The Battle of Pea Ridge — Full and Interesting Particulars — Three Days Hard Fighting — Three Battles and a Glorious Victory — Details, Incidents, &c. — List of Killed and Wounded of the 36th Illinois.
Correspondence of the Missouri Democrat.
THREE DAYS OF HARD FIGHTING — THREE BATTLES AND A GLORIOUS VICTORY.
After three days' hard fighting against 30,000 rebels, commanded by their ablest generals, we have won a victory decisive of important results. We have killed three generals, stampeded the rebel army, and produced a moral effect in the first battle on Arkansas soil that will be of great advantage to the national cause. The enemy himself offered battle, choosing his own ground, and we have whipped him out and utterly demoralized his forces.
For some days prior to the battle, General Curtis, whose headquarters was at Osage Springs, determined to retire and occupy a stronger position on Sugar Creek, in anticipation that the enemy, after Price's retreat, would probably rally and attempt to roll back the tide setting against him. About the first of the month, General Davis repaired with the Third Division to Sugar Creek. Colonel Carr remained at Cross Hollow, twelve miles in front, while Gen. Sigel was encamped on the extreme right, at Camp Cooper, near Bentonville, fourteen miles to Sugar Creek and twelve to Cross Hollows, our lines thus forming a triangle.
On the 4th inst., Col. Vandever with a detachment of cavalry, part of Col. Phelps's regiment, was sent on an expedition to Huntsville to reconnoiter the country, and Camp Mitchell in the vicinity, which was ascertained to be evacuated, the rebel regiments having gone to join Price.
Capt. Stevens, of Bowen's battalion took in a quantity of sugar and other provisions, together with three secession flags and a snare drum.
The salt found in camp was distributed among Union families.
Col. Vandever learning from the report of prisoners taken, that the rebels in overwhelming force were marching to attack Gen. Curtis, left for Sugar Creek, making a forced march of forty-one miles, reaching the latter place next day in safety via War Eagle Creek.
On Wednesday, the 5th, Gen. Curtis received reliable intelligence that the rebels were advancing, and intended to make an attack the next morning. They were reported to have seventy pieces of artillery, and a force numbering from 35,000 to 40m000 men. Their pickets were at Elm Springs, eight miles distant. Several of our foraging parties in that direction were taken in.
In pursuance of his original design, Gen. Curtis ordered Col. Carr and Gen. Sigel to move immediately and form a junction with Gen. Davis at Sugar Creek. Col. Carr moved his Division across the divide the same night. Owing to a lack of transportation some of our stores and Dr. Hunt's medical chest, containing his surgical instruments, were left behind and destroyed.
Early Thursday morning Sigel's division was moving from Camp Cooper, beyond Bentonville, for Sugar Creek. His rear guard composed of the 12th Missouri infantry, Captain Jenk's battalion of cavalry, attached to the Thirty-sixth Illinois, two companies Benton Hussars, and six pieces of flying artillery, (Albert's battery,) left camp at 6 A.M. The main column marched through Bentonville without observing any indications of the enemy. General Sigel and staff, together with the rear guard, arrived at Bentonville in an hour and a half. While resting here, a black line was observed on the prairie towards the south, which at first attracted no particular attention. Sigel, with his glass soon became convinced that the line was in motion. Soon secesh flags were seen moving on Bentonville, and the prairie became black with the rebel masses of cavalry and infantry. The rebel cavalry moved up rapidly, and deploying to the right and left, surrounded the town. — Clouds of cavalry were still observed advancing at rapid speed.
Sigel moved forward the rear guard across a ravine on the margin of the town, and the opposite side of the ravine was occupied by the rebels, who came rushing up with a yell.
Noticing that they had formed on his rear, he detached four companies of cavalry to hold them in check. Opening his lines right and left he sent his artillery to the front, to meet a force drawn up in line of battle a mile out of town.
Turning to Captain Jenks, who had come forward to support the battery, Sigel said "Captain, the enemy are on our front, on either side of us, and all around us." Then raising his hand to a level with his shoulder, and lunging it down with each sentence, exclaimed, "We must advance; we must cut our way through;" and concluding emphatically, "we shall cut our way through." Sigel then got off his horse, and personally superintended the planting of the pieces in position. He opened fire on the enemy in front, every shot having a telling effect on the enemy's ranks, which faltered and fell back in the woods. A rapid advance of our column then took place, the enemy seeming to retreat on either side, but instead they made a detour and formed again two miles further on at the entrance of a deep gorge. On reaching this position, it was found they were supported by a large body of infantry, whose advance preceded our arrival by taking a shorter road. The infantry were placed in ambuscade, covered by the crest of a hill. Our troops pushed forward into the gorge along which the road runs, when suddenly a galling fire of musketry was poured in along our whole line, form the top of the hill along our left flank. The Twelfth Missouri charged up the hill in face of the fire, and drove the rebels over the hill.
During the charge, Sigel ordered two pieces forward about a mile to a point where he could see the hill where the rebels supposed they were under cover. The guns were masked by a grove, and were not observed by the rebels. As soon as this battery was planted two cannon shots were fired from the head of the column in the valley, producing no effect but deceiving the enemy. A rapid advance of the whole column was then made, and as we receded from the enemy the latter covered the hill in large numbers, advancing on our rear. The masked battery in front thus opened on them, the balls passing over our column still in the gorge, which caused such destruction to the rebels that they scattered in all directions and ceased to molest us any further.
Co. B, Thirty-sixth Illinois, and part of Co. A, were left in charge of a broken down ammunition wagon, and falling behind, were surprised by 150 mounted secesh. The latter came up so suddenly that they were taken for our men, when the leader shouted out, "lay down your arms or we will kill every man of you." Our men having no one to command, obeyed the rebel order, and threw down their arms and delivered themselves up.
About fifty surrendered. A company of the Twelfth Missouri coming up directly after, fired a volley into the secesh, and nearly all of the Illinois boys made their escape in face of a fire of the enemy. Twenty-two of the number, including Lieut. Walker, and Sergeant P. Douglas, are still prisoners. The dead bodies of the secesh were observed lining the road near Sigel's rear guard, as the attack of the gallant Twelfth occurred near where Sigel planted his batteries the first time.
The valley of Sugar Creek runs nearly east and west, and we were posted on the bluffs on the northern side, in a position affording great5 natural advantages against the attack of the enemy from the south. Batteries were planted along the bluffs, some breast works were thrown up, and a traverse battery was erected so as to throw a cross fire on an enemy approaching through the valley. The enemy seemed to have too good evidence of our position to attempt to attack on this formidable side.
Intelligence was received Thursday night that they were marching on our flank by the Bentonville road. Tuesday morning a large force was ascertained to have taken a position directly on our rear at Elk Horn Tavern, between three and four miles from Sugar Creek valley. The enemy were also ascertained to be pouring in at this point along a road behind Leetown in countless numbers.
General Curtis, impressed with the critical condition of affairs, changed his front at right angles to our former position. Colonel Carr was immediately sent forward with his division to Elk Horn, to attempt a dislodgment of the army, under Price and Van Dorn, at the same time that the forces under McCulloch and McIntosh, pressing forward to join the former, were observed by Generals Davis and Sigel in the vicinity of Lee Town, a small hamlet some two miles west of Elk Horn Tavern. The two battles, which raged nearly all next day near these two points, were severely contested, and terribly destructive on both sides.
Facing towards the north from this point, the eye rests upon a high range of bluffs, half a mile distant, covered with brush and timber. The intervening ground is low and broken, and also densely wooded. The Lafayette road winds through here, and on both sides of the latter our troops were deployed to meet a concealed enemy who had his batteries in position, and whose numbers were unknown. Col. Vandever's Brigade formed, and plunged bravely forward into the brush on the left of the road. The enemy were encountered and driven from their places of concealment. Their batteries, which sent shell and ball crashing through the brush, were silenced, or forced to take a new position. The Iowa batter, which was brought to play on the rebels, caused them to fly over the brow of the hill, which at one time was covered with Louisiana white coats.
The Iowa Ninth and Col. Phelp's regiment both suffered, and were badly cut up.
About half past 10, Col. Dodge's brigade formed on the right hand side of the road, the Thirty-fifth Illinois, under G. A. Smith, resting on the left, the Fourth Iowa on the center, and one section of the Third Illinois cavalry on the right. They had one section of the First Iowa battery, commanded by Col. David. After forming, the enemy opened upon them with artillery, and kept up the fire four hours.
The first skirmishing that ensued a number of our men were killed and wounded. — The contest getting unequal, from the immense force the enemy displayed, Col. Carr sent orders from time to time to drop back. At two o'clock the enemy endeavored to flank us, when a new line was formed, and the front was changed along the north side of an open field, facing the enemy. Three regiments of rebel infantry and regiment of rebel cavalry had outflanked our position. — They advanced and poured in a terrific fire, while the grapeshot from their batteries swept through our ranks, crash after crash. At this time the ammunition gave out of our battery, and the latter was taken from the field. A section of a German batter was brought into the field to take the place of the First Iowa battery.
The fighting raged until our regiments were badly cut up, when an order was received to move to an open field a mile nearer to our camp. The enemy pursued, and the cannonade did not cease in that direction till dark. In abandoning our position held in the morning, fears were entertained that the enemy would in the exultation of supposed victory, surprise our camp during the night. Our men fought gallantly all day, without flinching, as is evident by the loss sustained.
The enemy had fifteen thousand to our three thousand five hundred, a disparity of force almost unequalled. Some quartermaster stores at Elk Horn Tavern fell into their hands, all of which were used by them except the desiccated vegetables and potatoes, they having no idea for what purpose these articles were used. Our loss in killed and wounded was severe. Lieut. Col. Chandler was captured with twenty men. Col. Carr was wounded in the wrist, and a grape shot grazed his neck.
Corporal J. H. Rowies, while spiking a gun, was shot in both legs, not mortally. — Capt. Hayden, of Dubuque battery, lost two men killed, and had 18 wounded — several mortally. Fifteen of the Third Illinois Cavalry were wounded. Colonel Smith, of the Thirty-fifth Illinois, was wounded in leg and breast.
Col. Dodge went into the fight with 610 men, and at night had 70 killed and 50 wounded. Col. Vandever could count only 175 men. Half his commissioned officers were killed or wounded. Col. Phelps had four horses shot under him, and half his officers were killed and wounded.
Lieut. Col. Herron, of the Ninth Iowa, was captured, with several of his men. His horse was shot under him, and his ankle being fractured by the fall, he fell into the enemy's hands when our line fell back, and they started in the direction of the camp, the command having been much scattered. Lieut. Col. Trimble was shot in the face by a minie ball, the latter entering the cheek and coming out under the ear; but he was able to leave the field on his horse. Colonel Russey rallied the other detachments of cavalry and got them in position, when the cavalry returned. Of two hundred and fifty men composing the Third Iowa which went into the charge, 45 were killed and wounded. The enemy having taken three pieces and pressed us closely, we fell back to a large open field a quarter of a mile west of Leeville, where the second brigade of Gen. Osterhaus's division, under Colonel Grousel, of the Thirty-sixth Illinois, had taken position early in the day. The cavalry stampede caused confusion, but order was soon restored by Colonel Greusel, who commenced throwing shot and shell from Hoffman's batter on the enemy's cavalry, just on the point of making a charge Colonel Gruesel then threw forward Captains Miller and Parkhurst, of companies B and G, Thirty-sixth Illinois, as skirmishers to find the position of the enemy in the brush. Miller's men advanced in fine style, fired on the enemy's pickets just as he discovered six regiments in line. Here it is claimed that Ben McCulloch was killed by Peter Pelican, a Frenchman, who saw him roll off his horse,