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EFORE proceeding with the details of the sanguinary
fighting on the now historic field of Pea Ridge, it may be well to notice the character of the country occupied by the forces participating in the engagement;
particularly that portion of it rendered memorable by the storm of battle which swept its slopes, and known in the nomenclature of the country as Pea Ridge.
From the center of Missouri to its southern and south-western border, a range of irregular hills traverse the State, known as the Ozarks. Their rugged slopes once surmounted, a high plateau, diversified with hill and dale, forest and prairie, is presented to the eye. The northern counties of the State of Arkansas are intersected by a similar yet more lofty range, known as the Boston Mountains. These two series of hills unite in the north-western counties of Arkansas and form an acute triangle, and from thence gradually slope away by a series of slight ascents and waves of hills until they finally disappear in the Indian country beyond the western confines of Arkansas. It is at the junction of these hills just below the southern border of Missouri, in the north-western county of Arkansas, that the events about to be related occurred.
DESCRIPTION OF THE VICINITY OF PEA RIDGE.
While a considerable portion of this elevated region is arable land, yielding a rich reward to the cultivators of its soil, by far the larger part is cut and seamed by gorges or furrowed by rocky ridges and steep ascents. The stage and telegraph-road from Springfield, Missouri, to Fayetteville, Arkansas, passes over the highest elevations of the Ozark range until within five miles of the south line of the State, near the town of Keitsville, where it plunges into a deep gorge which has passed into history as “Cross Timbers Hollow," from the following circumstance. In the flight of Ben. McCulloch and Price from Springfield, at the time of Fremont's advance in November, 1861, believing that a rapid pursuit was intended, trees were felled across the road and hollow, to obstruct the march of Fremont's troops. Afterwards Price was obliged to remove this fallen timber for the passage of his own troops and supplies, on his return and re-occupation of Springfield. The subsequent retreat of Price down this hollow when followed by Gen. Curtis, was too hurried and our fire too hot to allow these obstructions being again placed in the way.
Just before the State line is reached, the creek which courses its whole length, known as the middle branch of Sugar Creek, turns to the west, while the road continuing south, up a lateral ravine, and surmounting a steep ascent, debouches upon the elevated plateau of Pea Ridge, near the Elk-Horn Tavern. South of the State line in Arkansas, and two miles distant, a high range of hills take their rise near the Elk Horn and stretch away in irregular outline many miles to the west. The southern face of these hills are precipitous and rocky, but their northern slopes are more regular and undulating. At the foot of the southern escarpments of rock were cultivated fields, now covered with white and withered cornstalks, stretching away to the west from two to three miles. Along the base of these cliffs a road passes
westward to Bentonville with a lateral branch to Lee Town, a hamlet of a dozen houses crowning the ridge, near the western extremity of the corn fields.
From the foot of this rocky range southward, the surface of the country slopes away in undulating waves to the bluffs which border the deep valley of Sugar Creek, the waters of which flow westward, and, uniting with other streams, finally enter the Indian Country, near the south-west corner of Missouri. Pea Ridge comprises the elevated plateau between the middle and south branches of this stream and occupies a surface of many square
miles in extent. Copious springs and shining rivulets have their source at the foot of the rocky range of hills, meandering across the fields and through the forests, at length mingling their soft, murmuring waters with those of Sugar Creek. The valleys of these streams are narrow, while the hills which border and confine them are rocky and precipitous.
The general aspect of the country may be summed up as being composed of alternate undulations of field and woodland and of rocky acclivities. First commencing at the Elk-Horn Tavern, and stretching indefinitely away to the westward, rises the apex of the ridge, with its sharp abutments of rock worn and jagged by the winds and storms of centuries. At their southern base a succession of cultivated fields, averaging more than a half mile in breadth, reaching two or three miles westward with more or less irregularity of outline, and occasional projecting points of timber. Then succeeds a belt of timber a mile or more in extent, covering the heights which overlook the valley.
On the evening of the 6th of March all the troops were in position. They occupied the heights to the north of and overlooking the Sugar Creek valley. The left resting upon the telegraph road, the right upon a lateral ravine at right angles with
POSITIONS OF THE ARMY.
the main valley, while two miles to the rear at the Elk-Horn were parked the trains and miscellaneous stores pertaining to the army, guarded by the 25th Missouri and a detachment from the 3rd Illinois Cavalry.
Sigel's two Divisions, commanded by Asboth and Osterhaus respectively, occupied the right, Jeff. C. Davis held the center, while Carr was posted on the left; the line as thus formed fronting south, from whence the Confederate attack was expected. Such was the disposition of our forces on the morning of the 7th ; the regiments well in hand, the men burning with eagerness ; for the enthusiasm of military novices as yet had not been toned down by experience.
CHAPTER X I.
BATTLE OF PEA RIDGE- FIRST DAY.
AYLIGHT on the morning of the 7th found the camp astir. Soldiers cooked an impromptu meal with arms in their hands, discussing the while the probabilities of the day. Cavalry horses munched
their corn, and the dark-mouthed engines of lestruction remained in battery precisely where planted the evening before, as yet silent, but to the imaginative who conjure up phantoms of horror from the smoke wreaths of expected battle, these silent watch-dogs were thinking of the part cach were to take in awakening the thunders of the coming hours. The sun arose lazily yet smiling above the smoky horizon, shedding rays of light and heat around and over the scene as if the business in which men were about to engage was not of that character at which it should veil its face.
Very soon staff officers were seen riding rapidly from brigade to brigade, their horses reeking with sweat. were delivered. Officers were seen in brief consultation; their horses were saddled, harnessed and attached to the guns, and throughout the camps all were in a state of readiness and silent expectancy. Soon it was whispered that the enemy declining to