Today in History – Battle of Pea Ridge – March 7, 1862

Today in History – Battle of Pea Ridge – March 7, 1862

On March 7, 1862, Union forces under the command of General Samuel Curtis clashed with the Army of General Earl Van Dorn at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Sometimes referred to as the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern, in Northwest Arkansas.

Pea Ridge was part of a larger campaign that sought control of the state of Missouri. Several months earlier, the Confederates had defeated a Union force at Wilson’s Creek, approximately 70 miles Northeast of Pea Ridge. General Henry Halleck, the Federal commander in Missouri, organized an expedition to drive the Confederates from southwestern Missouri. In February 1862, General Samuel Curtis led his 12,000 man army toward Springfield, Missouri. Confederate General Sterling Price retreated from the city with 8,000 troops in the face of the Union advancement. General Price withdrew his troops into Arkansas, and Curtis followed close behind him.

General Curtis

General Curtis

General Price joined with another Rebel force under the command of General Ben McCulloch, and their combined army was placed under the leadership of General Earl Van Dorn, the commander of Confederates forces in the trans-Mississippi area. Van Dorn joined Price and McCulloch on March 2, 1862, and ordered an attack on Curtis’ army.

General Van Dorn

General Van Dorn

General Curtis received word of the approaching Confederates and concentrated his force around Elkhorn Tavern. Van Dorn sent part of his army on a march around the Yankee troops in an effort to catch them off guard from the rear.

On March 7, 1862 McCulloch attacked the Union forces from behind, but Curtis had anticipated the move and turned his men towards the advance in a preemptive attack. General McCulloch was ultimately killed during the battle, and the Confederate attack was thwarted. Meanwhile, the other remaining troops of General Van Dorn’s army attacked the front of Curtis’ command. Through fierce fighting, Curtis’ Union troops held their ground.

Battle Of Pea Ridge - Elkhorn Tavern

Battle Of Pea Ridge – Elkhorn Tavern

Curtis, suspected that the Confederates were low on ammunition, and attacked the divided Rebel army the following morning. Van Dorn realized he was in danger and ordered a retreat, which ended the battle. The Union Forces suffered approximately 1,380 men killed, wounded, or captured out of 10,000 engaged. The Confederates suffered a loss of around 2,000 out of 14,000 engaged.

The Union won a decisive victory that also helped them clear the upper Mississippi Valley region on the way to securing control of the Mississippi River by mid-1863.

Final Thoughts


As a National Military Park, Pea Ridge is obviously off limits to metal detecting. Detecting on a National Battlefield subjects you to Federal Penalties which may include incarceration and huge fines! However, the military missions in and around N.W. Arkansas and Southern Missouri encompassed several areas and with a little research and some luck, determined detectorists can probably secure permission from a few landowners. Remember to always ask permission to traverse private properties.

To visit Pea Ridge National Military Park which encompasses 4,300 acres and features a reconstructed Elkhorn Tavern, visitors center, museum, self-guided tours and a 2.5-mile segment of the “Trail of Tears.” Pea Ridge is located northeast of Rogers, along U.S. 62. 479-451-8122

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Photo Credits

General Curtis – WikiCommons

General Van Dorn – WikiCommons

Elkhorn Tavern – npsgov

Battle Image – oldgloryprints

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