Battle of Pea Ridge
MARCH 6-8, 1862
Report of Brig. Gen. Franz Sigel, U.S. Army, commanding First and Second Divisions.
FIRST AND SECOND DIVISIONS,
GENERAL: I have the honor to lay before you the following reports in regard to the actions of the First and Second Divisions from the 5th to the 9th day of this month:
I.--Expedition to Pineville on the 5th of March.
On the evening of the 5th the main body of the two divisions was encamped near McKisick's farm, 3 ˝ miles southward of Bentonville and 1 mile from the fork of the roads leading west to Maysville and northeast to Pineville. The Second Missouri, under Colonel Schaefer, and one company of cavalry were stationed at Osage Mills, otherwise called Smith's Mill, 5˝ miles southeast of McKisick's farm, whilst our pickets guarded all the other avenues to the camp. For the purpose of reconnoitering the country towards the Indian Territory and to detain the rebels of Southwest Missouri from following Price's army by the State line road, Major Conrad, with five select companies of infantry, 60 men of cavalry, and two pieces of Welfley's battery, was ordered to proceed on the first day to Lindsey's Prairie, where he arrived in the evening, 16 miles southwest of McKisick's farm, on the 2d (the 5th) to Maysville, and to return on the third day to our own camp.
Such was our position on the evening of the 5th, when I received orders from you to send a detachment of cavalry to Pineville, where there were said to be some 200 or 300 rebels, who disturbed and endangered the Union people of McDonald County. I directed Major Meszaros, with 80 men, to march at 10 o'clock p.m. on the northwestern road to Pineville, whilst Capt. von Kielmansegge was sent to Major Conrad at Maysville, to lead his 60 men of cavalry, with one piece of artillery and 20 infantry, at 10 o'clock in the night, from Maysville to Rutledge and Pineville, and to act in concert with Major Meszaros. A Home Guard company, stationed between Pineville and Keetsville, was ordered to occupy at night the roads leading to Neosho and Kent, and thereby prevent the secesh to escape in that direction. Major Meszaros and Capt. von Kielmansegge should approach the town from the east, southeast, and southwest. It was understood that these detachments should attack the town simultaneously at 5 o'clock in the morning.
Just a few minutes before 10 o'clock in the evening, when Meszaros was prepared to leave the camp, I received news from Colonel Schaefer, at Osage Mills, that his pickets posted in the direction of Elm Springs were fired upon by the enemy. This, in addition to your own dispatches reporting the enemy’s force at Fayetteville and a strong party of cavalry advancing towards Middletown, and, besides this, your order to march to Sugar Creek, made me at once aware of the dangerous position of my command. I therefore ordered Colonel Schaefer to break up his camp immediately, to send the cavalry company to Osage Springs to cover his right flank, and to march with his regiment to Bentonville, leaving Osage Springs to the right and McKisick's farm to the left. All other troops I ordered to be prepared to march at 2 o'clock in the morning. In regard to the expedition to Pineville, it was too late to countermand the movement under Captain von Kielmansegge, and I therefore ordered Major Meszaros to begin his march and to accomplish his task with his own detachment and that of Captain von Kielmansegge, but to return to Sugar Creek as quickly as possible, without ruining his horses, so that they could be of some use in the ensuing battle. Major Conrad was made aware of our situation, and instructed to join us at Sugar Creek by some circuitous road leading northeast. The result of the expedition was not very great, but satisfactory.
The attack was made according to the instructions given and at the precise time, but only 1 captain, 1 lieutenant, and 15 men of Price's army were found in the town and made prisoners; the others had left some days previous. The commands of Major Meszaros and Captain von Kielmansegge arrived safely on the 6th in our camp at Sugar Creek, bringing with them their prisoners. Unfortunately they had to leave behind and to destroy a printing press and types taken at Pineville, as the roads they took were too bad to bring this important material along.
Major Conrad, with his detachment, found his way to Keetsville and Cassville, which place he left on the 9th, and arrived at the former place, with Colonel Wright, some time after I had opened the road to Cassville on the pursuit of Price's force, which retired from Keetsville to Berryville.
II.--Retreat from McKisick's farm, by Bentonville, to Camp Halleck, on Sugar Creek.
At 2 o'clock in the morning of the 6th the troops encamped at McKisick's farm moved forward towards Bentonville in the following order:
Advance guard, under Asboth: One company of Fourth Missouri Cavalry (Fremont Hussars); Second Ohio Battery, under command of Lieutenant Chapman; Fifteenth Missouri Volunteers, under command of Colonel Joliat. Train of First and Second Divisions, escorted and guarded by detachments of the respective regiments. The First Division, under Colonel Osterhaus. The flying battery, the Fifth Missouri Cavalry (Benton Hussars), and the squadron of the Thirty-sixth Illinois Cavalry, Captain Jenks.
Before leaving camp I detached Lieutenant Schipper, of Company A, Benton Hussars, with 20 men, to Osage Springs, to communicate with Colonel Schaefer, and to bring news to Bentonville as soon as the enemy would approach that place.
The advance guard of General Asboth arrived at Bentonville at 4 o'clock, when I directed him to halt until the train had come up more close. He then proceeded to Sugar Creek, followed by the train. Meanwhile the Second Missouri, Colonel Schaefer, and one part of the First Division arrived in town. I ordered this regiment, as well as the Twelfth Missouri, under command of Major Wangelin, the flying battery, under Captain Elbert, and the whole disposable cavalry force, under Colonel Nemett, comprising the Benton Hussars, the Thirty-sixth Illinois Cavalry, under Captain Jenks, and a squad of 13 men of Fremont Hussars, under Lieut. Fred. W. Cooper, to occupy and guard the town, to let the whole train pass, and remain at my disposition as a rear guard.
At 8 o'clock the train had passed the town and was moving on the road to Sugar Creek. With the intention not to be too close to the train and awaiting report from Lieutenant Schipper's picket at Osage Springs two hours elapsed, when ten minutes after 10 it was reported to me that large masses of troops, consisting of infantry and cavalry, were moving from all sides towards our front and both flanks.
After some observation I had no doubt that the enemy's advance guard was before us. I immediately called the troops to arms and made them ready for battle. As Bentonville is situated on the edge of Osage Prairie, easily accessible in front and covered on the right and left and rear by thick woods and underbrush, I ordered the troops to evacuate the town and to form on a little hill north of it. Looking for the Second Missouri, I learned to my astonishment that it had already left the town by a misunderstanding of my order. I am glad to say that this matter is satisfactorily explained by Colonel Schaefer, but at the same time I regret to report that this regiment was ambuscaded on its march and lost in the conflict 37 men in dead, wounded, and prisoners.
The troops now left to me consisted of about eight companies of the Twelfth Missouri, with an average strength of 45 men, five companies of Benton Hussars, and five pieces of the flying battery; in all about 600 men. The troops I directed to march in the following order: Two companies of the Twelfth at the head of the column, deployed on the right and left as skirmishers, followed by the flying battery; one company of the same regiment on the right and one on the left of the pieces, marching by the flank, and prepared to fire by ranks to the right and left, the remainder of the regiment behind the pieces, two companies of cavalry to support the infantry on the right and left, and the rest of the cavalry, under command of Colonel Nemett, with one piece of artillery, following in the rear. In this formation, modified from time to time according to circumstances, the column moved forward to break through the lines of the enemy, who had already taken position in our front and in both flanks, whilst he appeared behind us in the town in line of battle, re-enforced by some pieces of artillery. The troops advanced slowly, fighting and repelling the enemy in front, flankward, and rear, wherever he stood or attacked.
From the moment we left the town, at 10.30 in the morning, until 3.30 o'clock in the afternoon, when we met the first re-enforcements--the Second Missouri, the Twenty-fifth Illinois, and a few companies of the Forty-fourth Illinois--we sustained three regular attacks, and were uninterruptedly in sight and under the fire of the enemy. When the first re-enforcement had arrived I knew that we were safe, and left it to the Twenty-fifth and Second Missouri, and afterwards to Colonel Osterhaus, to take care of the rest, which he did to my satisfaction.
It would take too much time to go into the detail of this most extraordinary and critical affair, but as a matter of justice I feel it my duty to declare that according to my humble opinion, never troops have shown themselves worthier to defend a great cause than on this day of the 6th of March.
III.--Battle of the 7th, near Leesville [Leetown] and on Pea Ridge.
In the night of the 6th the two divisions were encamped on the plateau of the hills near Sugar Creek and in the adjoining valley separating the two ridges extending along the creek. The Second Division held the right, the First the left of the position, fronting towards the west and southwest, in order to receive the enemy should he advance from the Bentonville and Fayetteville road. Colonel Davis' division, forming the center, was on our left, and Colonel Carr covered the ground on the extreme left of our whole line.
Early in the morning report came in that troops and trains of the enemy were moving the whole night on the Bentonville road around our rear towards Cross Timber, thereby endangering our line of retreat and communication to Keetsville, and separating us from our re-enforcements and provision trains. This report was corroborated by two of my guides, Mr. Pope and Mr. Brown, who had gone out to reconnoiter the country. I immediately ordered Lieutenant Schramm, of my staff, to ascertain the facts, and to see in what direction the troops were moving. On his return he reported that there was no doubt in regard to the movement of a large force of the enemy in the aforesaid direction. You then ordered me to detach three pieces of the flying battery to join Colonel Bussey's cavalry in an attack against the enemy in the direction of Leesville. Colonel Osterhaus was directed to follow him with three regiments of infantry and two batteries.
At about 11 o'clock the firing began near Elkhorn Tavern and Leesville. To see how matters stood, I went out to Colonel Carr's division, and found him a short distance beyond the tavern, engaged in a brisk cannonade. Several pieces, partly disabled and partly without ammunition, were returning, whilst another advanced from the camp. As the enemy's fire was directed to the place where I halted, I ordered two pieces of the battery which came up to take position on an elevated ground to the left and to shell the enemy. After a few shots the fire of the enemy opposite our position became weaker, and I sent the two pieces forward to join their battery. I then returned to look after my own troops, and passing along the road met the Third Iowa Cavalry, which had been sent in advance of Colonel Osterhaus, and which now escorted their lieutenant-colonel, who was severely wounded, back into the camp. I immediately sent to you to order the regiment back to Leesville, which order was given, and the regiment returned. I met Lieutenant Gassen, of the flying battery, who reported to me that our cavalry had been driven back by an overwhelming force, and our three pieces taken by the enemy, as there was no infantry to support them. I now ordered Major Meszaros and the two other pieces of the flying battery to re-enforce Colonel Osterhaus, but during their march I learned that Colonel Davis had been directed to advance with his whole division to Leesville, which induced me to send only Major Meszaros to that point, and directed the two pieces of the flying battery to act as reserve, and to join the troops left in their encampment. Proceeding to the camp to see what was going on there and whether we were safe in our rear (towards Bentonville), I found the following troops assembled in their respective positions: The Seventeenth Missouri and a detachment of 60 men of the Third Missouri; the Twenty-fifth and the Forty-fourth Illinois ; two pieces of Welfley's battery (12-pounders) ; two companies Thirty-sixth Illinois Cavalry, and nearly the whole Second Division, comprising the Second and Fifteenth Missouri, Carlin's battery, and two companies of the Benton Hussars.
It was about 2 o'clock in the afternoon when the cannonading and musket firing became more vehement, and when you ordered me to re-enforce Colonel Carr at Elkhorn Tavern, and Colonel Davis and Colonel Osterhaus near Leesville, as both forces, especially those at Leesville, were, according to your reports, pressed hard and losing ground. I therefore sent General Asboth, with four companies of the Second Missouri, under Colonel Schaefer, and four pieces of the Second Ohio Battery, under Lieutenant Chapman, to assist Colonel Carr. Major Poten, with the Seventeenth Missouri, one company of the Third Missouri, two companies of the Fifteenth Missouri, two pieces of the flying artillery, under Captain Elbert, and two companies of the Benton Hussars, under Major Heinrichs, I ordered to advance on the Sugar Creek road towards Bentonville, to demonstrate against the rear of the enemy. Two pieces of the Second Ohio Battery, with six companies of the Second Missouri, remained in their position to guard the camp and two companies of the Forty-fourth Illinois, with 20 men of the Thirty-sixth Illinois Cavalry, under Captain Russell, were sent forward in a northwestern direction, to remain there as a picket between Leesville and the Sugar Creek road. With all other troops--the Fifteenth Missouri, the Twenty-fifth and Forty-fourth Illinois, and the two pieces of Captain Welfley's battery--I marched to Leesville, to re-enforce Colonels Davis and Osterhaus. My intention was to throw back the enemy from Leesville into the mountains and towards Bentonville, and then, by a change of direction to the right to assist General Asboth and Colonel Carr by deploying on their left.
On my march to Leesville, I heard Major Poten's firing on the Bentonville road. Arrived at Leesville, the firing in front had ceased, whilst it commenced with new vehemence on the right, at Elkhorn Tavern. At this moment Captain McKenny, acting assistant adjutant-general, requested me, by order of General Curtis, to send some more re-enforcements to the right, which I did, by detaching five companies of the Twenty-fifth Illinois and four pieces of Captain Hoffmann's battery, stationed in reserve at Leesville, to Elkhorn Tavern. I then proceeded beyond the town to the battle-field, which I found in full possession of Colonels Davis and Osterhaus. As no enemy could be seen except a small detachment on a distant hill, I requested Colonel Davis to protect my left flank, by sending his skirmishers and one regiment of infantry forward through the woods, whilst I proceeded with the Twenty-fifth Illinois and four pieces of Welfley's and Hoffmann's batteries on the road to the northeast, which was already opened by the Forty-fourth Illinois and Fifteenth Missouri. After making 1 mile and passing two hospitals of the enemy I ordered Colonel Osterhaus to follow me with the Twelfth Missouri and Thirty-sixth Illinois and a section of artillery, which troops came up promptly, except the two pieces, 12-pounders, that remained with Colonel Davis. We advanced slowly, and after making half a mile more we reached an open field, where we took our position, and from which we could easily discern the camp-fires of our friends and those of our enemies near Elkhorn Tavern. I sent immediately to General Curtis to apprise him of my position and that I was ready to co-operate with him. Meanwhile night had fallen in, and although the cannonading was renewed on the right, I did not believe that after a hard day's work the enemy would make a final and decisive attack. In order, therefore, to disguise our position from which I intended to advance in the morning I kept the troops in the strictest silence, and did not allow the building of camp-fires or any movement farther than 200 to 300 paces distance. So we remained until 1 o'clock in the morning, when I found it necessary to remove the troops by a short and convenient road into our common camp, to give them some food, sleep, and a good fire, and to prepare them for battle.
To show the whole position of the First and Second Divisions on the evening of the 7th, allow me, general, to make the following statement:
Beginning on the left, Major Poten, with the Seventeenth Missouri, one company of the Third Missouri, two companies of the Fifteenth Missouri, two pieces of the flying artillery, and two companies of the Benton Hussars were stationed on the Sugar Creek and Bentonville road, 3 miles from the camp. The entrance of the road from this side was guarded by two pieces of the Second Ohio Battery and six companies of the Second Missouri. Towards the north (Leesville) two companies of the Forty-fourth Illinois and 20 men of the Thirty-sixth Illinois Cavalry remained on picket. On the right, near Elkhorn Tavern, were the following troops: Four companies of the Second Missouri, five companies of the Twenty-fifth Illinois, four pieces of the Second Ohio Battery, and four pieces of Captain Hoffmann's battery. In the field to the left of General Asboth and Colonel Cart, under my immediate command, were the Twelfth Missouri, the Fifteenth Missouri, the Twenty-fifth, Thirty-sixth, and Forty-fourth Illinois, two pieces of Captain Welfley's and two pieces of Captain Hoffmann's batteries. The Fremont and Benton Hussars and one section of Captain Welfley's battery returned to camp with Colonel Davis.
The detachment of Major Conrad, consisting of six companies of infantry detailed from the Third, Fifteenth, and Seventeenth Missouri and Thirty-sixth Illinois, and one piece of Captain Welfley's battery, was encamped a few miles west of Keetsville.
One piece of Captain Welfley's battery was spiked and then taken by the enemy, but retaken and unspiked. Three pieces of Captain Elbert's flying battery had been lost near Leesville, the trails burned by the enemy, and the guns left on the battle-field. Another piece of this battery had broken down on the retreat from Bentonville to Sugar Creek, but the gun was recovered and brought into camp.
IV.--Battle of the 8th, near Elkhorn Tavern.
The different combats of the 7th had fully developed the plans of the enemy. It was evident that his main forces were stationed near and at Elkhorn Tavern, and that he would make all efforts to break through our lines on the Fayetteville road, and thereby complete his apparent victory. I therefore resolved to recall all troops and different detachments of the First and Second Divisions from wherever they were stationed (with the exception of four companies of the Second Missouri and four pieces of artillery from the Second Ohio Battery sent to their original position on Sugar Creek), and to fall upon the right flank of the enemy should he attack or advance from Elkhorn Tavern. At daybreak of the 8th the following troops were assembled near and around my headquarters awaiting orders:
First Division, Colonel Osterhaus: Two companies Third Missouri Volunteers; Twelfth and Seventeenth Missouri; Twenty-fifth, Thirty-sixth, and Forty-fourth Illinois; Welfley's battery, five pieces; Hoffmann's battery, six pieces; Captain Jenks' squadron of the Thirty-sixth Illinois. Second Division, General Asboth, Second Missouri, six companies; Fifteenth Missouri; two pieces Second Ohio Battery, Lieutenant Chapman; battalion (four companies) Fourth Missouri Cavalry (Fremont Hussars); six companies Fifth Missouri Cavalry (Benton Hussars); two pieces of Captain Elbert's flying battery.
It was about 7 o'clock in the morning when the firing began on the Keetsville road, this side of Elkhorn Tavern. I was waiting for Colonel Osterhaus and Lieutenant Asmussen, of my staff, who had gone out to reconnoiter the ground on which I intended to deploy and to find the nearest road to that ground. The Forty-fourth Illinois had already been sent in advance to form our right, when the above-named officers returned and the movement began. In less than half an hour the troops were in their respective positions, the First Division forming the first line, the Second Division, with all the cavalry, the reserve, 250 paces behind the first line. To protect and cover the deployment of the left wing I opened the fire on the right with a section of Captain Hoffmann's battery, under Lieutenant Frank, and the five pieces of Captain Welfley's battery. The enemy returned the fire promptly and with effect, but was soon outflanked by our position on the left and exposed to a concentric and most destructive fire of our brave and almost never-failing cannoneers.
After the first discharges on a distance of 800 paces I ordered Captain Welfley and Lieutenant Frank to advance about 250 yards, to come into close range from the enemy's position, whilst I threw the Twenty-fifth Illinois forward on the right, to cover the space between the battery and the Keetsville road. Colonel Schaefer, with the Second Missouri, was ordered to proceed to the extreme left, and by forming against the cavalry, to protect our left flank. This movement proved of great effect, and I now ordered the center and the left to advance 200 paces and brought the reserve forward on the position which our first line had occupied. I then took a battery commanded by Captain Klauss, and belonging to Colonel Davis' division, nearer to my right, and reported to you that the road towards Elkhorn Tavern was open and we were advancing. About this time, when the battle had lasted about one hour and a half, the enemy tried to extend his line farther to the right, in occupying the first hill of the long ridge commanding the plain and the gradually rising ground where we stood. His infantry was already lodged upon the hill, seeking shelter behind the rocks and stones, whilst some pieces of artillery worked around to gain the plateau. I immediately ordered the two howitzers of the reserve (Second Ohio, under Lieutenant Gansevoort) and the two pieces of Captain Elbert's flying battery to report to Colonel Osterhaus on the left, to shell and batter the enemy on the hill. This was done in concert with Hoffmann's battery and with terrible effect to the enemy, as the rocks and stones worked as hard as the shells and shot. The enemy's plan to enfilade our lines from the hill was frustrated, and he was forced to lead a precipitate retreat with men and cannon. Encouraged by the good and gallant behavior of our troops, I resolved to draw the circle a little closer around the corner into which we had already pressed the enemy's masses, and ordered a second advance of all the batteries and battalions, changing the position of the right wing more to the left, and bringing the troops of the reserve, the Fifteenth Missouri, and the whole cavalry behind our left.
Assisted by Kiauss' battery on the right, and co-operating with the troops of the Third and Fourth Divisions, who advanced with new spirit on the Keetsville road, the enemy was overwhelmed by the deadly power of our artillery, and after about an hour's work the firing on his side began to slacken, and nearly totally ceased. To profit this favorable moment I ordered the Twelfth Missouri, the Twenty-fifth and Forty-fourth Illinois to throw forward a strong force of skirmishers and take the woods in front, where the enemy had planted one of his batteries. In the same time I ordered the Seventeenth Missouri Volunteers, which had arrived during the battle from Bentonville road, to climb the hill on our left and to press forward against the enemy's rear. The Thirty-sixth Illinois was also ordered to assist this movement and to hold communication between the Twelfth and Seventeenth Missouri Volunteers, whilst Colonels Schaefer and Joliat, with the Second and Fifteenth Missouri, followed slowly, and Colonel Nemett, with his cavalry, guarded the rear.
The rattling of musketry, the volleys, the hurrahs, did prove very soon that our troops were well at work in the woods, and that they were gaining ground rapidly. It was the Twelfth Missouri Volunteers, under Major Wangelin, which at this occasion took Dallas' artillery and their flag, followed close behind and on the right by part of the Third Missouri, the Forty-fourth Illinois, and Twenty-fifth and on the left by the Thirty-sixth Illinois. The Seventeenth Missouri, under Major Poten, had meanwhile arrived on the top of Pea Ridge, forming the extreme left of our line of battle.
The enemy was routed and fled in terror and confusion in all directions. It was a delightful moment when we all met after 12 o'clock on the eminence, where the enemy held positions with his batteries a few minutes before, and when you let pass by the columns of your victorious army.
To pursue the enemy I sent Captain von Kielmansegge with one company of Fremont Hussars forward. The Seventeenth and Third Missouri followed in double-quick time, assisted by two pieces of Elbert's flying artillery, other troops of the First Division, all under Colonel Osterhaus, came up and continued their march towards Keetsville.
At the fork of the Benton and Keetsville roads I detached the Forty-fourth Illinois (Colonel Knobelsdorff), two pieces of artillery of the flying battery, and a squad of 30 men, Fremont Hussars, to proceed a short distance on the road to Bentonville and to guard that road. Arrived at Keetsville with the greatest portion of my command. I found that one part of the enemy had turned the Roaring River and Berryville, while others had turned to the left. I also received your order to return to Sugar Creek, which I did, and met the army on Sugar Creek at 4 o'clock in the evening of the 9th.
A list of the dead, wounded, and missing of this command has already been transmitted to you, and a special report mentioning those officers and men of my command who deserve consideration for their conduct in action, together with the reports of the different commanders of regiments and corps, will follow to-day, as some of the reports have not come in yet.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Commanding First and Second Div.
Brig. Gen. SAMUEL R. CURTIS,
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