Battle of Pea Ridge
or Elkhorn Tavern, Arkansas
MARCH 6 - 8, 1862

No. 20.

Report of Col. Julius White, Thirty-seventh Illinois Infantry, commanding Second Brigade

Camp on Sugar Creek, Arkansas, March 11, 1862.

GENERAL: In obedience to your order, received at about 1 p.m. of the 7th instant, this command, consisting of the Thirty-seventh Illinois Volunteers, the Fifty-ninth Illinois Volunteers (late Ninth Missouri), and the Peoria Light Artillery, in all about 950 men, took position in front of the enemy near Leetown. The force we encountered consisted of the Third Louisiana, Colonel Hébert, a regiment formerly commanded by General McIntosh, Colonel Mitchell's and Colonel McRae's two regiments of Arkansans, and a large body of Indians, under command of Col. Albert Pike, with a reserve of several other regiments, all being under the chief command of General Benjamin McCulloch.

The enemy taking position in a dense thicket on our right, this command was moved in and formed in line of battle in perfect order within 150 yards of the enemy's front. Both lines then advanced slowly, not a gun being fired until the distance between them was reduced 60 or 70 yards, when the fire opened almost simultaneously from both sides, and was maintained for about three-quarters of an hour with very little intermission at very short range. At this time, finding that the enemy was outflanking our right, notwithstanding I had deployed this command to an extent which was of itself hazardous in the effort to prevent such a result, and desiring to execute a change of front corresponding to the requirements of the emergency, I threw back the Thirty-seventh Illinois in good order to the corner of the field on our left, where it was again formed. While in the execution of this movement a fresh regiment of the enemy made a sudden charge from the brush-wood, and after disabling a number of horses by a volley succeeded in capturing two guns of the light artillery. Their triumph was short-lived, however, for the Thirty-seventh Illinois immediately fired upon them and charged, routing their right wing at the same time that the First Brigade, under Colonel Pattison, came into action on our right, driving the left wing of the enemy in confusion from the field and retaking our guns. After following the enemy into the woods about a mile beyond the battle-field this command rested for about two hours, when we marched, by your direction, to a position on the main road in the direction of Cassville, where we bivouacked for the night.

Among the officers, who all exhibited the utmost gallantry and efficiency, it is impossible to distinguish individuals.

Of Lieut. Col. M. S. Barnes, of the Thirty-seventh, and Lieut. Col. C. H. Frederick, of the Fifty-ninth, it is but just to say that they were cool, determined, and discharged their duty as commanding officers of their respective regiments in a manner that entitles them to the thanks of their countrymen.

Both Maj. John Charles Black, of the Thirty-seventh, and Maj. P. Sidney Post, of the Fifty-ninth, were wounded early in the engagement, each severely in the sword arm. The former continued on the field until peremptorily ordered by myself to leave it for the purpose of having his wound dressed. Major Post also refused to leave the field until it was insisted on by Surgeon Maynard.

Capt. C. V. Dickinson, of the Thirty-seventh, and Capt. Clayton Hale,  of the Fifty-ninth, who by virtue of seniority filled the places of Majors Black and Post respectively, discharged the duties devolving upon them with great gallantry and efficiency.

Adjts. Anton Nieman, of the Thirty-seventh, and Samuel West, of the Fifty-ninth, and all the officers of the line, without exception, deserve the highest praise. Not one flinched or shrank from his duty; in fact, the same may be said of all the non-commissioned officers and privates.

The Peoria Light Artillery company, under the command of Capt. Peter Davidson, deserves honorable mention. Although not brought into action until late in the day, their fire was delivered with precision and great effect, all the officers and men of that command displaying the utmost firmness and efficiency.

Our loss was as follows:

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All our wounded have been attended to by Asst. Surg. E. A. Clark, of the Thirty-seventh, and Maynard, of the Fifty-ninth, in the most assiduous manner. Their skill and zeal in the discharge of their responsible position is highly commendable.

Report of the engagement of the 8th instant.

On the morning of the 8th instant I took position in front of the enemy, our right resting on the Springfield road, three companies supporting the battery of the Peoria Light Artillery on the extreme right, and the remainder of the brigade to the left in an open field, with no shelter from the enemy's batteries but a rail fence. Our battery, by direction, opened fire the first of the day upon the woods in front, where a portion of the enemy's infantry were discovered in the act of forming their line of battle. Our fire was responded to by the guns of the enemy to our right, where they were masked by a dense growth of underbrush and within grape and canister distance. For about half an hour I sustained this position alone with but four guns, our infantry being entirely out of range and therefore useless, while at the same time they were greatly exposed to an enfilading fire, which began to tell upon them. At this time I directed a movement to the rear and about 250 yards distant, placing the infantry out of exposure from the enemy's artillery and establishing Davidson's battery on an eminence within easy range of the enemy. From this position our fire was renewed and told with manifest effect. The artillery of General Sigel's and Colonel Carr's divisions soon formed on our left and right, and the action became general. The artillery gradually advanced on the enemy, while my command, under the same order, moved to the right, in connection with the First Brigade, under Colonel Pattison, forming a continuous line and connecting with General Sigel's infantry. We now advanced in perfect order upon the enemy's left, delivering volley after volley with great rapidity, precision, and effect. The rout of the enemy was complete, and we halted at Elkhorn Tavern, about a mile and a half in advance of our first position, the pursuit of the enemy being continued by General Sigel's column.

The conduct of the officers and men was but a repetition of the previous day. None faltered; all performed their duty nobly. The Peoria Light Artillery, however, on this day had the opportunity, which they had not so fully before, to exhibit the great skill and bravery of their officers and the discipline and bravery of their men. The guns were served with the regularity and rapidity of a parade day, and under that terrific fire of shell, grape, and canister from more than double the number of their own guns for some time before any other artillery, except that of the First Brigade of this division, was brought into action. This battery was subsequently moved to the front and right, where, after taking position near the main road, it opened a very effective fire of canister upon the enemy, who was concealed in the brush, but was immediately routed from his position by this fire. The officers of this battery--Capt. Peter Davidson and Lieutenants Borris, Hansel, and Fenton--have exhibited all the qualifies requisite to the highest proficiency as officers and are entitled to the respect and thanks of their countrymen.

To Brigade Adjt. Isaac C. Dodge I am indebted for prompt aid at the commencement of the action of the 7th, but having been sent to yourself with a message, he was prevented from joining the command again until near the close of the action.

Chaplains Anderson, of the Thirty-seventh, and Shumate, of the Fifty-ninth, were present in the field, rendering all the aid in their power in removing the wounded and relieving their sufferings.

I should do injustice if I omitted to mention the very valuable aid received at various times from your aides, Cols. Henry Pease and Morrison; also from Adjutant Holstein. The person and voice of Colonel Pease were often seen and heard along the line, cheering and encouraging the men on to victory, regardless of personal danger, which he was under no obligation to encounter except on official business.

The quartermasters of both regiments--Captain Peck of the Thirty-seventh, and Brasher, of the Fifty-ninth, and Brigade Quartermaster S. M. Jones and Brigade Commissary A.D. Baker---have during the three days of the enemy's presence discharged their duties promptly and efficiently; their several departments, so essential to the welfare of troops, having always been in order.  

Our loss during the action of the 8th was as follows:

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I close this report with my warmest thanks to you, general: for the wisdom, firmness, and ability with which the movements of my command have been directed by yourself and for your kindness to my wounded.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


 Col. Thirty-seventh Ill. Vols., Comdg. Second Brig., Third Div.

 Actg. Brig. Gen. JEFFERSON C. DAVIS,

 Commanding Third Division.

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