By Dean Trickett
On assuming command of the Department of Indian Territory in November, 1862, General Albert Pike ordered the construction of a new fort to serve as headquarters of the department. The site selected by General Pike for the new military post was "a point on the south side of the Arkansas River, nearly opposite to and a little above the mouth of the Verdigris River."1 The post was named Cantonment Davis, but it was commonly known as Fort Davis.
"It is my intention," said Pike in a letter to Secretary of War Benjamin, "to throw up works there to command the crossing just below of the Arkansas River by the great road running from Missouri to Texas....The site is a very formidable one, on high ground commanding the crossing of the river, healthy, well watered, and well timbered."2
The buildings at the fort were erected under the supervision of William Quesenbury, brigade quartermaster.3 At one time Quesenbury had been a field clerk for Superintendent Elias Rector, and in the spring of 1861 he refused an appointment by the Federal Government as agent for the Creeks. During the negotiation of the Indian treaties, he acted as secretary to Albert Pike.
The statement made by a contemporary authority4 that the "Confederate Government expended upwards of a million dollars" in the construction of Fort Davis is undoubtedly a gross exaggeration. "In the erection of the buildings all possible economy is being observed," said Pike. "The buildings...consist of quarters for myself and staff officers, kitchens, and other necessary small buildings, all of them of planks or logs, and put up as cheaply as possible."5
General Pike was detained in Richmond through the months of November and December. The Indian treaties were submitted
1Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1904), Series I, LIII, 764. Hereafter cited as O. R. The site is about a mile northeast of Bacone Indian College, on the outskirts of the city of Muskogee. See Grant Foreman, "Fort Davis," The Chronicles of Oklahoma (Oklahoma City), XVII (1939), 147-50. A plat of Fort Davis is shown.
3Annie Heloise Abel, The American Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist (Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1915), 334. Quesenbury to Leeper, Nov. 28, 1861.
4Wiley Britton, Memoirs of the Rebellion on the Border, 1863 (Chicago: Cushing, Thomas & Co., 1882), 72.
to the Provisional Congress by President Davis on December 12,6 but Congress did not complete their ratification until the last day of the year.7 On December 24 President Davis approved an act by Congress "making appropriations to comply in part with treaty stipulations with certain Indian tribes."8 Under the provisions of that act, $681,869.15 in Treasury notes and specie was placed in the hands of General Pike for delivery to the superintendent of Indian affairs, Elias Rector, at Fort Smith, Arkansas.9 The specie—$265,927.50, all in gold except $65,000 in silver—was obtained partly in Columbia, South Carolina, where Pike arrived about the 5th of January,10 and partly in New Orleans.11
By the time General Pike reached Little Rock, Arkansas, late in January, 1862, he was well aware that the large sum of money he carried had aroused the cupidity of various persons. Writing to Superintendent Rector, he said:
"The Treasurer of the Choctaws means to sell the coin his people get, buy Confederate paper, and put the difference in his pocket. We must stop that. I think the best way will be for you to notify the Chief, Hudson, the amount to be paid in coin, and that you will pay it to the Treasurer only in the presence of three Commissioners appointed by himself....
"About 150 gamblers are here, following up the Indian moneys. I enclose an order requiring passports, that will keep them out of the Nation."12
Pike expected to start for Fort Smith January 31. "It will take me, I suppose," he wrote to Rector, "six days to reach Fort Smith with the money. This will bring me to the 5th, 6th or 7th of February."13
While Pike was in Little Rock, Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn arrived there to take command of the newly created Trans-Mississippi District, which embraced the Indian Territory. "He told me," said General Pike, "that he left me the sole control of the Indian country, and agreed that I should have three regiments of infantry then being raised in Arkansas."14
But shortly after his arrival at Fort Smith, General Pike received orders from Van Dorn to march all the Indian troops to Mount Vernon, in Lawrence County, Missouri.15 He was to co-
7Congress of the Confederate States of America, Journal (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904-5), I, 601, 602, 610, 611, 633, 634, 635. The treaties with the Osages and the Senecas and Shawnees were ratified Dec. 21; those with the Seminoles and Cherokees, Dec. 23; and those with the prairie Comanches, Reserve Indians, Choctaws and Chickasaws, Creeks, and Quapaws, Dec. 31.
12Abel, op. cit., 323-24. Pike to Rector, Jan. 28, 1862. In addition to the Indian moneys, Pike had in his custody "$445,734, funds for the department quarter-master; part of $25,000 for the purchase of arms, and $5,000 for engineer service." O. R., Series I, XIII, 975.
operate "in any emergency" with General Sterling Price, commanding the Missouri troops encamped near Springfield, but his command was "intended for defense alone or as a corps of observation on the Kansas border." General McCulloch, whose division was in winter quarters near Fayetteville and at Van Buren, Arkansas, also was ordered to send all his infantry, under command of Col. James McIntosh, to Springfield, and to move with his cavalry to Pocahontas, in northeastern Arkansas, where General Van Dorn had established headquarters. The order came too late.
"I received it," said General Pike, "after the enemy, pursuing General Price, had invaded Arkansas, and was thus relieved of the necessity of disobeying it."
"When information of this movement of the enemy reached Fort Smith," continued Pike, "and General McCulloch, disobeying the order to march to Pocahontas, ordered his command to Fayetteville, I sent orders to the two Cherokee regiments and the Creek regiment to advance toward Fayetteville and receive orders from General McCulloch."16
The appointment of General Van Dorn to the command of the Trans-Mississippi District was due to dissension that had long existed between General Price and General McCulloch. Their failure to act in full harmony during the fall of 1861 had led to indecisive results in the military campaigns in Missouri. Partisan writers in the press widened the breach,17 and the Provisional Congress finally took notice of the matter by adopting a resolution of inquiry January 3, 1862:
"Resolved, That the President be requested to cause the Secretary of War to transmit to congress all the information, including correspondence, within his possession or control, in regard to the cause of the troops under the command of Brigadier General Ben. McCulloch riot having hitherto cooperated, and not now cooperating with the forces under General Sterling Price, in the State of Missouri;..."18
After making an agreement in June, 1861, to respect the neutrality of the Cherokees and not to enter their country with troops, General McCulloch removed his two regiments of Arkansas and Louisiana volunteers from Fort Smith to Camp Jackson, near Maysville, in northwestern Arkansas,19 where he planned to organize an army and carry out instructions to protect the Indian Territory from invasion from any quarter. For that purpose the location of the camp was excellent, being only two miles from the boundary line between Arkansas and the Cherokee Nation and seven miles from the Missouri line.
Before the removal of the regiments had been completed, McCulloch received information that Governor Jackson and the Mis-
17W. H. Tunnard, History of the Third Regiment, Louisiana Infantry (Baton Rouge, La.: The Author, 1866), 154.
19O. R., Series I, III, 600. Camp Jackson was named in honor of the governor of Missouri (Tunnard, op. cit., 41), but it was sometimes called Camp Walker (O. R., Series I, III, 611). See also William Watson, Life in the Confederate Army (New York: Scribner & Welford, 1888), 181.
souri State Guard were retreating south from the Missouri River, endeavoring to reach General Price's camp in southwestern Missouri, and that Federal troops were attempting to cut them off. McCulloch marched to their rescue at once, leaving Camp Jackson on the 4th of July with Churchill's regiment of Arkansas mounted riflemen and some Arkansas state troops. On the following day the cavalry, under Colonel Churchill and Capt. James McIntosh, McCulloch's adjutant, captured a company of Federal infantry stationed at Neosho, Missouri; and on the 6th McCulloch formed a junction about twenty miles north of Neosho with Jackson and the State Guard, which the previous day had fought a running battle north of Carthage with Federal troops under Colonel Sigel. McCulloch returned to Camp Jackson July 9.20
The three generals—McCulloch of the Confederate Army, N. B. Pearce of the Arkansas state troops, and Price of the Missouri State Guard—spent several weeks in organizing and drilling their forces, which under the command of General McCulloch fought the Federal Army at Wilson's Creek August 10.
After the battle, the Missourians took possession of Springfield, McCulloch's force remaining near the battlefield. The dissension between Price and McCulloch dates from that time.
"In their departure from McCulloch," says Tunnard, the historian of the Third Louisiana, "the Missourians carried with them the battery taken by the Louisiana troops, by what authority was not discovered. They claimed the honor of capturing the guns, causing much exasperation among the men of the regiment. This soon became a subject of serious dissension between the State Guard and the Confederate troops, being the foundation of the differences, heart-burnings, and jealousies which existed afterwards and followed McCulloch to his death. The guns, however, were finally returned stripped of almost everything movable about them."21
Furthermore, McCulloch did not like the rough-and-ready ways of the Missourians, their numerous camp followers, their lack of discipline, their appropriation of property belonging to his command, and their failure to return borrowed guns and ammunition. He accorded them, however, an equal share, in the glory of the victory: "Soldiers of Louisiana, of Arkansas, of Missouri, and of Texas, nobly have you sustained yourselves."22
General Price resumed command of the Missouri State Guard August 14 23 and requested General McCulloch to march with him to the Missouri River. McCulloch declined, first, because his force was required for the defense of Arkansas and the Cherokee Nation, the Arkansas state troops having disbanded and marched for home; and, second, because of a serious shortage of ammunition.24 He returned again to Camp Jackson.
"As the regiment crossed the Missouri line, and when in sight of Camp Jackson, they cheered long and vociferously," says the historian of the Third Louisiana. "It seemed like reaching home once more, after having traveled over 500 miles, fought a desperate battle, and endured untold hardships and sufferings."25
Later on, in November, after General Hunter had withdrawn the Federal Army which under General Fremont had occupied Springfield, Price again asked McCulloch to accompany him to the Missouri and again was refused.26 "Whilst General Price and myself have ever been on the most friendly terms personally," wrote McCulloch, "yet we never could agree as to the proper time of marching to the Missouri River."27
In December General Price made a third request for an advance to the Missouri.28 General McCulloch at that time had gone to Richmond to explain to Secretary of War Benjamin his failure to pursue the enemy,29 but Col. James McIntosh, left in command of McCulloch's Division, was forced to decline, as he had just received an urgent call from Colonel Cooper for aid in his campaign against Opothleyoholo.30
The solution of the impasse lay, of course, in a unified command. Governor Jackson, apprehensive of discord, had suggested that remedy even before the battle of Wilson's Creek. He called President Davis' attention to "the fact that the present military division of the territory contiguous to Missouri is not such as to insure concert of action..."31
When General Albert Sidney Johnston was assigned to the command of the Western Department in September, it was believed by the War Department that "he would proceed at once to the west of the Mississippi and conduct the campaign in Arkansas and Missouri."32 Johnston, however, was detained in Kentucky by an advance of the Federal Army and never crossed the river.
In October Governor Jackson suggested "the name of General Sterling Price as the man fit for the place, and under whose lead the troops of Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas will rally as one man."33 In November, at the suggestion of General McCulloch,34 Jackson proposed the appointment of General Braxton Bragg to the general
26O. R., Series I, VIII, 730. Price, on the other hand, objected to McCulloch's proposal to fall back into Arkansas, "saying his men would not consent to go out of the state of Missouri." Ibid., III, 748.
In the meantime, President Davis had made up his mind to appoint no one to the command who was a resident of Missouri, Arkansas, or Texas, and so informed the Missouri delegation to Congress when they arrived in Richmond early in December. He further informed them that he had already appointed Col. Henry Heth, ex-captain in the U. S. Army, as major general to command west of the Mississippi. The Missourians forthwith obtained pledges from every delegation in Congress against confirmation of the appointment, and a few days later Heth requested President Davis to withdraw his name.37
"That part of the State of Louisiana north of Red River, the Indian Territory west of Arkansas, and the States of Arkansas and Missouri, excepting therefrom the tracts of country east of the Saint Francis, bordering on the Mississippi River, from the mouth of the Saint Francis to Scott County, Missouri (which tract will remain in the district of Major General Polk), is constituted the Trans-Mississippi District of Department No. 2, and Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn is assigned to the command of the same..."40
General Van Dorn, a native of Mississippi, was a graduate of West Point and served with distinction in the War with Mexico as a lieutenant of infantry. In 1855 he was appointed captain in the Second Cavalry. He was severely wounded on the morning of October 1, 1858, in an attack on a Comanche camp adjacent to the Wichita Village, near the present site of Rush Springs, Grady County, Oklahoma.
"My first wound was in the left arm," said van Dorn in a letter to his wife, "the arrow entered just above the wrist, passed between the two bones and stopped near the elbow. The second was in my body; the arrow entered opposite the ninth rib on the right side, passed through the upper portion of the stomach, cut my left lung, and passed out on the left side between the sixth and seventh ribs....I killed the Indian that shot me, and his horse, in two shots, going at full speed. My little horse Fink acted nobly, and when I pulled the arrows from me, staining his shoulders and mane with my blood, and dismounting, the poor fellow stood perfectly still over me and seemed to feel sorrow for me..."41
He was promoted to major in 1860 and resigned his commission January 31, 1861. After a short service with the Mississippi state
41A Soldier's Honor. By his comrades. (New York: Abbey Press, 1902), 39. Van Dorn to his wife, Oct. 12, 1858.
troops, he entered the Confederate Army and was promoted to major general September 19, 1861.42
On assuming command of the Trans-Mississippi District, General Van Dorn called on the governors of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas for men and began preparations for an active campaign.43 Writing to General Price from Pocahontas February 14, he said: "I design attempting St. Louis."44 That plan was never consummated, for on the previous day General Samuel R. Curtis, commander of the Federal Army in southwestern Missouri, had entered Springfield, and Price was in full flight toward Arkansas.45
Col. Clay Taylor arrived at Pocahontas February 22 with dispatches informing Van Dorn that Price had fallen back from Springfield to the Boston Mountains in northwestern Arkansas, that McCulloch was near him, and that the Federal Army was but two marches distant.46 "For reasons which seemed to me imperative," said Van Dorn in his official report of the campaign, "I resolved to go in person and take command of the combined forces of Price and McCulloch."47 The ride across Arkansas was a remarkable feat of horsemanship.
"We took a steamer for Jacksonport," said Col. Dabney Maury, Van Dorn's adjutant, "whence, on February 23, we mounted our horses and started upon our ride across the state to Van Buren.48
"Van Dorn rode a fine thoroughbred black mare he had brought from Virginia. I was mounted on a sorrel I had bought in Pocahontas a few hours before we set out. Except my sorrel mare, Van Dorn's black mare was the hardest trotter in the world, and as we trotted fifty-five miles every day for five or six days, we had a very unusual opportunity of learning all that a hard trotter can do to a man in a long day's march. Had it not been that we slept every night in a feather bed, that soothed our sore bones and served as a poultice to our galled saddle pieces, we would have been permanently disabled for cavalry service forever."49
At it was, in crossing Little Red River the second day out—"the horses by swimming and we one by one in a light canoe"—Van Dorn was upset in the river, and as a consequence of the immersion contracted a heavy chill and fever. During the battle of Pea Ridge the following week, he was too ill to mount his horse and was taken to the battlefield in an ambulance.50
42Marcus J. Wright, General Officers of the Confederate Army (New York: Neale Publishing Co., 1911), 22. George W. Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U. S. Military Academy (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1868), II, 69-70.
46Ibid., 283; R. S. Bevier, History of the First and Second Missouri Confederate Brigades (St. Louis: Bryan, Brand & Co., 1879), 93-94.
49Dabney H. Maury, "Van Dorn, the Hero of the Mississippi," Annals of the War (Philadelphia: Times Publishing Co., 1879), 461.
After an all-day ride from Van Buren over an ascending mountain road in bitter cold weather, General Van Dorn reached Price's headquarters in the Boston Mountains at dark on the evening of March 2. He was welcomed by salutes from the Missouri artillery.51 The Missourians were encamped on Cove Creek, near the Cane Hill road, about twenty miles southwest of Fayetteville.
The following morning Van Dorn crossed over the intervening mountain ridge to McCulloch's camp on the Telegraph road a few miles to the east.52 Driven back with Price by the advancing Federal Army, McCulloch had burned and abandoned his winter camp at Cross Hollow, evacuated Fayetteville, and retired to the mountains.
After a conference with McCulloch, whose thorough knowledge of the roads and country was much relied on by Van Dorn in that campaign, orders were issued to move on the 4th to attack Curtis, whose main camp was on Sugar Creek, northeast of Bentonville, a distance of about fifty miles. Price was to lead the advance, followed by McCulloch.53
On the morning of the 3d the following order was sent to General Pike:
"I am instructed by Major General Van Dorn to inform you that he will move from here tomorrow morning with the combined forces of Generals Price and McCulloch in the direction of Fayetteville. He wishes you, therefore, to press on with your whole force along the Cane Hill road, so as to fall in rear of our army...."54
Later in the day a second order was sent to Pike:
"The general commanding desires that you will hasten up with all possible dispatch and in person direct the march of your command, including Stand Watie's, McIntosh's, and Drew's regiments.
"The route indicated this morning in the order to you and to those colonels is such that they may not reach their position by the time desired. I am therefore directed to modify those orders, so that your command will be near Elm Springs (marching by the shortest route) day after tomorrow afternoon."55
When Pike arrived at Fort Smith in the fore part of February, Superintendent Rector was absent in the Indian Territory, where he had gone to take charge of the public property at the Creek Agency and to meet a delegation of Comanches and Kiawas with whom Pike expected to effect treaties.56
"When I returned to the [Indian] country in February," wrote Pike afterward, "I brought with me, besides the funds for the quartermaster, the moneys due the Indians under treaties. These moneys, partly specie and
51Tunnard, op. cit., 129; O. R., Series I, VIII, 197. Maury (Bevier, op. cit., 94) gives the date March 1; Van Dorn (O. R., Series I, VIII, 283) gives March 3. Both are apparently in error.
53Tunnard, op. cit., 129; Bevier, op. cit., 95; O. R., Series I, VIII, 283. Properly Little Sugar Creek; Big Sugar Creek is farther north along the state line.
56Abel, op. cit., 328. Rector to Scott, Feb. 28, 1862. See also pp. 324-25: Rector to Scott, Feb. 1, 1862.
partly Treasury notes, the superintendent refused to receive, and I was compelled to retain them, pay out part myself, and send the others by private hands to be paid..."57
Rector, however, on his return to Fort Smith late in February, wrote to Acting Commissioner Scott in Richmond: "Genl. P— did not leave the money here to be paid over to me but tuck it in the Indian country to his headquarters, where he will I presume pay it out to the Indians himself."58 Several days later Rector protested to Scott against a payment Pike had made to Agent Dorn, who had not yet made bond.59
News of the retreat of Price from Springfield and the invasion of Arkansas by the Federal Army reached Pike at Fort Smith about the 17th of February, as the order to Col. Stand Watie to advance with his regiment toward Fayetteville bore that date. Watie went on ahead of the regiment and reported to McCulloch, but on returning to his camp in the Flint district found his regiment had marched to Fort Davis. In a letter to Pike on the 27th, he branded a report that Opothleyoholo was advancing from Kansas as "altogether an error," and recalled his regiment to the Flint district.60
On the way to his headquarters at Fort Davis, Pike reached the mouth of the Canadian, where Colonel Cooper's Choctaw and Chickasaw regiment was encamped, on the night of February 22.61 Accompanied by the regiment, he arrived at the fort on the 25th. Col. D. N. McIntosh's Creek regiment also arrived there that evening. Awaiting Pike at the fort were delegations of Osages, Comanches, and Reserve Indians, and the payment of Indian moneys and other dealings detained him three days.62
He was delayed further by the refusal of the Creeks and the Choctaws and Chickasaws to march until they were paid off. As provided by their treaties, they could not be taken out of the Indian country without their consent. The Creek treaty stipulated:
"The men shall be armed by the Confederate States, receive the same pay and allowances as other mounted troops in the service, and not be moved beyond the limits of the Indian country west of Arkansas without their consent."63
The Creeks, in refusing to march, were influenced by rumors circulated by Opothleyoholo in the preceding fall:
60Edward Everett Dale and Gaston Litton, Cherokee Cavaliers (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1939), 114. Watie to Pike, Feb. 27, 1862. Flint district was a small, triangular district in the southeast part of the Cherokee Nation, its base lying along the western boundary of Arkansas.
61Abel, op. cit., 327. Pike to Rector, Feb. 23, 1862. This probably was the camp known as Camp Dardenne (see O. R., Series I, XIII, 896).
63Creek treaty, Art. XXXVI (ibid., Series IV, I, 434). Similar provisions were in the Choctaw and Chickasaw treaty, Art. XLIX (ibid., 457); the Seminole treaty, Sup. Art. (ibid., 526); and the Cherokee treaty, Art. XL (ibid., 679).
"They are incredulous people," said Pike, "and those who fought against us under Opothleyoholo were chiefly alienated by the belief, induced by that crafty old man, that we would get them to become soldiers, take them out of their own country, first into Arkansas, then into Missouri, then across the Mississippi, and when their young men were thus all gone would take and divide out their lands."64
The Choctaws and Chickasaws were not so averse to crossing the line, but were influenced by merchants whom they owed. The payment of that regiment took three days.65
On the morning of the third day, March 2, Pike left Fort Davis with Welch's squadron of Texas cavalry—attached to the Choctaw and Chickasaw regiment—and the Creek regiment and marched to Park Hill. He induced the Creeks to move by a promise to pay them at the Illinois River, near Park Hill.66
Not being overtaken by the Choctaw and Chickasaw regiment, as he expected, Pike moved the following day with Welch's squadron toward Evansville, and on the 4th to Cincinnati—in Arkansas near the Cherokee line—where he overtook Stand Watie's regiment of Cherokees.
Pressing on the next day, with Watie's regiment and Welch's squadron, he reached Freschlag's Mill; and on the following day, Thursday, March 6, overtook Colonel Drew's regiment of Cherokees at Smith's Mill—also known as Osage Mills—about six miles south of Bentonville. On receipt of Pike's order from Fort Smith, that regiment had marched toward Fayetteville.
"I accompanied the troops," said Chief Ross in a letter to Pike, "some twelve miles east of this [Park Hill], and I am happy to assure you in the most confident manner that, in my opinion, this regiment will not fail to do their whole duty, whenever the conflict with the common enemy shall take place."67
Late that afternoon Pike came up with the rear of McCulloch's Division and encamped with his force within two miles of Camp Stephens, one of a number of camps established by McCulloch the preceding fall and located about seven miles northeast of Bentonville.68 It was close to Sugar Creek, on the northern bluffs of which, though several miles to the east, the Federal Army was entrenched.
Van Dorn had decided against a frontal attack across Sugar Creek valley. He learned from McCulloch and McIntosh, who knew the locality thoroughly, that by making a detour of eight miles he could reach the Telegraph road, leading from Springfield to Fayetteville and Van Buren, and thus gain the rear of Curtis'
66Ibid., VIII, 287. Subsequent movements of Pike are taken, unless otherwise stated, from his official report of the Pea Ridge campaign (ibid., 286-92).
67Joseph B. Thoburn, ed., "The Cherokee Question," Chronicles of Oklahoma (Oklahoma City), II (1924), 189. Ross to Pike, Feb. 25, 1862.
army. Price was again to lead the advance, followed by McCulloch.69
The battle of Pea Ridge had already begun. A detachment of the Federal Army under the personal command of General Sigel loitered in Bentonville that morning until the Confederates entered the town about 11 o'clock, and Price's advance guard drove them back to Sugar Creek in a running battle lasting four or five hours.70 It was bitter cold. On Wednesday snow had fallen all day.71
Price began the advance at 8 p. m., but Van Dorn's order of march was not received by Pike until 9:30 o'clock. He was instructed to follow McCulloch's Division. On inquiry, he was informed by McCulloch that the road would be clear for him at 12 o'clock. Moving with his command at that hour, he overtook and passed McCulloch's train, but had to wait at Sugar Creek until sunrise while McCulloch's infantry was crossing on a narrow bridge of rails. Price was delayed by obstructions of felled trees made by the Federal troops the night before and did not reach the Telegraph road in force until about 10 o'clock Friday morning.72
Pike's command, following McCulloch, had passed the west end of Pea Ridge and temporarily halted, when Sims' Ninth Texas Cavalry countermarched past them, an officer informing Pike that he was to follow the other troops to the rear. McCulloch had requested and been given permission to attack the Federal Army on the flank.73 By giving assent, Van Dorn separated the wings of his army a distance of some three miles.
Pea Ridge, terminating on the east in a rocky hill fronting Elkhorn Tavern and the Telegraph road, lies in an east-west direction, parallel to Sugar Creek, which is about three miles to the south. Between the two is a rough and, at that time, wooded country, broken here and there by small prairies and fenced clearings. The Federal Army was entrenched, facing south, on Sugar Creek. A mile to their north and rear was the village of Leetown.
Pike's command followed McCulloch's troops—infantry under Colonel Hebert, cavalry under General McIntosh—leaving the Bentonville road and marching through the woods in a southeasterly direction. Pike was informed by a staff officer that they were going to attack a "little place called Leetown," four and a half miles distant, which the Federals had fortified.
"We had marched from the road in a southeasterly direction about a mile from the point where we left it," said Pike in his report, "and were passing along a narrow road, between a piece of woods on our left and a fenced field on our right, when we discovered in front of us, at the distance of about 300 yards, a battery of three guns, protected by five companies of regular cavalry. A fence ran from east to west through the woods, and be-
hind this we formed in line, with Colonel Sims' regiment on the right, the squadron of Captain Welch next to him, and the regiments of Colonels Wade and Drew in continuation of the line on the left."74
When General Curtis received reports that morning of Van Dorn's movement, he made a quick change of front and ordered Colonel Osterhaus, a division commander, to advance with a detachment of cavalry and light artillery, supported by infantry, in the direction of Leetown and attack the probable center of the Confederate Army.75 As Osterhaus was moving out, word reached Curtis that the Confederates were across his line of communication and retreat. He ordered Colonel Carr and his division to Elkhorn Tavern to meet Price on the Telegraph road.76
Three regiments of infantry, with two batteries of artillery, under command of Colonel Greusel, took position in the open fields north and west of Leetown.77 Osterhaus, with the cavalry and Elbert's battery of three pieces, under the immediate command of Colonel Bussey, moved forward, passed through a belt of timber and came in sight of McIntosh's and Pike's cavalry. The battery took position and Elbert opened fire on Pike's troops as soon as they formed in line behind the fence. Two companies of Iowa cavalry, charging to cut off supports, ran unexpectedly into Hebert's infantry, received a volley at short range, and were thrown back in confusion.78 A moment later McIntosh's and Pike's troops charged, routing and dispersing the cavalry and capturing the battery.79
"My whole command," said Pike, "consisted of about 1,000 men, all Indians, except one squadron. The enemy opened fire into the woods where we were, the fence in front of us was thrown down, and the Indians (Watie's regiment on foot and Drew's on horseback), with part of Sims' regiment, gallantly led by Lieutenant Colonel Quayle, charged full in front through the woods and into the open ground with loud yells, routed the cavalry, took the battery, fired upon and pursued the enemy, retreating through the fenced field to our right, and held the battery, which I afterwards had drawn by the Cherokees into the woods. Four of the horses of the battery alone remained on the ground, the others running off with the caissons, and for want of horses and harness we were unable to send the guns to the rear."80
The charge was made just at noon. The Federal cavalry fell back upon and through Greusel's line, but the infantry held firm, the artillery driving the Confederates back.81 About 2 o'clock a division of Indiana and Illinois troops under Col. Jeff Davis came up in support.82 Heavy fighting took place on Greusel's front. General Ben McCulloch and General James McIntosh were both
killed there. McCulloch rode forward through the brush on the northern edge of the field, supposedly to reconnoiter, and was killed by a shot said to have been fired by Peter Pelican, a skirmisher of the Thirty-sixth Illinois.83 McIntosh was killed shortly afterwards near the same place.84
General McCulloch, a native of Tennessee, was in command of the artillery in Houston's army at the battle of San Jacinto in Texas, April 21, 1836. During the next ten years he saw much Indian fighting; and as commander of McCulloch's Rangers in the Mexican War became famous throughout the South. He went to California during the Gold Rush in 1849 and was sheriff of Sacramento for a time. Returning to Texas, he served as United States marshal for eight years. Early in 1861 he was in command of the Texas troops to whom General Twiggs surrendered at San Antonio. He was 51 years old when killed.85
The capture of the battery apparently demoralized many of the Indians. Describing the situation following the charge, Pike said:
"Colonel Drew's regiment was in the field on our right, and around the taken battery was a mass of Indians and others in the utmost confusion, all talking, riding this way and that, and listening to no orders from anyone. I directed Capt. Roswell W. Lee...to have the guns which had just been taken faced to our front...but he could not induce a single man to assist in doing so."86
A Federal battery dropped two shells into the field, and the Indians rushed back to the woods. Knowing that they would not face artillery fire in open ground, Pike ordered them "to dismount, take their horses to the rear, and each take to a tree." The battery shelled the woods for two hours and a half, but the Indians held their position. When the captured battery was drawn back into the woods, the Cherokees burned the carriages.87
It was 3 o'clock before Pike heard of the deaths of McCulloch and McIntosh and assumed command. Firing on the field had about ceased, the Confederates being badly disorganized and widely scattered. Pike was "totally ignorant of the country and the roads," and knew next to nothing of the numbers on either side. He gathered together what troops he could and resolved to lead them to General Van Dorn.
Placing Welch's squadron in front, followed by infantry and a battery of artillery, with Watie's Cherokees on the flanks, he
83Ibid., 226. See also L. G. Bennett and Wm. M. Haigh, History of the Thirty-sixth Regiment, Illinois Volunteers (Aurora, Ill.: Knickerbocker & Hodder, 1876), 148.
84O. R., Series I, VIII, 303. McIntosh is buried in the Federal Cemetery at Fort Smith, Ark., section 3, grave 549. Arkansas Historical Association, Publications (Fayetteville and Conway, Ark., 1906-17), II, 294.
marched the command to the Bentonville road and north on it to the Telegraph road, reaching Van Dorn's headquarters at Elkhorn Tavern long after dark. Price had driven Carr back during the day, but that night Van Dorn learned that the ammunition was almost exhausted and that the ordnance officer could not find his wagons.88 He made dispositions, however, to continue the battle the next day.
Pike's order to withdraw failed to reach Colonel Drew, and his Cherokee regiment was the last to leave the field,89 marching to Camp Stephens, where they caught up with the retreating train. There they met Colonel Cooper, with his regiment and battalion of Choctaws and Chickasaws, and Col. D. N. McIntosh, with 200 men of the Creek regiment, who had arrived too late for the battle. They all remained with the train until it reached Elm Springs, then marched with their own train to Cincinnati.90
On Saturday morning Pike gave Welch's squadron permission to join one of the Texas regiments and posted part of Stand Watie's Cherokees on the hill behind Elkhorn Tavern, the remainder being stationed on a ridge on the opposite side of the Telegraph road. They were ordered to observe and give warning if the Federals attempted to turn Van Dorn's left flank.
The battle on the 8th of March was short. Van Dorn began to withdraw his army at 10 o'clock over the Huntsville road, leading east.91 When the Thirty-sixth Illinois, "with its dark-blue line of men and its gleaming bayonets," swarmed over the hill, Watie and his Cherokees retreated along the ridge and made their way to Camp Stephens. Two hundred of Watie's Indians were detailed by General Green, commander of the train, to escort ammunition wagons to Van Dorn, but the army had gone before their arrival. They rejoined the train, by a circuitous route, at Walnut Grove, southwest of Fayetteville.92
General Pike narrowly escaped capture by riding north on the Telegraph road, along which the artillery was retreating. After several unsuccessful attempts to induce a battery to make a stand, he turned into the Bentonville road, where he was joined by two other officers. Pursued by Federal cavalry, they took to the woods, skirted Pea Ridge, and rode westward between the Pineville and Bentonville roads.
Owing to the circuit they were forced to make, it was several days before they reached Cincinnati and rejoined the Indian troops. They then learned that Van Dorn and Price were marching from, Huntsville to Van Buren. "I did not know," said Pike, "until I
reached Cincinnati what had become of the main body of our forces."93
On Sunday, following the battle, General Van Dorn sent a burial party back to the field under a flag of truce with a request that they be permitted to collect and bury the Confederate dead.94 Permission was granted, and on completion of the task the officer in charge of the party was given a letter by General Curtis to deliver to Van Dorn, in which Curtis said:
"The general regrets that we find on the battlefield, contrary to civilized warfare, many of the Federal dead who were tomahawked, scalped, and their bodies shamefully mangled, tnd expresses a hope that this important struggle may not degenerate to a savage warfare."95
Colonel Maury, Van Dorn's adjutant, replying March 14, assured Curtis that the Confederate commander will "most cordially unite with you in repressing the horrors of this unnatural war." Curtis had not named the Indians, but Van Dorn naturally made that assumption.
"He hopes you have been misinformed with regard to this matter," Maury wrote, "the Indians who formed part of his forces having for many years been regarded as civilized people....he desires me to inform you that many of our men who surrendered themselves prisoners of war were reported to him as having been murdered in cold blood by their captors, who were alleged to be Germans."96
To that countercharge, Capt. H. Z. Curtis, assistant adjutant to General Curtis, replied March 21, quoting a letter from General Sigel, "addressed to me before the receipt of yours," in which Sigel said:
"While Capt. Elbert's three pieces were taken by the enemy, and our men serving the guns were surrounded, they were shot dead by the rebels, although seeking refuge behind the horses."97
"As 'dead men tell no tales,' it is not easy to see how these charges may be proven," conceded Curtis, "and the general hopes they are mere 'camp stories,' having little or no foundation."98
General Curtis later forwarded to the Federal Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War four affidavits signed by members of the Third Iowa Cavalry, which was driven back in the charge made by Pike and McIntosh at noon March 7. In one of the affidavits, Adjutant John W. Noble stated "from personal inspection of the bodies of the men of the Third Iowa Cavalry, who fell upon that part of the field, I discovered that eight of the men of that regiment had been scalped."99
That there was some truth in the charges made by the Federals was intimated by Pike himself. Following his return to Cincin-
97Frank Moore, ed., The Rebellion Record (New York: G. P. Putnam, D. Van Nostrand, 1861-68), IV, 264 (Doc.).
nati, he spent several days at Dwight Mission in the Cherokee Nation, where he wrote his report of the battle of Pea Ridge.100 On March 15 he issued an order to the Indian troops, in which, after expressing his horror at seeing in the action of March 7 a person unknown to him, "and who immediately passed beyond his sight," shoot a wounded enemy begging for mercy, he said:
"The commanding general has also learned with the utmost pain and regret that one, at least, of the enemy's dead was found scalped upon the field. That practice excites horror, leads to cruel retaliation, and would expose the Confederate States to the just reprehension of all civilized nations....Against forces that do not practice it, it is peremptorily forbidden during the present war."101
The Cherokee National Council, on April 30, adopted a resolution expressing their opinion that the war should be conducted on the "most humane principles which govern the usages of war among civilized nations" and "recommended to the troops of this nation...to avoid any acts toward captured or fallen foes that would be incompatible with such usages."102
Little is known of the losses of the Indians in the battle of Pea Ridge, but they probably were small. Two of Colonel Drew's men were killed and one wounded in the charge on the battery. In his report of the battle,103 Van Dorn made no mention of the part played by the Indians. Writing to Secretary Benjamin, Pike said:
"I regret that no other allusion is made by General Van Dorn in his report of 27th March of the action at Elkhorn to the Indian troops engaged than the simple statement that he had ordered me to join him with my force. I did not expect that any credit would ever be given them in orders for any gallantry displayed, since that would be contrary to all precedent, but surely it would have been wise and politic to mention their presence, and not to have assigned to others the whole credit of what they at least aided in doing."104
100Dwight Mission was near the military road from Fort Gibson to Fort Smith, two or three miles southwest of the present Marble City, Sequoyah County. See Grant Foreman, ed., A Traveler in Indian Territory (Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Torch Press, 1930), 23.
101Sam'l Prentis Curtis, "The Army of the South-West, and the First Campaign in Arkansas," The Annals of Iowa (Iowa City), VI (1868), 149.