This weekend the hallowed grounds of the Pea Ridge Battlefield that lies just a few miles northeast of Granny Mountain will mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battle between 26,000 Union and Confederate soldiers. The two day battle ended with a Confederate retreat and the loss of many lives.
The Battle of Pea Ridge was the most significant conflict in the war west of the Mississippi but even so, history books didn't give much attention to the battle. Even during the war there just wasn't as much interest in events that happened west of the Mississippi.
Last summer I made my first trip out to the Battlefield with GRANDson Gavin. After watching a very interesting film at the park's museum we drove through the fields where 3,400 soldiers lost their lives. It was a sobering feeling to think of the conditions that they fought under, bitter cold and the lack of supplies at this stage of the war took it's toll on an Army that was poor equipped to fight.
For as far as the eye can see, the terrain is wooded with deep ravines and rocky outcrops.
William L. Shea who co-authored Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West wrote, "A late winter storm swept across the Ozark Plateau and covered the roads with sleet and snow. The pace of the advance slowed to a crawl and the Confederates suffered immensely. Wrote a Missouri soldier: “It had turned bitter cold. We had no tents and only one blanket to each man. We built log heaps and set them afire to warm the ground to have a place on which to lie, and I remember well the next day there were several holes burned in my uniform by sparks left on the ground.” After two dreadful days and nights in the open, the shivering Confederates ate the last of their rations and set out for Bentonville on March 6. “Such a worn-out set of men I never saw,” remembered a Louisiana soldier. “They had not one single mouth full of food to eat.”
Elkhorn Tavern was used as a make-shift hospital for soldiers of the battle.
With the severity of their injuries and the limited means to operate, there were few survivors.
Re-enactments of the battle are planned on Friday in Bentonville (re-enactments are prohibited in National Parks) and on Saturday, volunteers will be placing 3,400 candles in luminaries throughout the Pea Ridge Battlefield's grounds to be lit at sundown. One candle for each soldier that died, an excellent way for us to realize the sheer numbers of men that sacrificed their lives on these battlefields.
For more information go to: Pea Ridge National Military Park