Battle of Pea
Reports of Brig. Gen. A. Asboth, U. S. Army, commanding Second Division
HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION,
GENERAL: As General Nigel, under whose command you have placed me, with my division, has not yet returned to our camp, I beg to address you, general, directly, reporting that all the troops of the Second Division were yesterday, as well as now, in the night, entirely without forage; and as we are cut off from all supplies by the enemy, outnumbering our forces several times, and as one more day without forage will make our horses unserviceable, consequently the cavalry and artillery as well as the teams of no use at all, I would respectfully solicit a decided concentrated movement, with the view of cutting our way through the enemy where you may deem it more advisable, and save by this if not the whole at least the larger part of our surrounded army. I take the opportunity of mentioning the high valor of the Second Missouri Volunteers and Second Ohio Battery, which, supported by the First Iowa Battery, did save this afternoon, at a very critical time, our camp from the advancing enemy. Officers and men all did their duty gallantly, pressing the enemy until evening, when the last cartridge and artillery ammunition was exhausted.
I have especially to mention the gallant conduct of Colonel Schaefer, Lieutenant-Colonel Laibold, and Lieutenant Chapman, who was wounded in a manner which will deprive the army of his services for some time.
Finally, I have to communicate the gratifying news that the three pieces of the First Flying Battery, detailed this morning from my division to General Osterhaus, and supposed to have been taken by the enemy, have been brought in by Colonel Pattison, and that the two batteries will be able to resume the fight at daybreak.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Second Division.
General SAMUEL R. CURTIS,
Commanding Southwest Army.
HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION,
GENERAL: In compliance with Special Orders, No. 63, I have the honor to submit my report of the participation of the Second Division in the battles of the 6th, 7th, and 8th days of the present month at Bentonville, Sugar Creek, and Pea Ridge.
By way of preliminary I may allude to the happy union of the First and Second Divisions under your command. I say happy union, because I have never witnessed more perfect harmony either in camp or upon the battle-field. Native Americans and foreigners of varied nationalities have been aptly blended, and the fraternity of the troops finds its counterpart in that prevailing between the officers and commanders. No wonder the privations of our arduous winter campaign in the midst of a hostile populace, were so cheerfully borne, or that the friendliness thus engendered should result in so irresistible a co-operation upon the battle-field. Officers and men were all imbued with the earnest feeling that you would lead them only to victory, and you did so at a moment when experienced and brave soldiers admitted the critical character of our position. Allow me to thank you, general, in the name of my division, for your skillful leadership and the results achieved. As owing to the harmony alluded to the two divisions were consolidated for the engagement and their respective commands exchanged between their commanders as the occasion demanded it is impossible to give an exact report confined exclusively to either division. You alone can give the whole history. The commanders of divisions only can furnish you the materials, to be combined by yourself.
Thursday, March 6.--On the 5th of March, being encamped at McKisick's farm with my division, in close proximity to the First Division, 3½ miles southwest of Bentonville, I received orders from you at 11 o'clock p.m. to march at 2 o'clock on the following morning, in conjunction with the First Division, to Bentonville, and there to await further orders. We started accordingly in the following order: 1, company of Fremont's Hussars; 2, Fifteenth Missouri Volunteers; 3, Second Ohio Battery; 4, the train, in the order of respective commands; 5, First Division; 6, First Flying Battery; 7, Benton Hussars, and reached Bentonville at about 4 o'clock in the morning. Overtaken by you, and as information arrived that the Second Missouri Regiment, of my division, expected from Smith's Mill, was already near the town, you ordered me to continue the march in the same order to our old camp at Sugar Creek, yourself awaiting the Second Missouri Regiment, which with the Benton Hussars and the flying battery, was to form the rear guard of the column.
I had arrived at your old headquarters on Sugar Creek, with all the troops of the First and Second Divisions except the rear guard mentioned, after 10 o'clock a.m. but while arranging the encampments the verbal intelligence came that you were attacked and surrounded by a vastly superior force of the enemy at Bentonville. General Osterhaus and myself hastened with all our troops to your relief, and found you still engaged 5 miles off on the Sugar Creek-Bentonville road with the rebel troops, who were speedily routed.
By your order our forces were drawn up on the Bentonville-Sugar Creek road with all predictions against a fresh attack, but nothing more was heard of the rebel forces, and you effected a junction with the main body on the Telegraph road at its crossing of Sugar Creek Valley. The Benton Hussars, the Flying Battery, the Twelfth Missouri, and Second Missouri Volunteers took a prominent part in fighting their way though the Sugar Creek Valley, the last-named regiment losing Capt. Francis Kohr, of Company E, a most efficient officer, who was killed in the first attack, when deploying his company as skirmishers. Lieutenant-Colonel Laibold, commanding the Second Missouri Regiment, speaks in his official report (not found) of the bravery of Frederick Jaensch, acting assistant adjutant-general of Colonel Schaefer's brigade, and also of Capt. Walter Hoppe, of Company K, and also of Capt. Christian Burkhardt, of Company B, who gave a noble example to the rest of the troops, and I cheerfully make mention of them here.
Friday, March 7.--Intelligence having been received that the enemy was advancing in force with the view of cutting off our communication with Missouri and by approaches in other directions to surround us, General Curtis, commanding, ordered a force, composed of parts of all the different divisions, under command of General Osterhaus, to attack him at Leesville in concert with the Third Division, under command of General Jefferson C. Davis. The Benton and Fremont Hussars and the Flying Battery were directed to join him from my division. The First Brigade, under command of Colonel Schaefer, and comprising the Second and Fifteenth Missouri Volunteers, with the Second Ohio Battery, was directed to take position upon the heights this side of the Sugar Creek-Bentonville road, commanding it. The battle speedily opened both in the direction of Leesville and Keetsville, at Pea Ridge, and raged furiously, without involving the First Brigade of my division in the action. A few skirmishers from the heights on the opposite side of the valley and several wounded horses of the rebels without riders were all that we saw.
In the afternoon, between 3 and 4 o'clock, however, General Curtis, commanding, came personally with the information that the Fourth Division, under Acting Brigadier-General Carr, on our right, was hard pressed. All the troops were immediately ordered forward with the exception of two howitzers of the Ohio battery and six companies of the Second Missouri Volunteers, which were left in their old position on the Sugar Creek-Bentonville road. I myself was directed by you to take four companies of the Second Missouri Volunteers and four pieces of the Second Ohio Battery forward as quick as possible on the Telegraph road, with the view of meeting the remaining part of the First and Second Divisions on the contested battle ground this side of Elkhorn Tavern. Arriving there in advance of your troops, I found the Fourth Division already exhausted, the enemy pressing forward from the woods around Elkhorn Tavern to the open space on either side of the Telegraph road with great force, and seeing that in that critical moment no time was to be lost, I ordered the Second Ohio Battery to take position on the left of the road, and replacing the three pieces of the Iowa battery, under command of Capt. M. M. Hayden, to its right, opened at once a brisk and concentrated fire upon the enemy, checking instantly his advance, and at the same time rallying the partly faltering pieces of the Second Brigade, Fourth Division.
The artillery having kept up a steady fire for half an hour, and perceiving that the enemy was forced by it to abandon the woods this side of the tavern, the Second Missouri Infantry to the right and left of the artillery was deployed as skirmishers, under Colonel Schaefer, and advanced steadily to and through the woods to the fence, within 200 yards of the Elkhorn Tavern. Thus securing the advance of my artillery, I ordered the Second Ohio Battery forward to follow us to a position on and to the left of the road commanding the enemy's stronghold. Sharp firing and a hard contest were again maintained from this point until the enemy's battery was silenced, and the ammunition of the Second Ohio Battery being nearly exhausted, we retired in good order to our first position, to hold it at all hazards. Night, however, setting in, fighting ceased on both sides, and the four companies of the gallant Second Missouri Volunteers were ordered to remain as guard on the extreme line of our center for the night.
Lieutenant Chapman, commanding the Second Ohio Battery, was severely wounded during the action and was carried away by the surgeon. A musket-ball passed through my right arm, but did not disable me from continuing in command.
I take here the opportunity of mentioning the high valor of the Second Missouri Volunteers and the Second Ohio Battery, as well as the gallant co-operation of the Third Iowa Battery, under Captain Hayden. Officers and men all did their duty well and gallantly until the last cartridge was expended. I have especially to mention the gallant conduct of Colonel Schaefer, Lieutenant-Colonel Laibold, and the commander of the Second Ohio Battery, Lieutenant Chapman. They united coolness to energy and daring.
The First Flying Battery, of my division, ordered in the morning to join the Leesville expedition, suffered very severely. Three of its pieces, under command of Lieutenants Gassen and Schneider, followed by the First Missouri and Third Iowa Cavalry, with the larger portion of the Benton and Fremont Hussars, under command of Colonel Bussey, were engaged when the first attack was made upon the enemy's cavalry. The fire of the battery forced the rebels to retreat. Being, however, attacked from all directions and not supported by the cavalry, the three pieces were lost, but afterwards found burned, and recovered. Six men of the Flying Battery were killed on this occasion, 3 wounded, and 8 missing. The rest of the battery, under command of Captain Elbert, with a part of the Seventeenth and Fifteenth Missouri Volunteers and two companies of the Benton Hussars, under command of Major Heinrichs, were guarding the rear of the engaged army, and encountered the enemy about 4 miles from Sugar Creek, on the Bentonville road. They opened and exchanged fire with them with shell and spherical case shot until dark, when they retired towards their camps. The Benton Hussars, who were also, as stated, with the command of Colonel Bussey, report that on arriving at the field of contest, at 9.30 o'clock a.m., they participated in a momentarily unsuccessful encounter with the enemy, but that, forming again in the first open field, they held it during the remainder of the day, guarding Welfley's battery.
At 5.30 o'clock p.m., when the rest of the cavalry were withdrawn from the field, the Benton with two companies of the Fremont Hussars were left to maintain it during the night. Half the battalion of Fremont Hussars, under command of Lieutenant Howe, were, with the four companies of Benton Hussars, under command of Colonel Nemett, and in the affair just mentioned Lieutenant Clowes and 4 men were killed, 8 wounded, and 3 missing. The other half of the battalion, under command of Major Meszaros, charged, as he reports, near the town of Leesville, upon a regiment of the enemy's infantry. After the enemy had retreated on the left wing Major Meszaros was ordered by General Curtis to take his command to the support of General Carr, but not finding him, was ordered by the commanding officer to return to camp.
Saturday, March 8.--On this day the battle was resumed at 7 o'clock a.m., our center and right having first opened fire (I may say too soon), with a sharp and continuous return from the enemy. So severe was their fire as to imperil our camp before the First and Second Divisions had taken position on the left. Arriving there, however, the hottest artillery fire was opened, and the whole force moved from position to position like an immense machine, perfectly irresistible in its progress, under your command. The enemy, severely pressed upon every side, finally fled in wild disorder, leaving large numbers of his dead and wounded upon the ground--the Union army taking unmolested possession of his position, and the First and Second Divisions pursuing till night-fall to Keetsville, taking many prisoners, arms, and ammunition, and returning the next day to our common camp.
On that day of triumph to our arms the whole of the First and Second Divisions were united upon the open field in the full view of friend and foe, except four pieces of the Ohio battery, with four companies of the Second Missouri Volunteers, of my division, left as guard at our position in the Sugar Creek Valley. The two remaining pieces of the Flying Battery, with the Fremont and Benton Hussars and the Fifteenth Regiment Missouri Volunteers, were designated as the reserve in the beginning, but were soon drawn into the line of battle and ordered into action. Six companies of the Second Missouri Volunteers, with two howitzers of the Ohio battery, were sent towards the enemy's extreme right flank, southwest of Elkhorn Tavern, and forming our extreme left. The infantry, deployed as skirmishers, drove the enemy from a thicket at the foot of the hill, and there formed the general advance, the two howitzers of the Second Ohio Battery in the mean while dismounting the enemy's battery and driving their infantry from the top of a hill upon which it had formed.
I have to regret that the efficient Swiss regiment, Fifteenth Missouri Volunteers, whose beautiful flag floated so picturesquely throughout the battle-field, had not the opportunity they so ardently longed for of following their energetic commander, Colonel Joliat, to the heart of the conflict, and of attesting by their blood their devotion to the cause.
I feel bound to make honorable mention of the officers of my staff. They were always at hand, regardless of danger, where duty called them, especially during our desperate attack on the afternoon of the 7th. Lieutenants Gillen and Haskell, although for the first time in a severe engagement, stood coolly at my side under the hottest artillery and musketry fire, while Lieutenant Von Unrich, a soldier of European experience, carried my orders, dashing bravely and promptly through every danger. Mr. Ullfers, the accomplished topographical engineer of my division during the arduous campaigns of the last six months, although not called by his especial duties to the battle-field, was everywhere, regardless of danger, and while exhibiting an example of cool courage, gathered from the events of the moment many important features towards his topographical delineation of the battle ground.
Major Wiegand, recently of the Garibaldi Guard, who joined me the day before as a volunteer aide, deserves my hearty commendation. You yourself, general having been everywhere and having seen everything, know how well our men and officers generally behaved. Forward they always moved. Honor to them all.
My report of killed, wounded, and missing is herewith submitted. It shows commissioned officers killed, 3; wounded, 3; enlisted men killed, 17; wounded, 60; missing, 36. One hundred and twenty-six prisoners were delivered by Captain Hesse, provost-marshal of the Second Division to the grand provost-marshal Major Heinrichs. Over 350 stand of arms, with a large amount of ammunition and various implements of war, were also taken and delivered to Chief Quartermaster Carr. An artillery caisson taken is now with the Second Ohio Battery.
I submit topographical sketches of the extended Pea Ridge battlefield, with our and the enemy's position on the 7th and 8th of March, prepared by the topographical engineer of my division just so honorably mentioned, Mr. Ullfers. The sketch appertaining to your action at Bentonville will follow in a few days.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Second Division.
General FRANZ SIGEL,
Commanding First and Second Divisions.
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