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Friday, March 9, 2012

Civil War Photo Friday: The Aftermath of the Battle of Pea Ridge

On this day 150 years ago, the Confederacy west of the Mississippi was reeling from its defeat in what was arguably the most important battle of the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi Theater.

The Battle of Pea Ridge was fought from March 6-8 in northwestern Arkansas. Several good accounts of this battle are already online and in print, so I'm just going to look at its ramifications.

The Confederate thrust into Missouri by a rebel army led by Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn and numbering more than 16,500 had been stopped by Brig. Gen. Samuel Curtis' Union force of only 10,500. The Confederates suffered about 2,000 casualties during the battle, most notably the death of Brig. Gen. Benjamin McCulloch, pictured here.

Van Dorn had left his supplies far behind, and so for a week his troops, weary from forced marches and hard fighting, shambled their way south with little to eat but what they could scrounge or steal from the locals. Men deserted by the thousands.

It seems that after the battle the Confederate high command pretty much gave up on the region. Van Dorn and his Arkansas troops were transferred east of the river, and were shortly followed by General Price and his Missouri troops. There would be no major Confederate threat to Missouri for the rest of the war, unless you count Price's ill-fated 1864 raid/invasion, which provides the background to my Civil War novel.

The war west of the Mississippi was not finished, however. The Union high command was also hungry for troops to throw into the killing fields. Northern states west of the Mississippi were drained of many of their men, making what could have been a short campaign south through Arkansas and Louisiana a long and arduous struggle that was never completed.

With each side too weak to make a decisive impact on the other, much of the region was overtaken by guerrillas and bandits. The Battle of Pea Ridge was a victory for the Union, but a defeat for civilians of both sides.

1 comment:

  1. So basically they were just abandoned and left to their own devices.


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