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THE BATTLE THAT SAVED MISSOURI FOR THE UNION
Including the story of LEETOWN, Arkansas

Battle of Elk Horn Tavern




The main battlefield at Pea Ridge in the National Military Park.





PEA RIDGE, ARKANSAS March 6-8, 1862

Generals at Battle of Elk Horn Tavern

Generals-left to right: Albert Pike, Earl Van Dorn, Sterling Price, Ben McCulloch, Samuel R. Curtis, Franz Sigel.



THE BATTLE AT PEA RIDGE: As the United States moved towards Civil War, the southern states moved into secession from their Union. On May 6, 1861, Arkansas joined the Confederacy. It was the 10th of eleven states to leave the Union. Uneven lines of loyalty to divided, heartfelt causes was about to bring a period of horror to America. Brother against brother - ideals against beliefs - families torn apart - lives and property destroyed. This was the suffering our ancestors endured. The beautiful little community known as Leetown was about to come to its end. My ancestors from John W. Lee's family were living in Leetown, Benton Co., AR during the battle of Pea Ridge.

John W. Lee's houseWhen the first shot was fired at Ft. Sumter on April 12, 1861, the Union was already deeply divided. A years time would bring the end to John W. Lee's hometown - Leetown, Arkansas. History, when combined with the search for our ancestors, comes very much alive. This was true for me, especially after I discovered what my Arkansas ancestors had lived through in 1862. By March 6, 1862 the skirmishes and battles of Pea Ridge, AR (including Bentonville, Leetown, and Elkhorn Tavern) had begun. John W. Lee's son, George Sylvester Lee, joined the Confederate Army. His unit was first known as the Arkansas 22nd Infantry Regiment (Rector's-King's-McCord's), later called Fagan's Brigade, Hawhorn's Division. It was organized in Febuary or March 1862. They served at the Battle of Pea Ridge. The 35th AR Infantry took over the 22nd by July 1862. With this unit, in Company F, Syl Lee and his brother Jesse V. Lee, may also have seen battles at Helena on July 4, 1863, Little Rock on Sept 10, 1863, and Jenkins's Ferry April 30, 1864. This picture was the Lee home, built at Leetown, prior to the Civil War, that the National Park Service tore down.

The following is a list of some of the units who fought for the Union side:

  • ILLINOIS: Infantries - 25th, 35th, 36th, 37th, 44th, 59th. Cav. - 3rd & 15th. Battery A 2nd IL Artillery.
  • MISSOURI: Inf. - 2nd, 3rd, 12th, 15th, 17th, 24th, & Phelp's MO. Cav. - 1st, 4th, 5th & 6th. Batteries B & F 2nd MO Light Artillery. Companies A, B, F, H, I, and K, under the command of Major E. W. Weston. Click here to read interesting first-hand battle accounts by a Missouri Union soldier, Pvt. Robert S. Groves, who participated in the Battle of Pea Ridge.
  • INDIANA: Inf. - 8th, 18th & 22nd. Battery 1st IN.
  • IOWA: Inf. - 4th & 9th. Cav. - 3rd Iowa (be sure to visit the 3rd IA website of John R. Gunter, plus battlefield reports)....
    but here my own eyes witnessed them. In every direction, I could see my comrades falling. Horses, frenzied and riderless, ran to and fro. Men and horses ran in collision, crushing each other into the ground. Dismounted troopes tried to rally their men, but orders gave way to confusion. The scene baffles description." - Henry Dysart, 3rd Iowa Calvary
  • KANSAS: Second Cavalry
  • OHIO: 2nd OH Battery.

    Union killed - 203, wounded - 972, missing - 174.
    Confederates killed - 1,100, wounded - 2,500, missing & captured - 1,600.
    Union Brig. Gen. Asboth & Acting Brig. Gen Carr wounded.
    Confed. Brig. Gen. B. McCulloch & Acting Brig. Gen. James McIntosh were both killed just north of the LEE home at Leetown. McCulloch was killed northeast of the old Foster home, on a knoll, which until several years ago, was marked by a pile of rocks. A pile of rocks and the monument foundation also marked the place where McIntosh was killed.

    By clicking here you can check a roster of names for Confederate soldiers captured at Pea Ridge (on my page) and other battles (the Alton page) who were sent to Alton Prison in Illinois

    The Confederate Army was commanded by Major-General Earl Van Dorn:

  • Maj.-Gen. Sterling Price (b. Sep.14,1808 d.Sep. 20,1867) was in command of the Missouri State Guards, including Col. J. A. Poindexter's command of the 4th and 5th Infantry, 2nd Division. If you know of any other units who fought here, please E-mail me so that I might add them here.
  • Various commands for the Confederate Volunteers.
  • Fifteenth Northwest, 21st Arkansas, 22nd AR Infantry Regiment
  • 14th & 16th Arkansas Infantry Regiments
  • 2nd Mounted Rifles-Arkansas
  • State Troops - 2nd, 4rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Divisions
  • Brig-Gen. Ben McCulloch' Division (various commands)
  • Captain Gunnell, commander 3rd Louisiana Volunteers
  • MO State Guard, 1st MO Brigade, and 4th Missouri
  • The 3rd Texas Calvary
  • Brig-Gen. Albert Pike's Cherokee Indians and a squadron of the 9th TX Cavalry.

    Major General Sterling Price, who had served well in the Mexican War 1845, CSA had been in Missouri in early 1862. He had been promised reinforcements from Arkansas. His troops numbered about 12,000 men and he planned to spend the winter months in Springfield, Missouri. Missouri was of prime importance to both Union and Confederacy. However, Federal Brig. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis, an old ex-regular, who was assisted by Generals Davis, Sigel, Asboth, and Prentiss, were sent to confront Gen. Price's Units. In early Feb. 1862, Price fled southward, pursued by Curtis. Several battles ensued, with the Confederate Gen. Price being pushed back to a position in the vicinity of Pea Ridge, a spur of the Ozark Mountains. Price was joined by the brash Major Gen. Earl Van Dorn, who took command, being the senior officer. Forty heavy guns thundered a welcome.

    "Soldiers!" cried Van Dorn, in response, "behold your leader! He comes to show you the way to glory and immortal renown. He comes to hurl back the minions of the despots at Washington, whose ignorance, licentiousness, and brutality are equaled only by their craven natures. They come to free your slaves, lay waste your plantations, burn your villages, and abuse your loving wives and beautiful daughters."

    John RossSouth of Fayetteville, in the Bost Mountains of NW Arkansas, Price and Van Dorn were joined by Brig. Gen. Ben McCulloch's Confederate troops. The southern side now had a 16,000 man force. Included in this force were 1,000 Cherokee Indians who fought with the Confederates at Pea Ridge-the only major Civil War battle in which Indian troops took part. They were brought to the battle by Gen. Pike, a New Englander and poet, who had joined the Confederates on the borders of the Indian country. The principle leader of the Western Cherokee peoples, pictured here, was John Ross. Two Cherokee regiments served in this battle. The General was a Cherokee Indian named Stand Watie, and you can click on his name for an interesting article about him at the Wild West webpages. Chief Ross called a general convention of the Cherokees to meet at Tahlequah on August 21, 1861. The Chief again urged neutrality and the convention passed resolutions in keeping with that sentiment. In a letter to General McCullough Chief Ross wrote the following:

    ""we are authorized to form an alliance with the Confederate States, which we are determined to do as early as practicable. This determination may give rise to movements against the Cherokee people upon their northern border. To be prepared for any such emergency, we have deemed it prudent to proceed to organize a regiment of mounted men and tender them for service. They will be raised forthwith, by Colonel John Drew, and if received by you, will require to be armed"

    Chief Ross appointed the following officers for Drew's regiment:
  • Colonel: John Drew
  • Lieutenant Colonel: William Potter Ross
  • Major: Thomas Pegg
  • AdJutant: James S. Vann
  • Surgeon: Dr. James P. Evans
  • Chaplain: Lewis Downing.
  • Captains: Co. A, Jefferson D. Hicks; Co. B, Nicholas B. Sanders; Co. C, John Porum Davis; Co. D, Isaac N. Hildebrand; Co.E, James Vann; Co. F, Richard Fields; Co. G, George W. Scraper; Co. H, Edward R. Hicks; Co. I, Albert Pike; succeeded by Jefferson Hicks; Co. K, Pickens M. Benge; McDaniel's or 1st Reserve Company, James McDaniel

    By March 4, 1862, the Confederates moved northward intending to capture St. Louis. However, Gen. Curtis had placed his 10,500 Federal men on the bluffs overlooking Little Sugar Creek, not far from Elkhorn Tavern. This Tavern and the surrounding site had first been settled by James Hannors of Illinois, in 1832. William Ruddick (visit a website of a descendant by clicking here), also from Illinois, purchased the land in 1834. Ruddick built the Elkhorn Tavern, which was burned shortly after the War, but later rebuilt from the original plan.

    Mark Miller, E-mail , sent a list of Confederate soldiers of the 16th Arkansas Infantry Regiment who were killed at Pea Ridge:

  • R. M. Gatewood, Company D
  • A. N. Gregory, Company E (mortally wounded)
  • Isaac N. Hancock, Company D
  • Joel A. Lewis, Company H
  • William Lollar, Company I
  • Thomas Watkins, Company B
    At Pea Ridge, the regiment lost 6 killed and mortally wounded, 5 wounded and 12 missing or captured.

    The regiment fought on March 7, 1862 on the Leetown portion of the battlefield. A brief, but vivid description follows from "The 16th Arkansas Infantry Regiment" by Mark R. Miller, 1999, Arkansas Research:

    "The 16th Arkansas stumbled into place as their colonel shook the regiment into line. An all night march around the enemy flank had placed them squarely in the Union rear. To cut down on noise, the wagons had been left behind and the troops ate the last of their rations. After their cold breakfast, the regiment deposited their blankets and belongings in a pile under guard and moved out.

    McCulloch rode forward and conferred with Colonel Hill of the 16th. Ordering forward two companies of the regiment to act as skirmishers, he rode ahead through the timber to scout the Federal dispositions. Disdainful of uniforms, McCulloch wore sky blue pants and a dove-gray civilian jacket. Riding alone he cleared a slight ridge and neared the wood fence of a farmer named Oberson. A ragged volley of gunfire met the lone rider.

    The sound of musketry to his front prompted Colonel Hill to order his men forward through a belt of timber toward the sound of the firing. The regimental colors waving overhead drew cannon fire from a Federal battery and Hill had the flag furled to conceal their progress. Clearing the trees, Union troops were spotted ahead and the command was given to fire.

    Forty men of Company A, 36th Illinois ducked under the smoke of their own guns curling ahead. They scanned the horizon for evidence of the rider they had fired upon moments before. Seeing no one, a few soldiers scampered ahead and found the unhorsed rider with five bullets lodged in his body. Relieving the corpse of his watch and fine rifle, they scurried back to their comrades by the fence. At that moment the roar of more than 600 rifles, emptying their lethal contents, announced the arrival of the 16th Arkansas on the battlefield.

    Pinned down and losing men, the Illinois company commander quickly deduced that to remain alone and exposed would be suicide. He organized a mad dash of the survivors back to the main body of his unit. Exultant, the Arkansas troops advanced from the edge of the woods and rushed past the fence the Federals had so recently occupied. Here in the open field they came into range of the entire Union regiment to their front. Additionally, the artillery in their left-front opened up with grape and canister. These were artillery shells filled with hundreds of bullet-sized balls that when fired made a cannon-sized shotgun. Most disconcerting of all was the news that the lifeless body of General McCulloch lay just to their rear. The fight was beginning to look decidedly uneven unless reinforcements were quickly sent forward.

    To their rear was Brigadier General James McIntosh. Not known as a quick thinker, McIntosh was digesting the news that he was now in command of the Confederate right wing after the fall of his superior. With the sound of battle growing loud and eight regiments at his disposal, he elected to bring only one with him to the sound of the firing.

    With the 2nd Arkansas Mounted Rifles he went forward. McIntosh positioned this regiment too far to the left of the embattled 16th regiment and consequently started what amounted to a separate battle. Unsupported and without assisting the other engaged unit, he saw the toll the withering fire to his front was taking. Rallying his troops, he was shot through the heart and fell instantly.

    The scene behind the Confederate lines was grimly repeated as General Albert Pike was informed that he now commanded the right wing of the rebel army. He decided then not to lead any more regiments forward. Although less than 25 percent of his forces were engaged, he decided it would not be prudent to advance.

    William McConnell and his regiment, thus unsupported, slowly fell back with the regiment off to their left. Pike determined to quit the field and march toward the wing of General Price now engaged three miles away. The 16th Arkansas had suffered 21 casualties in their short engagement. They were dismayed to learn that the Confederates were leaving the field in Union hands, but became angry as hornets to discover that their pile of blankets and belongings was gone; the guard they had left was nowhere to be found."

    From The New York Herald, 17 Mar 1862 issue, item #3914, comes the following:

    "We give some further particulars of the battle at Pea Ridge, Arkansas. The rebels, it is said, had thirty-five thousand men in the field, among whom were twenty-two hundred Indians under Albert Pike. The rebels acknowledge a loss of eleven hundred killed and nearly three thousand wounded. Our loss was six hundred killed and from eight hundred to one thousand wounded. We took sixteen hundred prisoners and thirteen pieces of cannon. In reply to a correspondence from the rebel General Van Dorn to General Curtis, asking permission to bury the dead at the battle of Pea Ridge, the latter states that, although he grants the permission required, he regrets to find that many of the Union soldiers who fell in that battle were tomahawked, scalped and otherwise shamefully mangled, contrary to the rules of civilized warfare, and expresses the hope that the present struggle may not degenerate into savage warfare. The Indians of Mr. Pike's command are doubtless responsible of the hideous tomahawking and scalping business."

    The following comes from the Navarro College Civil War Collections: Colonel Clark Wright of the Sixth Missouri Cavalry wrote a detailed account of the Battle of Pea Ridge (Arkansas), where the outnumbered Federals repulsed the largest Confederate offensive of the war west of the Mississippi, saving the state of Missouri for the Union. There is an autographed letter signed, four pages, quarto, dated March 12, 1862 from "Sugar Creek" just north of Fayetteville, Arkansas, written to his wife Sarah Jane, who had fled to Ohio with their children:

    "... the Enemy turned the rear of our forces & flanked back upon me, cutting off communication entirely... at four miles out I encountered the Enemy and opened afire upon him, with Artilery & Infantry, and after a contest of some 40 minutes he began to give way, I at once ordered a cavelry charge and routed the high point on his right & played our battery on him some 30 minutes, & in the mean time turned his flank with the Cavelry under cover of timber and charged his battery and took it, at that moment, Sigle [General Franz F. Sigel] engaged him in the rear (having cut through from the Main force) when a regular Stampede took place & the Rebels scattered to the four winds, & made our victory complete... we found several of our wounded scalped, the Rebels has some 4000 Indians who will reap sorrow if our troops ere get hold of them... "

    LeetownLeetown was surrounded by dense thickets and cornfields. Because of Union Gen. Curtis' placement in the bluffs, Van Dorn avoided a frontal attack. Curtis was outnumbered and had prudently dug his troops in at Pea Ridge. During the night, Curtis led his Southern troops towards the rear of Elkhorn Tavern. Part of his army lagged behind due to poor weather and fatigue. Van Dorn ordered McCulloch's men to the west end of Big Mountain, hoping to hasten their arrival at Elkhorn Tavern. An old road running north from Leetown intersected the Elk Horn Tavern where a later a monument was placed, just west of Patton place, one road leading to Twelve Corners, and the other going in a southerly direction. The present state highway 72 does not follow the line of the old road.

    Elkhorn TavernMeanwhile, Union cavalry warned Curtis of McCulloch's movement. In a reluctant change of front to north, Curtis abandoned his fortifications and prepared to meet Van Dorn's two-pronged attack. Curtis' Generals had the first and second division on his left commanded by Generals Asboth and Sigel; the third, under General Davis, composing his center, and the fourth, commanded by Colonel Carr, formed his right. His line of battle extended about four miles, and was confronted by the heavy Confederate force with only a broad and deep ravine covered with fallen trees separating the two armies. Van Dorn had hoped to capture the Union's train of two hundred wagons. A failed Confederate assault on the Union left flank at Leetown on March 7, 1862 cost the Confederates two generals, including McCulloch. The other prong of the Confederate attack fared better, threatening the Union right and driving their soldiers back from Elkhorn Tavern for more than a mile. This successful move was halted at nightfall.

    It was impossible to sleep, for the night was bitter cold; no one will ever know how much we suffered from cold and hunger; no tongue or pen can paint it. Friday morning, March 7th, came at last, and with it the order, "Fall in!" The Rangers "fell in" to a man, but such a worn-out set of men I never saw. They had not one single mouthful of food to eat. We marched about five miles and countermarched three miles; General Price had opened the battle on the Telegraph road, near Elk Horn Tavern, at 10 A.M..... Chilling statements written by Sergeant W. KINNEY, in his account of the Battle of Elk Horn Tavern.

    BattlefieldThe next morning Curtis counterattacked with an artillery bombardment, followed by an advance of his massed army toward Elkhorn Tavern. In the words of Pea Ridge veteran Private I.V. Smith, 1st Missouri Confederate Brigade:

    It was a very cold night, and it was pitiful to hear the wounded calling all through that night in the woods and alone for some water or something to keep them warm. I hope I never will hear such pleadings and witness such suffering again ...
    Confederate forces held for several hours during this severest fight near the tavern, but they were desperately low on rest, food, and ammunition. The conflict continued a greater part of the day with varying fortunes to each party, the lines of strife swaying like a pendulum. Federal Gen. Franz Sigel's unbloodied troops had one of their best days of the war. By midmorning, Van Dorn decided to withdraw, retreating to the southeast. Only twenty-four hours before, the Confederates had been confident of victory, but the day of March 8th, 1862 ended their hopes for success. Although this victory secured Missouri for the Union and won Curtis a promotion, he did not boast about his triumph.
    "The scene is silent and sad," wrote Curtis, "the vulture and the wolf now have the dominion and the dead friends and foes sleep in the same lonely graves."
    With the exception of two buildings used by the Union officers, Leetown was burned to the ground. The soldiers buried in the area were moved to various Military cemeteries.

    CSA Gen. Price was headed for more failure.

    "The fault is," wrote a Confederate chronicler, "that General Price had retreated from Missouri, not so much under the stress of the enemy's arm as from inherent faults in his own enterprise. He had declared that his invasion was not a raid-that he came to possess Missouri; but the breadth of the excursion, its indefiniteness and the failure to concentrate on important points ruined him. While his command roamed through Arkansas after the Pea Ridge battle, his men, brought to the vicinity of their old homes, which many had not seen for quite some time, were exposed to the temptation to desert, which much weakened Gen. Price's army".
    For three more years guerrilla warfare would ravage Arkansas, but the Union grip on Missouri had been secured.

    Bentonville ParadeThe first marker to be erected at Pea Ridge battlefield was placed on the Morgan farm in 1885, at the place where Confederate General James McIntosh was killed. It was placed directly north of the old Mayfield home at Leetown on the north side of the wooded area. This area showed many indentations in the earth where Union Soldiers were buried following the battle, but the bodies have since been removed (in 1873). In 1887, the Southern marker was removed to a spot near Elk Horn Tavern where a monument had been placed to the memory of the Union dead. Both markers were dedicated in 1887 at a reunion attended by veterans of both the North and South. This included John W. Lee's sons George Sylvester Lee and Jesse Vincent Lee, On the first day of September, 1887, the surviving veterans met on this famous battlefield at Pea Ridge, Benton County, AR., to commemorate the event, and to witness the unveiling of the monument erected to the memory of Generals McCulloch, McIntosh and Slack, and the other brave Confederates who were slain in the battles. General McCulloch of Tennessee was killed by a sharpshooter of the 36th Illinois Infantry who recognized him across the battlefield. The general was dressed in a black velvet suit, patent leather, hightop boots and a large broad-brimmed hat. If you want to read more about Ben McCulloch, click here for a good off-site history. James McIntosh, a native of Florida, who had ironically requested transfer from Northwest Arkansas three months before the battle also lost his life at Pea Ridge. Brig. Gen. W. Y. Slack of Kentucky died from wounds during the first day's battles. This picture was taken several years after the monument was dedicated, in an 1890's parade of Veterans through Bentonville, AR.



    OTHER SOURCES:

  • National Park Service, official map and guide.
  • Mathew Brady's Illustrated History of the Civil War by Benson J. Lossing.
  • Reader's Digest-Explore America "Forts and Battlefields"..
  • The American Heritage Picture History of The Civil War edited by R. M. Ketchum.
  • The Indian Frontier of the American West 1846-1890, by Robert M. Utley.
  • NW Arkansas Morning News.
  • Painting of the second day's battle by Confederate artillerist Hunt Wilson.
  • Great Civil War Heroes and Their Battles, edited by Walton Rawls.
  • Goodspeed's Biographical & Historical Memoirs of NW Arkansas.
  • Compendium of the Confederate Armies FL & AR, by Stewart Sifakis.
  • Photographs taken by Al & Janice Castleman 1997.

  • Janice Mauldin Castleman, March 1998




    LINKS
    Below are many interesting links - none of which I endorse by posting them to my website.
    I believe in the United States of America, and cherish my ancestors who fought for our country in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and all the other wars in which my ancestors shed their blood to protect our rights, and the rights of others. Enjoy the links, and come back and visit with us anytime!



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    Janice Mauldin Castleman
    I would enjoy hearing from anyone with ancestors who fought at this battle.
    Please write to me if you have any historical stories we might add to this page.
    Updated April 29, 2004.








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