
(919) 807-7900

The museum has a large collection of Civil War artifacts, some of which can be seen throughout its exhibitions.

North Carolina State Capitol
1 East Edenton Street, Raleigh

The Capitol was the official site of the beginning and end of the Civil War in North Carolina. In the House chamber, representatives cast their votes to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. After Union troops occupied the Capitol grounds in the spring of 1865, a signal message proclaiming the war’s end was dispatched from the Capitol roof.

Orange County Historical Museum
201 North Churton Street, Hillsborough

This county museum presents the area’s Civil War history, including information about the Orange Guard Company.

The cemetery, adjacent to the site of Salisbury Confederate Prison, contains the graves of 11,700 unknown Union soldiers buried in eighteen trenches marked by head- and footstones.


Catawba County Museum of History
30 North College Avenue, Newton

This county museum features a permanent Civil War exhibit that includes the Colonel Clinton Cilley collection of Confederate and Union artifacts.

Museum of the Cherokee Indian
U.S. 441 and Drama Road, Cherokee

One gallery in this recently renovated museum chronicles Thomas’s Legion, a Confederate regiment composed partly of Cherokee troops.

Zebulon Vance Birthplace State Historic Site
911 Reems Creek Road, Weaverville

This historic site features the reconstructed 1830s birthplace of North Carolina Civil War governor Zebulon B. Vance.

Check out this website that provides multiple ways to explore the Civil War history of North Carolina, including Civil War Trails.

A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn—the Last Great Battle of the American West

Speaking of standards, James Donovan’s 2008 effort on the most famous Indian fight in U.S. history is one. If you missed his A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn—the Last Great Battle of the American West, you’ve got another chance. The paperback edition is out, and it is a must read. Donovan takes an evenhanded approach to telling the tale, from the lead-up to the battle itself and then the aftermath. A Terrible Glory is comprehensive, eye opening and an absorbing read. There’s a reason Donovan was named True West’s Best Western Nonfiction Writer of 2009—and this is it.

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Battle of Pea Ridge

The Battle of Pea Ridge played a pivotal role in securing Missouri for the Union and opened Arkansas to Union occupation. It played a large role in preserving Missouri’s tenuous loyal-state status.

After the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in Missouri, August 10, 1861, the command structure on both sides in Missouri underwent major overhauls. Union Major General Henry W. Halleck chose Brigadier General Samuel Ryan Curtis to command the force that fought at Wilson’s Creek, the newly christened Army of the Southwest. The Confederates also had command issues. Major General Sterling Price and Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch feuded bitterly, and President Jefferson Davis chose Major General Earl Van Dorn to revive the Confederacy’s fortunes in the new Military District of the Trans-Mississippi.

Van Dorn’s plan to reinvigorate the Rebel cause west of the Mississippi River exhibited his reputation as an aggressive fighter. He planned to attack Curtis’s troops in northwest Arkansas and to capture St. Louis, Missouri. The Rebel Army of the West had about 16,000 men available for the upcoming struggle, while the Federal Army of the Southwest had about 10,250. The Confederates had advantages in men and artillery relative to their opponents, greater than any other Confederate force in a single campaign during the entire Civil War.

Van Dorn ordered the Army of the West north toward Fayetteville (Washington County), hoping to destroy the scattered Union detachments that Curtis dispersed around his central position near Little Sugar Creek. The plan failed as Union Brigadier General Franz Sigel’s forces in Bentonville (Benton County) escaped to Union lines around Little Sugar Creek. The Confederate men and animals were worn out from the march over the Boston Mountains, had had little sleep, and brought few supplies. Despite this, Van Dorn formed an even more ambitious plan. He decided to attack from the rear. He split the Army of the West into two forces, separated by Pea Ridge, one under McCulloch to skirt the western edge of the ridge and come in behind the Federal troops, while the other wing under Price would take the Bentonville Detour around the ridge, then take Telegraph Road south and link with McCulloch at Elkhorn Tavern to attack in the rear. While Curtis did not anticipate such a wide-ranging envelopment, he took precautions by felling trees and making obstructions to delay any Rebel moves around Pea Ridge via the Bentonville Detour.

The Confederate attack began the morning of March 7. Curtis initially believed that the Rebels were trying to slip part of their force around his right flank but that most of the force was in front of him. He dispatched troops under Colonel Peter J. Osterhaus from the Second Division to determine the strength of the Confederates to the west of his army. This sparked the first shots of the battle. After initial success, the Rebel attack at Leetown (Benton County) met disaster as McCulloch decided to reconnoiter the Federal position and was killed by Union troops. Yankee soldiers also gunned down the second-in-command, Brigadier General James McIntosh. The Confederates had huge advantages in numbers and men, but no leaders.

All was not lost for the Rebels. Colonel Louis Hébert led a large force east of Leetown in an attack on still-outnumbered forces. Hebert did not know about McCulloch and McIntosh’s deaths and that he was the highest-ranking Confederate officer on this part of the field. He led his force of about 2,000 in an uncoordinated and unsupported attack. His attack ran into dense woods and seemed to make progress. Yankee reinforcements led by Colonel Jefferson Columbus Davis of the Third Division blunted the assault Hebert got lost in the woods and was captured. Thus the Confederates were down to the fourth-ranking officer on the battlefield, Brigadier General Albert Pike. Pike did nothing to keep the Rebel effort going.

Price’s force was late in starting its attack, but once in action the Confederates made great progress. About 10:30 a.m., Curtis became aware of large numbers of Rebels on Telegraph Road, behind him. Colonel Eugene Carr’s Fourth Division gave ground grudgingly before Price’s superior numbers. In the late afternoon, the Confederates pushed Carr’s battered Fourth Division back from the area around Elkhorn Tavern. Missouri rebels led by Colonel Henry Little forced the Federal troops around Elkhorn Tavern south to Ruddick’s cornfield. A flank movement by Price’s forces against the Fourth Iowa under Colonel Grenville Dodge failed, but Little’s men moving east on Huntsville Road dislodged the Iowans as nightfall ended the fighting.

The Battle of Pea Ridge would be decided the next day. Curtis spent most of the night of March 7 preparing. He rearranged the Army of the Southwest and made sure the men were fed, rested, and supplied with ammunition. The next morning, Union troops were ready to resume combat, but the Confederates were not. Van Dorn needed to reconcentrate the army. In the process, he forgot to bring up the supply trains. Most of the Rebels did not get food or new ammunition. The mistake proved fatal.

The fighting on March 8 was decisive. Federal cannoneers quickly silenced, destroyed, or forced their Rebel counterparts to retreat. As Curtis prepared to attack with the entire Army of the Southwest, Van Dorn realized his supply trains were still in Bentonville. Comprehending he had lost and was in danger of being trapped and destroyed, Van Dorn sent the exhausted army east toward Huntsville (Madison County). The Battle of Pea Ridge was over, and it was a resounding Union victory.

The battle was one of the bloodiest west of the Mississippi. The Confederates suffered about 2,000 casualties. The Union had 1,384 casualties.

Pea Ridge changed the strategic outlook of the Civil War in the trans-Mississippi west. Van Dorn was so demoralized that he took the Army of the West to the east bank of the Mississippi, leaving Arkansas defenseless. This, combined with the Union victory at Pea Ridge, secured Missouri for the Union. Although Confederates made other attempts to take Missouri, the Pea Ridge Campaign proved to be the best opportunity for the Rebels. With Missouri and St. Louis secure, the Union emphasis switched to capturing the rest of the Mississippi River Valley.

For additional information:
Akridge, Scott A. and Emmett E. Powers. A Severe and Bloody Fight: The Battle of Whitney’s Lane & Military Occupation of White County, Arkansas, May & June 1862. Searcy, AR: White County Historical Museum, 1996.

Baxter, William. Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove: Scenes and Incidents of the War in Arkansas. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000.

Christ, Mark K., ed. Rugged and Sublime: The Civil War in Arkansas. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994.

DeBlack, Thomas. With Fire and Sword: Arkansas, 1861–1874. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2003.

Hess, Earl, William Shea, William Piston, and Richard Hatcher. Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide, with a Section on Wire Road. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006.

Josephy Jr., Alvin M. The Civil War in the American West. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1991.

Knight, James R. The Battle of Pea Ridge: The Civil War Fight for the Ozarks. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012.

Shea, William, and Earl Hess. Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

Terry Beckenbaugh
Contemporary Operations Studies Team, Combat Studies Institute
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

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