Pea Ridge National Military Park
Opened in 1956
The Battle of Pea Ridge -- March 7-8, 1862
Early in the Civil War, the state of Missouri teetered precariously between strong Union loyalties and similarly strong Confederate sympathies. Although Missouri remained in the Union, strong forces contended to draw the state into the Confederate camp. The Confederate Army of the West, being assembled under the command of General Earl Van Dorn, was gathering forces in north Arkansas, ultimately hoping to capture St. Louis, Missouri, which served as a major supply depot for the Union Armies in Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
On March 7 and 8, 1862, the 10,500 man Union Army of the Southwest, led by General Samuel R. Curtis, engaged in a fierce battle with the larger Confederate force of about 16,000 under General Van Dorn, near Leetown and Elkhorn Tavern, about 7 miles east of the town of Pea Ridge, Arkansas.
Expecting the Confederate army to attack from the south, General Curtis's Union forces had dug earthworks overlooking the Little Sugar Creek Valley, south of Elkhorn Tavern. However, Confederate General Van Dorn, noting the extreme difficulty of a frontal assault on the Union position, decided to attempt a flanking move to the west. Although his troops were weary and cold after a strenuous 3-day march, Van Dorn led his army under the cover of night on a march westward around the Union flank, hoping on the early morning of March 7, 1862 to achieve a surprise attack from behind the Union lines.
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