Battle of Pea Ridge, Civil War 1868

Battle of Pea Ridge

Strategy played a critical role in the Battle of Pea Ridge. The most decisive battle west of the Mississippi River, and the 3,000 soldiers who lost their lives are memorialized at Pea Ridge National Military Park in northwest Arkansas.

Before the Civil War, the soil of what is now Pea Ridge National Military Park was witness to more than 11,000 Cherokee people passing through between 1837 and 1839 on their forced removal to Oklahoma. Elkhorn Tavern was well established along Telegraph Road, and was routinely used as a supply depot for the Trail of Tears.

Elkhorn Tavern witnessed early European settlers, the Cherokee Trail of Tears and then the Battle of Pea Ridge.
Elkhorn Tavern witnessed early European settlers, the Cherokee Trail of Tears and then the Battle of Pea Ridge.

Twenty-five years later, Elkhorn Tavern stood in the middle of the Battle of Pea Ridge and would be used as a make-shift hospital rendering aid to the wounded soldiers. Among these soldiers fighting at Pea Ridge were two regiments of Cherokee, about 1,000 men, fighting for the Confederate army. The only major Civil War battle in which Indian troops participated.

Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as well as you ever did. On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life.

Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States

After fierce fighting on March 7, 1862, the Confederate General Earl Van Dorn was feeling comfortable with the gains. However, through the night the Union soldiers under the leadership of General Samuel Curtis regrouped. The following morning the Union unleashed a devastating volley of musket and artillery fire to force the Confederate soldiers to retreat.

Pea Ridge National Military Park

Entrance to Pea Ridge National Military Park in Arkansas.
Entrance to Pea Ridge National Military Park in Arkansas.

Imagine 10,000 Union soldiers solidifying a line over a mile long during the overnight hours, and emerging from the darkness at dawn to confront the awaiting Confederate army who were lacking both food and ammunition.

civil war canons
A steady volley of artillery helped the Union soldiers advance on the morning of March 8, 1862.

General Van Dorn had advanced his Confederate troops too quickly. Leaving his supply line, including much needed food and ammunition, about two days behind. The Union won the battle and the overall Pea Ridge Campaign was successful at securing nearby Missouri for the Union.

Pea Ridge National Military Park
Imagine holding this commanding view through the night, only to see a one-mile long of 10,000 Union soldiers emerge with the morning daylight.

Soldiers were frequently hastily buried in unmarked graves. The remains from the battlefield cemetery at the Battle of Pea Ridge were later moved to the Fayetteville National Cemetery. By 1871 there were 1,200 interments made in the cemetery, most of which were unidentified.

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