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of the Ninth Iowa Volunteers under Lieutenant-Colonel
Frank J. Herron, Colonel John S. Phelps' regiment of
Missouri volunteers, one battalion Third Illinois Cavalry,
and Captain M. M. Hayden's Dubuque battery, Iowa light
artillery. Colonel Vandever marched his brigade from
near Sugar Creek to Elkhorn Tavern, a distance of about
one and a half miles, as quickly as practicable, and formed
in line in advance of the tavern on the left of Colonel
Dodge. The Dubuque battery at once opened a brisk
fire on the enemy, from its position in the telegraph
road, east of Elkhorn Tavern, and soon after Colonel
Vandever's whole line of infantry became hotly engaged
with the rebel infantry. The roar of artillery and the
heavy volleys of small-arms told of the earnestness with
which the opposing forces had joined in the struggle
which was to decide whether the Union or Confederacy
should control Missouri and the country south and south-
west of her, and in a wider sense the destinies of the peo-
ples of North America. Colonel Carr's left and centre
under Colonel Vandever were now opposed on the Con-
federate side by the brigades of General Slack and Colonel
Little with four batteries.

After consuming upwards of an hour in throwing shot
and shell into the woods west of the telegraph road, occu-
pied by the Federal left, and in playing upon the Du-
buque battery in the telegraph road, and compelling it to
retire, General Price ordered General Slack and Colonel
Little, aided by Colonel Gates' cavalry, to charge the
Federal position. Encouraged by the success of their
batteries, the rebel line moved forward gallantly over the
rough ground, until they approached within easy range of
the Federal line, when Colonel Vandever's brigade poured
a terribly destructive fire into their ranks, causing them to
recoil and fall back precipitately without returning an
effective fire. Colonel Vandever immediately advanced



232 THE CIVIL WAR ON THE BORDER.

his brigade, driving the enemy before him until they had
fallen back on their reserves. He then retired to his
former position near the telegraph road, a few hundred
yards in advance of Elkhorn Tavern, at the same time
keeping his skirmish line well to the front.

In this conflict General Slack, commanding the brigade
on the extreme right of Price's army, was mortally wounded
and Lieutenant-Colonel Cearnall severely wounded. For
an hour or so after this an incessant firing was kept up by
the skirmish lines on both sides along the entire front, ex-
tending from near the summit of Pea Ridge to Colonel
Dodge's right, resting near Clemens' house.

About two o'clock there was a lull in the battle and the
firing had almost ceased. Colonel Carr rode over to the
right of his line under Colonel Dodge, east of Clemens'
house and north of the road running east from Elkhorn
Tavern, to see how well his troops in that quarter were
maintaining their position. In his absence General Van
Dorn ordered an advance of the brigades of Slack and
Little and Burbridge against the Federal left wing under
Colonel Vandever. The Confederates advanced up a
hollow just west of the telegraph road and through the
bushes on both sides of the road, followed closely with
their batteries. Colonel Vandever ordered forward his in-
fantry to meet the enemy, when a desperate conflict with
small-arms ensued along the crest of the hill just west of
the telegraph road and about three hundred yards north
of Elkhorn Tavern. Upwards of one hundred men and
officers of the Ninth Iowa Infantry, and some seventy-five
men and officers of Colonel Phelps' Missouri regiment,
were killed and wounded in this action. Major William
H. Coyle, Ninth Iowa, was wounded in the shoulder;
Colonel Phelps had three horses shot under him and re-
ceived a contusion from a shell ; and Major W. F. Geiger,
of Colonel Phelps' regiment, also had a horse shot under
him. The Confederates were finally driven back to the



BATTLE OF PEA RIDGE. 233

foot of the hill north of Elkhorn Tavern, when their bat-
teries opened fire on the Federal line. Colonel Vandever
again retired and formed his line just in advance of Elk-
horn Tavern, leaving the enemy in possession of the
ground which the Federal line had occupied early in
the day.

Seeing that he was pressed by greatly superior numbers
of the enemy on his right, left, and centre, Colonel Carr
sent to General Curtis requesting reinforcements. The
General sent him Major Wm. D. Bowen, with a company
of Missouri cavalry under Captain F. W. Benteen, and
two pieces of artillery under Lieutenant Madison. On
his arrival, Major Bowen was directed to take position on
the road between the Ninth Iowa and Twenty-fourth
Missouri, well towards Colonel Carr's extreme left, on
the eastern slope of Pea Ridge or Sugar Mountain.
Colonel Vandever's line had just retired from the range
of the rebel artillery, and the firing had almost died away
along the front.

The ominous stillness of the field was soon broken,
however, for the Confederate forces advanced again and
renewed the assault along the entire Federal line with
infantry and artillery. Slack's and Little's brigades had
now been strengthened by Frost's division from the Con-
federate left. The Confederate right being thus strength-
ened furiously assaulted the Federal left, under Colonel
Vandever, but failed to dislodge the Federal infantry
from their position in the edge of the timber. It was at
this point that Major Bowen, with his two howitzers and
cavalry, did good service in repulsing the enemy. In this
conflict he fired twenty-four rounds from each of his guns.
At this time, too, Captain Hayden, commanding the
Dubuque battery, while endeavoring to place his guns
in position on a commanding elevation, lost one piece by
going near a large body of the enemy, who were con-
cealed in the brush, and who rushed out and charged



234 THE CIVIL WAR ON THE BORDER.

upon it and, by shooting down the horses, captured it.
Colonel Dodge was directed to draw his forces near, so as
to fill up the gap between the left of his brigade and the
right of Colonel Vandever's, occasioned by extending his
line to the right to prevent the enemy from flanking him.
While Colonel Carr's left and centre had been obliged to
retire on a line with Elkhorn Tavern, Colonel Dodge had
also been forced to yield some ground. He formed the
right of his line west and south of the field that lay south
of the road in front of Clemens' house, thus covering his
men with a rail fence and forcing the enemy to cross an
open field to reach him. He directed Lieutenant David
to open fire upon the enemy with his right section of the
First Iowa Battery. The enemy replied with eight guns,
slowly advancing. Colonel Dodge's section of artillery
soon exhausted their ammunition, and retired. He
brought up his skirmishers and placed them on the left,
to fill the gap next to Colonel Vandever's brigade. The
enemy had kept up a hot fire from their batteries for
perhaps upwards of an hour, and they were now beginning
to use canister.

Colonel Dodge could see the Confederate officers
through the open woods placing their batteries in posi-
tion and arranging their troops for a charge. The
Federal infantry lay behind the rail fence, so as not
to attract attention, with instructions not to fire a shot
until the enemy had advanced to within fifty yards of the
fence. The rebel artillery ceased firing, and Colonel
Dodge's men knew what it meant. In a few moments a
long line of infantry, in butternut and gray, was seen to
emerge from the woods and to enter the field from the
east and southeast. It was General Clark's division, re-
inforced by detachments from other divisions of Price's
army. As soon as they entered the open field and per-
fected their alignment, they were ordered to double-quick.
The Federal soldiers now quietly awaited their approach,



BATTLE OF PEA RIDGE. 235

and when within fifty to seventy-five yards of the fence,
poured a terrific volley of musketry into their line, killing
and wounding one hundred and seventeen men and offi-
cers on the ground. The Confederate line recoiled before
this terrible shock, and fell back to the woods east of the
field in confusion, where the officers rallied and re-formed
their men. In their retreat from their exposed position,
the Confederates suffered some casualties from the con-
tinuous fire of musketry kept up by the Federal soldiers.
The fire of the Confederate line produced few casualties
on the Federal side. Colonel Dodge had a horse killed
under him, and received a slight wound in the hand.
He also had several men wounded. It was now nearly
three o'clock.

The fortune of the Federal arms was waning with the
day on the right of the army. The Federal troops had
fought against great odds, and held on to the positions,
from which they were gradually forced, with heroic forti-
tude. But Colonel Carr became satisfied that the enemy
were too strong for him, and again sent to General Curtis
for reinforcements. The General sent him from Colonel
Davis' third division a battalion of five companies of the
Eighth Indiana Infantry, under Lieutenant-Colonel David
Shunk, and three rifled field-pieces of Captain Klauss'
First Indiana Battery, with instructions to " persevere."
On this force reporting to him, Colonel Carr temporarily
attached it to Colonel Vandever's brigade, and placed it
in position at Elkhorn Tavern, but shortly afterward
directed Colonel Shunk to report to Colonel Dodge on
the right.

The roar of the battle again subsided. In the several
assaults made during the day, Generals Van Dorn and
Price had been able to advance their line nearly a quarter
of a mile. They now determined, before the shades of
night should fall, to make another desperate effort to
crush the Federal division in their front. During the



236 THE CIVIL WAR ON THE BORDER.

interval of calm they were busy in gathering their forces
and posting them for the final struggle of the day, which
they hoped would crown their arms with success. It was
arranged that General Price, with the Confederate left
wing, should open the assault against the Federal right.
The heavy firing on the Confederate left was to be the
signal for the advance of the entire Confederate line. To
avoid the great loss of life it would probably require to
dislodge Colonel Dodge's Federal infantry from their
position behind the fence of the field south of Clemens'
house, it was decided to make the position untenable by
flanking it on the right.

General Curtis had not been idle. He had been over
different parts of the field during the day, and directed
the general movements of his army, and knew when he
could afford to take troops from one part of his line to
strengthen it at another point. He regretted the dis-
proportionate sacrifice of his right, but it became a
necessity to prevent a possible disaster to his army.

It was between three and four o'clock when the Con-
federate left renewed the battle by a heavy fire which was
the signal for the general advance of the Confederate line.
Under the eyes and direction of Generals Van Dorn and
Price, the Confederate army now moved forward in an
unbroken line to the assault. In a few moments the
Federal line was encountered, when the storm of battle
burst forth with tremendous fury along the entire front
of the contending forces. The sharp volleys of small-
arms and the almost continuous roar of the deep-toned
artillery, told that Death was on the wing. The Federal
line had been greatly thinned by casualties during the
day, and it was a severe test of their courage and devo-
tion to require the troops to meet another assault made
mostly by fresh forces, supported by upwards of forty
pieces of artillery. After the battle had raged with great
fury for perhaps upwards of half an hour, Colonel Dodge



BA TTLE OF PEA RIDGE. 237

discovered that the enemy were about to turn his right
flank. He checked their first movement by ordering his
men to fire a volley into them when they had advanced
within one hundred feet of his line. Finding that his
force was insufficient to extend his line to meet another
threatened flank movement of the enemy on his right, he
sent for reinforcements, and Colonel Carr sent him the
battalion of the Eighth Indiana Infantry under Colonel
Shunk, and the three pieces of Klauss' First Indiana
Battery. He formed the Indiana infantry on the right
of the Fourth Iowa Infantry, and directed the officer
commanding the three rifled pieces to go into battery on
his left. After firing three or four rounds, however, the
guns were obliged to retire from the field to avoid being
flanked by a regiment of rebel infantry.

About this time General Van Dorn placed his batteries
in favorable positions and concentrated a tremendous
artillery fire on the Federal position around Elkhorn
Tavern. The few Federal guns that remained on the
field made feeble reply to this terrible storm of shot and
shell and grape. Towards evening the air became more
resonant, so that the rapid succession of echoes and re.
echoes of the sound of the thundering artillery produced
a profound impression upon the minds of those favorably
situated among the hills and hollows of that section for
hearing them. The heavy artillery fire on the Federal
centre at the tavern again ceased and the Confederate
infantry advanced to the assault in heavy masses. In a
few moments after Colonel Carr had sent Colonel Shunk's
battalion of infantry to the support of Colonel Dodge on
the right, and before Colonel Vandever could close up the
gap thus caused, the rebel infantry were seen swarming
up the telegraph road, up the hollow west of it, and
from the brush into the open space directly in front of
the Federal position in front of the tavern. The opposing
lines were now within a few paces of each other, and the



238 THE CIVIL WAR ON THE BORDER.

conflict with small-arms that ensued became terrific for a
short time. In this desperate struggle Colonel Vandever's
brigade was forced by overpowering numbers of Little's
brigade and Frost's division to retreat across the field
south of the tavern and west of the telegraph road ; but
the troops soon rallied behind a rail fence in the edge of
the timber. The Thirty-fifth Illinois, on the left of
Colonel Dodge's brigade and near Colonel Vandever's
right, was also forced to give way at this time.

General Frost and Colonel Little now brought up their
batteries and placed them in position in front of the
tavern. One of the rebel batteries posted near Colonel
Dodge's left, after the Thirty-fifth Illinois had fallen
back, commenced to enfilade his line with a heavy fire, so
that he, too, was obliged to retire. His left having been
forced to yield first, he ordered Lieutenant-Colonel
Chandler, of the Thirty-fifth Illinois, to rally his men,
which he did, driving the enemy back some fifty yards,
when he was surrounded and taken prisoner with forty
men. Before the rebel batteries had got fairly into
position and in operation, in front of the tavern, the
Federal guns of the Dubuque battery, the three guns of
Klauss' Indiana battery, and the two guns of Major
Bowen's Missouri light artillery, posted some three
hundred yards south of the tavern on either side of the
telegraph road, opened a heavy fire of grape and canister
into the advancing line of Confederate infantry, and
checked them until Colonel Carr rallied and partly re-
formed his line. In a short time, however, the Confederate
batteries got into position and commenced playing upon
the Federal batteries with shot and shell, and from their
superiority in number of guns compelled the Federal
guns to leave the field.

In the meantime a large force of rebel infantry of
Little's and Frost's divisions advanced through the
woods, and, coming upon Hayden's Dubuque battery,



BA TTLE OF PEA RIDGE. 239

captured two pieces, first shooting down several of the
artillerymen while endeavoring to attach the guns to
their limbers. Here also took place another sharp con-
flict with small-arms, in which the Federal line under
Colonel Carr was again forced to fall back, and in which
Lieutanant-Colonel Herron, commanding the Ninth Iowa
Volunteers, had his horse shot under him and was
wounded and captured. Colonel Carr had been wounded
several times ; Colonel Smith, one of his regimental com-
manders, had been wounded and left the field ; Colonel
Chandler and Colonel Herron, regimental commanders,
had been captured ; most of his field officers had been
wounded and captured ; and his line in the seven hours'
conflict had been forced back nearly a mile.

Late in the evening, while the battle was thus fiercely
raging around Elkhorn Tavern, General Curtis, having
satisfied himself that his extreme left was no longer in
imminent danger, ordered forward his first and second
divisions to the assistance of Colonel Carr. General
Asboth immediately took four companies of the Second
Missouri Volunteers and four pieces of the Second Ohio
Battery, under Lieutenant Chapman, of Colonel Schaefer's
first brigade, second division, and moved from his camp
by the telegraph road to the aid of Colonel Carr near
Elkhorn Tavern. Arriving on the ground near where
Colonel Vandever's brigade had made its last stand, some
three hundred yards south of the tavern, and from which
his men were retiring, hard pressed by the enemy, General
Asboth directed Lieutenant Chapman to throw his four
guns into battery on the left of the telegraph road as quickly
as possible and open fire upon the Confederate infantry
with grape and canister. Colonel Carr's battle-worn and
bleeding soldiers, retiring in line, met the reinforcements
under General Asboth with shouts of joy, and in a few
moments the four guns of the Second Ohio Battery, hav-
ing replaced the three guns of the Dubuque battery, were



240 THE CIVIL WAR ON THE BORDER.

throwing a perfect storm of iron hail into the line of the
exultant foe, instantly checking his advance. Not only
was the advance of the rebel infantry checked, but in less
than half an hour they were driven out of the heavily
timbered woods south of Elkhorn Tavern and west of the
telegraph road by the heavy fire from the guns of the
Second Ohio Battery, assisted by several guns of the bat-
teries of Colonel Carr's division.

Having thus checked the advance of the Confederate
army, General Asboth directed Colonel Schaefer to take
the four companies of the Second Missouri Infantry and
deploy them as skirmishers to the right and left of the
telegraph road, and then advance steadily through the
woods in the direction of Elkhorn Tavern. The gallant
Colonel formed his skirmish line and moved forward and
soon encountered the Confederate line of infantry and
drove them back through the woods until he reached the
fence, some two hundred yards south of the tavern.
General Asboth now directed Lieutenant Chapman to
follow him with the four guns of the Second Ohio Bat-
tery to a position on the left of the road that commanded
the Confederate position around Elkhorn Tavern. Lieu-
tenant Chapman quickly brought his guns into battery
and at once commenced playing upon the enemy with
shot and shell. His guns were soon replied to by a Con-
federate battery. A fierce artillery contest now took
place, which lasted until dark, when the ammunition of
the Second Ohio Battery being nearly exhausted, and the
rebel battery having ceased firing, General Asboth with-
drew his force to the position he occupied when he first
came on the field in the evening.

In the meantime, General Curtis, who had accompanied
General Asboth to the field, rode over to the right and
met Colonel Dodge retiring, having just checked an ad-
vance of the enemy by ordering the Fourth Iowa to halt
and turn and fire their last round of ammunition into the



BATTLE OF PEA RIDGE. 24 1

Confederate line. Not realizing fully the situation, and

supposing that, with his reinforcements he could readily

regain the lost ground, General Curtis ordered the Fourth

Iowa to face about, fix bayonets, and charge. Although

the regiment had exhausted their ammunition, the men

faced about, and moved forward with firmness, but soon

discovered that the enemy had retired.

The sun descending behind the western hills, a mantle

of darkness was soon drawn over the bloody field, alike

welcome to both combatants, which put an end to the

terrible strife. Leaving the four companies of the Second

Missouri Volunteers as a guard along the line of his most

advanced front and centre, General Curtis retired about

three hundred yards southwest with the balance of his

infantry and artillery, and formed a new line along the

edge of the timber with fields in front, where his troops

slept upon their arms during the night. The rest of the

troops of the first and second divisions, which General

Curtis had ordered up, did not arrive on the field in time

to participate in the last fierce struggle of the evening.
Vol I— 16




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CHAPTER XVIII.



BATTLE OF PEA RIDGE, NEAR LEETOWN.



WHILE the right wing of the Federal army had been
thus fiercely engaged during the day, the first, second,
and third divisions, forming the left wing and centre, had
not been idle. Indeed, General Curtis had been so closely
pressed at all points that he was obliged to put into action
his reserves. He regretted the great sacrifice of life in his
fourth division, but he saw that it was necessary to save
his right wing from disaster. In the morning, a few
moments before Colonel Carr started with his division to
check the advance of the enemy on the telegraph road in
front of Elkhorn Tavern, Colonel Osterhaus, commanding
the first division, moved out with a force to open the
battle in the direction of Leetown. It was about ten
o'clock when he left camp on the heights of Sugar Creek.
His cavalry was under the command of the gallant Colo-
nel Cyrus Bussey, Third Iowa Cavalry, and consisted of
five companies of that regiment under Lieutenant-Colonel
Henry H. Trimble ; four companies of the Fifth Missouri
Cavalry, Benton Hussars, under Colonel Joseph Nemett ;
four companies of the First Missouri Cavalry, under Colo-
nel C. A. Ellis ; and two companies of the Fourth Mis-
souri Cavalry, Fremont Hussars, under Lieutenant O. P.
Howe. Three pieces of Captain Elbert's battery, Missouri
light artillery, accompanied the cavalry.

The infantry was commanded by Colonel Nicholas
Greusel, Thirty-sixth Illinois Volunteers, consisting of his

242



BATTLE OF PEA RIDGE. 243

own regiment, with Captain Hoffman's battery, Ohio light
artillery, and the Twelfth Missouri Infantry, under Major
Hugo Wangelin, with three pieces of Captain Welfley's
battery, Missouri light artillery. Lieutenant-Colonel Hen-
dricks, commanding the Twenty-second Indiana Infantry
of Colonel Davis' third division, was also ordered to report
to Colonel Osterhaus to support the movement in the
direction of Leetown.

Colonel Bussey, commanding the cavalry, proceeded
north to Leetown, and from thence to the open fields
about one mile north. The artillery and infantry followed
close in his rear, and took position in the fields north of
Leetown. North and northwest of Leetown there were
several fields extending from Pea Ridge to the southwest,
a distance of one and a half miles, except that near the
middle of this space there was a belt of woods of a thick
growth of low, scrubby oaks, that divided the succession
of fields. Colonel Osterhaus rode forward and came up
with Colonel Bussey just as the head of his column was
emerging from the belt of woods between the fields, and
was entering a small field that lay directly east of a much
larger field. On the west side of the large field there was
a thick growth of small oaks and underbrush, and on the
northwest end of it there was a small prairie of about
one hundred and fifty by three hundred yards. On enter-
ing the first field, Colonel Bussey sent forward two com-
panies of the First Missouri Cavalry to reconnoitre the
woods west and north of the large field. Advancing
across the small field in a northwest course he came to
the road going west, and followed it until he came to the
small prairie lying north of the large field.

Here the Federal cavalry came in plain view of the
Confederate cavalry moving south, about a half-mile dis-
tant. Colonel Osterhaus, who was now at the head of
the column with Colonel Bussey, ordered up the three



Online LibraryWiley BrittonThe civil war on the border; (Volume 1) → online text (page 20 of 39)