Battle of Pea
Report of Maj. Gen. Sterling Price, commanding Missouri State Guard ( Confederate).
HEADQUARTERS MISSOURI STATE GUARD,
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit to Major-General Van Dorn the following report of the part taken by the Missouri troops in the action of the 6th, 7th, and 8th instant:
That officer having arrived at Cove Creek and assumed command of the Confederate forces in Western Arkansas, I gladly placed myself and my army under his orders, and in obedience to these took up the line of march in the direction of Bentonville on the morning of March 4, provided with three days' cooked rations, and leaving my baggage and supply trains to follow slowly in the rear.
My forces consisted of the First Brigade Missouri Volunteers, Col. Henry Little commanding; the Second Brigade, Brigadier-General Slack commanding; a battalion of cavalry, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Cearnal, and the State troops, under the command of Brigadier-Generals Rams, Green, and Frost, Cols. John B. Clark, Jr., and James P. Saunders, and Major Lindsay, numbering in all 6,818 men, with eight batteries of light artillery.
With these I reached Elm Springs on the evening of the 5th, and on the morning of the 6th advanced to Bentonville where burning houses indicated the presence of the enemy. Colonel Gates' regiment of cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Cearnal's battalion, and the mounted men of General Rains' command were rapidly pushed forward to the east of the town and soon became briskly engaged with what proved to be the rear guard of General Sigel's forces, the main body of which had passed through Bentonville that morning in the direction of Elkhorn Tavern, near which the enemy were encamped in force and strongly intrenched.
Skirmishing between our advance and this rear guard was kept up throughout the day, and resulted in the capture by us of quite a number of prisoners,. from whom we gained much useful information.
Towards evening we bivoucked as if for the night within 5 or 6 miles of the enemy, but resumed the line of march at 8 p.m., and, in spite of the impediments with which the enemy had sought to obstruct our way, reached a point on the Telegraph road to the north and in the rear of the enemy's position. A march of about 2 miles along the deep valley through which the road leads brought us within view of the plateau upon which the enemy were posted, and which lay to the north of the Elkhorn Tavern.
Our advance had already begun to skirmish with the vedettes of the enemy, when I discovered that they were about to place a battery in position to command the road. I at once deployed the brigades of General Slack and Colonel Little to the right and the rest of my forces to the left and took possession of the heights on either hand. This movement gave my artillery on the left a very commanding position, from which they were enabled not only to check the enemy's advance upon our left, but also to support our right in its advance upon the enemy.
The brunt of the action fell during the early part of the day upon my right wing, consisting of General Slack's and Colonel Little's brigades. They pushed forward gallantly against heavy odds and the most stubborn resistance, and were victorious everywhere.
At this time and here fell two of my best and bravest officers, Brig. Gen. William Y. Slack and Lieutenant-Colonel Cearnal, the former mortally and the latter severely wounded.
I now advanced my whole line, which gradually closed upon the enemy and drove them from one position to another, until we found them towards evening in great force on the south and west of an open field, supported by masked batteries.
The artillery and infantry of my left wing were brought up to attack them, and they did so with a spirit and determination worthy of all praise. The fiercest struggle of the day now ensued; but the impetuosity of my troops was irresistible, and the enemy was driven back and completely routed. My right had engaged the enemy's center at the same time with equal daring and equal success, and had already driven them from their position at Elkhorn Tavern. Night alone prevented us from achieving a complete victory, of which we had already gathered some of the fruits, having taken two pieces of artillery and a quantity of stores.
My troops bivouacked upon the ground which they had so nobly won almost exhausted and without food, but fearlessly and anxiously awaiting the renewal of the battle in the morning.
The morning disclosed the enemy strengthened in position and numbers and encouraged by the reverses which had unhappily befallen the other wing of the army, when the brave Texan chieftain, Ben. McCulloch, and his gallant comrade, General McIntosh, had fallen, fearlessly and triumphantly leading their devoted soldiers against the invaders of their native land. They knew, too, that Hébert--the accomplished leader of that veteran regiment the Louisiana Third, which won so many laurels on the bloody field of the Oak Hills, and which then as well as now sustained the proud reputation of Louisiana--was a prisoner in their hands. They were not slow to renew the attack; they opened upon us vigorously, but my trusty men faltered not. They held their position unmoved until (after several of the batteries not under my command had left the field) they were ordered to retire. My troops obeyed it unwillingly, with faces turned defiantly against the foe.
It was then that I lost two officers of whom any nation might be proud. The one, Col. Benjamin A. Rives, fell in the prime of his manhood, at the zenith of his usefulness. No braver or more gallant officer, no more accomplished gentleman, no more unselfish patriot ever led a regiment or died for his country's honor. The other, [S.] Churchill Clark, was, as Colonel Little justly observes in his report, "a child in simplicity and piety of character, a boy in years, but a soldier in spirit and a hero in action? They fell at the very close of the hard-fought battle, well-deserving the glowing praises which their immediate commander bestows upon them.
My forces were withdrawn in perfect order without the loss of a gun. For the details of all this I beg leave to make reference to the accompanying reports of my subordinate officers.
The conduct of nearly every officer and soldier under my command was such as to win my admiration; it is the less necessary that I should commend any one particularly to the notice of the major-general commanding, as the operations of my arms were conducted under his eye, while his presence and gallant bearing, as well as his skill, contributed immeasurably to the success of our cause.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major-General, Commanding Missouri State Guard.
Col. D. H. MAUEY,
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