The Battle of Pea Ridge: Missouri Lost to the Confederate Cause
Despite some initial successes in the Western theater during the first year of the Civil War, 1862 brought a series of setbacks for the Confederacy. The first two major Union victories of the war occurred in the Western theater during February 1862, when the young, aggressive General Ulysses S. Grant captured Fort Henry and then Fort Donelson in Tennessee. Suddenly its western line of defense had been broken and, with the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers defenseless, the middle of the Confederacy was open to invasion. In order for Grant to proceed south with that invasion, his right flank—the state of Missouri—had to be secure.
Article continues after this newspaper image from the March 11, 1862, issue of the New York Daily Herald (New York)
Missouri was a key state for both sides at the start of the Civil War. Its governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson, wanted secession. However, like Kentucky, Missouri declared neutrality, meaning it would not leave the Union—yet would not supply men or arms to either side. With a population of 1.2 million, Missouri would have been the most populous state in the Confederacy, with the exception of Virginia, if it had seceded. It had a well-developed industrial base in St. Louis, and controlled the Missouri River and an important stretch of the Mississippi River. As a Confederate state it would have blocked off Kansas and threatened southern Illinois. It was a prize the Confederates dearly wanted.
Missouri men loyal to the South had rallied under General Sterling Price, known affectionately as “Old Pap.” Throughout 1861 there had been a series of skirmishes in Missouri, with the Confederates winning the most important clash (the Battle of Wilson’s Creek), defeating a Federal army of 6,000 men and killing its commander, General Nathaniel Lyon. Price and his men sporadically occupied Springfield and other areas in southwestern Missouri, but by early 1862 had retreated into northwestern Arkansas.
In its comprehensive report following the fateful Battle of Pea Ridge, the Cincinnati Times included a preface to the battle recounting the Missouri skirmishes and the movements of Price’s army preceding the battle. That article was reprinted by the Wooster Republican (Wooster, Ohio) on March 27, 1862:
Camp Sigel, Pea Ridge, Benton Co., Ark.
Monday evening, March 10.
First Movement toward Arkansas
Some six weeks ago the first Federal movement was made from Rolla, the present terminus of the Southwestern branch of the Pacific Railway, toward Springfield, at which well known town Sterling Price was then encamped, with a body of Missouri State troops estimated at eight to ten thousand. Immediately after the evacuation of Fremont’s splendid army, Price marched into Springfield and made his headquarters there, declaring, with the huge oaths for which he is remarkable, that he would never again leave it without a fight. Acting Brigadier General Carr left Rolla with some twenty-four hundred cavalry, as an advance, about the 1st of February, followed by several regiments under Gen. Sigel, for the purpose of engaging the troublesome rebel, and driving him out of the State, which for nine or ten months he had kept in perpetual trouble and alarm, retreating and returning to overrun, ravage and destroy.
Price violated his word once more, and before half his own force was collected in the vicinity of Springfield, evacuated the town, marching down the Cassville road toward Bentonville, Ark., and daily expecting reinforcements from McCulloch, McIntosh, Van Dorn and Albert Pike, with two or three thousand Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Indians.
Various skirmishes occurred on the march, between our forces and those of the enemy, and a small engagement near the State line, resulting in the repulse of Price, and his crossing over into Arkansas, followed by our army.
General Earl Van Dorn took over command of the Confederate Army of the West’s 16,000 men, a combination of Price’s Missouri army, General Ben McCulloch’s Arkansas army, and a force of 800 Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole Indian troops under the command of General Albert Pike. Van Dorn issued a plea for loyal Southerners in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana to rally to his support—a proclamation the Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) gleefully satirized on March 4, 1862:
Van Dorn’s Proclamation
General Earl Van Dorn is a double traitor—faithless as a citizen to his country, and as a soldier to his flag; but it cannot be denied that he is a practical fighting man, quite unequal to the grand rhetoric which characterizes his recent proclamation. To judge from analogy, it was written in Richmond, by the editor of the Examiner or Dispatch, and sent to him for publication and dissemination. It beats Price all to pieces. It not only calls upon the young men of Arkansas to arm, but upon the “beautiful maidens of Louisiana” to drive them to the field! Perhaps he caps the climax when he appeals to the “Texas chivalry,” to prove that “a glorious epitaph is better than a vassaled land, with honor lost and a people sunk in infamy!”
Like Cottle, he should be conjured:
“…for a moment think
What meagre profits spring from pen and ink.”
We propose to Van Dorn a dilemma of easy solution. If the youth of Arkansas, maidens of Louisiana, and Texas chivalry, need such appeals, they are already lost to Secession; if they are moved by such bathos, they will not be hard to beat, for they are fools. Conclusion, as in the old rhyme: “Van, Van, is a used up man!” in spite of help from Richmond editors.
A new Union commander, General Samuel R. Curtis, had replaced the slain Lyon as head of the Army of the Southwest. Though he only had 10,500 men, Curtis was determined to chase and defeat the larger Confederate Army of the West, removing forever the threat to Missouri and permanently securing Grant’s right flank. To reach them in northwestern Arkansas, Curtis would have to march his men over 120 miles from their supply base in Rolla, Mo., a risky endeavor. On they came, and in early March established a fortified position entrenched on the north side of Sugar Creek in Benton County, Ark. There Curtis waited, expecting the Confederates to march north up Telegraph Road and assault his defensive position.
Van Dorn had other ideas, however. He had made his name leading quick strikes against Indians in Texas, and preferred speed and boldness. He decided upon a daring plan. Not wishing to be slowed down by his supply wagons, he ordered his men to stuff their knapsacks with three days’ rations and set off on a forced march to circle around the enemy and surprise them from the rear. During this march they ran smack into a freezing storm, and by the time his men reached the rear of the Federal forces on March 6, 1862, Van Dorn’s army was miserable, exhausted and hungry. Also, most ominously, their extra ammunition and rations were now three days away. Van Dorn was betting everything that his larger army would either defeat or drive away the Union army and then re-supply themselves from the Federals’ cut-off supply wagons.
There was skirmishing on March 6 when the Southerners arrived, and the next morning the ferocious two-day Battle of Pea Ridge erupted. With a large enemy force suddenly in his rear and his long supply line threatened, Curtis might have been expected to surrender or hastily retreat. Instead, he chose to fight. He adroitly flipped his army around, and his defensive right flank became his offensive left, with his left flank becoming his offensive right.
On the first day, March 7, the new Federal left flank tore into half of the Southern army, led by McCulloch. A fierce fight occurred near the small village of Leetown, in which the Confederate leaders McCulloch and McIntosh were killed and Hebert was captured. Without their leaders the Confederates faltered and were driven back, with heavy losses on both sides. On the other side of the battle the Southern army, led by Van Dorn and Price, had better success. They attacked the Union army’s right flank near Elkhorn Tavern and drove them back, with the Northern troops suffering especially heavy losses. As a very cold night settled in, the Confederates thought they had won the battle and expected the enemy to withdraw.
The Southern press received dispatches of Van Dorn’s satisfaction with the day’s fighting, and rushed the news to their readers. This article was printed by the Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia) on the front page of its March 12, 1862, issue:
Later from Missouri
Fierce Battle Raging—Gens. McCulloch and McIntosh Killed
Memphis, March 11.—The following dispatch has been received here:
Fort Smith, Ark., March 9.—Our troops, under command of Gens. Van Dorn and Price, engaged the enemy for three days on the 5th, 6th and 7th inst., at Pea Ridge, in Benton county, Ark., near the Missouri line.
Our loss is heavy, including Gens. McCulloch and McIntosh, who were killed on the 7th. Gen. Slack was mortally wounded; Gen. Price was wounded in the arm; Col. McRae was killed; and Col. Sims was wounded in the arm. Our forces are in the rear of the Federalists, driving them southward. We are sanguine of success, and are looking for further news every hour. The bodies of Gens. McCulloch and McIntosh have been brought to Fort Smith for internment.
They continued to wait “for further news every hour” with growing anxiety. This article was printed by the Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia) on March 15, 1862:
What of Price?
Six o’clock Friday night and no news. Our anxiety is intense, but we hope and believe Price and Van Dorn have won the day. The struggle of the 5th, 6th and 7th must have been a series of assaults, skirmishes and strategetical movements, in which, if we credit Southern accounts, our troops gained the final advantage in position. If bad news always travels fast, there ought to be good news in store for us this time.
As far as Southern hopes were concerned, the good news was not to be, for a stunning reversal happened on March 8. Though some of his officers pleaded for him to retreat, Curtis gathered his smaller, bruised army and launched a stunning counterattack early in the morning, punctuated by a massive artillery barrage. By noon the starving Confederates were running out of ammunition with no hopes of new supplies. Reluctantly, Van Dorn ordered a retreat and the Army of the West headed for the safety of the Boston Mountains in northwestern Arkansas. It was one of the few battles in the Civil War in which the Confederates had superior numbers, but despite this advantage a tenacious, smaller Union army dealt them a serious defeat.
The Southern press continued to print hopeful accounts. This article was printed by the Daily Columbus Enquirer (Columbus, Georgia) on March 13, 1862:
Richmond, 12th.—A dispatch received at the War Department, dated Fort Smith, Ark., March 9th, says that a great battle occurred on the 6th, 7th and 8th inst., at Pea Ridge, Benton county, Ark., near the Missouri line, between our army, under Gens. Van Dorn and Price, and the Federals. There were 30,000 men on each side. Our troops poorly armed, but were fighting like devils, and will eventually defeat the enemy. Our loss was heavy; that of the enemy unknown. Gens. McCulloch and McIntosh were both killed. Gen. Slack was mortally wounded. Gen. Price was slightly wounded in the arm. Cols. Lewis and Simms, arms broken.
A later dispatch states that our forces, under Gen. Van Dorn, are in the rear of the Federals and driving them southward.
The Northern press, however, got the story straight. They knew the Union army had won a great victory, and wasted no time reporting the important news to their readers. Here is the beginning of an article printed by the New York Daily Herald (New York, New York) on March 11, 1862:
More Glorious News.
Encounter with Price, McCulloch, Van Dorn, and McIntosh Combined.
Three Days’ Hard Fighting.
Rebel Army Nearly Annihilated.
General Curtis Victorious.
Rebel Loss over 1,000 Killed and Wounded.
The Union Cavalry in Pursuit of the Flying Rebels.
St. Louis, Monday, March 10, 1862.
The following is an official dispatch to Major General McClellan:
The Army of the Southwest, under Gen. Curtis, after three days’ hard fighting, has gained a most glorious victory over the combined forces of Van Dorn, McCulloch, Price, and McIntosh. Our loss in killed and wounded is estimated at one thousand! That of the enemy was still larger! Guns, flags, provisions, &c., were captured in large quantities. Our cavalry are in pursuit of the flying enemy.
--H. W. Halleck, Major General.
The official battle report of Gen. Curtis was printed by the Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) on the front page of its March 12, 1862, issue:
The Great Three Days’ Battle at Pea Ridge, Arkansas.
Official Report of Gen. Curtis.
The Rebels Commence the Attack.
Able Strategy of the U.S. Forces.
The Enemy Completely Routed by a Charge of Infantry.
Federal Loss 450 Killed and Wounded.
Rebel Loss 1000 Killed and Wounded, and 1000 Prisoners.
The Enemy’s Force, 25,000 Men.
Ben. McCulloch and General McIntosh Mortally Wounded.
St. Louis, March 11.—The following is the official report of Gen. Curtis, of the battle of Pea Ridge, in the mountains of Arkansas.
Headquarters of the Army of the Southwest, Pea Ridge, Ark., March 9.
General: On Thursday, the 6th inst., the enemy commenced an attack on my right, assailing and following the rear guard of the detachments under General Sigel, to my main lines on Sugar Creek Hollow, but ceased firing when he met my reinforcements, about 4 o’clock P.M.
During the night I became convinced that he had moved on so as to attack my right or rear. Therefore, early on the 7th, I ordered a change of front to the right on my right, which, thus becoming my left, still rested on Sugar Creek Hollow. This brought my line across Pea Ridge, with my new right resting on the head of Cross Timber Hollow, which is the head of Big Sugar Creek. I also ordered an advance of cavalry and light artillery, under Colonel Osterhaus, with orders to attack and break what we supposed would be the reinforced line of the enemy. This movement was in progress when the enemy, at 11 o’clock A.M., commenced an attack on my right.
The fight continued warmly at these points during the day, the enemy having gained the point held in command by Colonel Carr, at Cross Timber Hollow; but were entirely repulsed, with the fall of the Rebel commander, McCulloch, in the centre, by the forces under Colonel Jeff. C. Davis, of Missouri.
The plan of attack on the centre was gallantly carried forward by Colonel Osterhaus, who was immediately sustained and superseded by Colonel Davis’ entire division, supported also by General Sigel’s command, which had remained, till near the close of the day, on the left.
Col. Carr’s division held the right under a galling and continuous fire all day.
In the evening, the firing having entirely ceased in the centre, and the right being now on the left, I reinforced the right by a portion of the second division under Gen. Asboth. Before the day closed I was convinced that the enemy had concentrated his main force on the right; therefore I commenced another change of front forward, so as to face the enemy where he had deployed on my right flank in strong position. The change had been partially effected, but was fully in progress, when, at sunrise on the 8th, my right and centre renewed firing, which was immediately answered by the enemy, with renewed energy, along the whole extent of his line.
My left, under General Sigel, moved close to the hills occupied by the enemy, driving him from the heights and advancing steadily toward the head of the Hollows. I immediately ordered the centre and right wing forward, the right wing turning the left of the enemy, and cross firing in his centre. This final position placed the enemy in the arc of a circle. A charge of infantry, extending throughout the whole line, completely routed the entire Rebel force, which retired in complete confusion, but rather safely, through the deep, impassable defiles of Cross Timbers.
Our loss was heavy. That of the enemy can never be ascertained, for the dead are scattered over a large field. Their wounded, too, may, many of them, perish.
The foe is scattered in all directions, but I think his main force has returned to the Boston Mountains. General Sigel follows the enemy toward Keithsville, while my cavalry is pursuing him toward the mountains, scouring the country, bringing in prisoners, and trying to find the Rebel Major General Van Dorn, who had command of the entire force of the enemy at this battle at Pea Ridge.
I have not, as yet, statement of the dead and wounded, so as to justify a report; but I will refer you to a dispatch which I will forward very soon.
The officers and soldiers under my command have displayed such unusual gallantry, that I hardly dare to make a distinction. I must, however, name the commanders of the divisions: General Sigel, who gallantly carried the right and drove back the left wing of the enemy, and General Asboth, who was wounded in the arm in his gallant effort to reinforce the right; Colonel and acting Brigadier General Davis, who commanded the centre, when McCulloch fell, on the 7th, and pressed towards the centre on the 8th; Colonel and acting Brigadier General Carr, who is also wounded in the arm, and was under the continuous fire of the enemy during the two hardest days of the struggle.
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio and Missouri may proudly share the honor of the victory which their gallant heroes won over the combined force of Van Dorn, Price and McCulloch, at Pea Ridge, in the mountains of Arkansas. I have the honor to be, General, your servant,
Samuel R. Curtis, Brigadier General Commanding.
This article was printed by the New York Daily Herald (New York, New York) on March 12, 1862:
The Great Battle of Arkansas
On the same day that President Lincoln submitted to the national Congress at Washington his glorious scheme of Emancipation, a battle commenced in the extreme northwest portion of the State of Arkansas, which has had, we believe, no parallel as to its duration, and probably few as to its desperate character, since the opening of the rebellion. We have to look over a long range of history to find a struggle between such an army as that under Generals Curtis and Sigel on the National side, and McCulloch and Van Dorn on the other—extending, as it did, over three whole days; every inch of ground contested with terrible and unyielding energy; pluck, pride, honest conscience and a brave cause, against armed treason, maddened to an extremity of fury by the lowering, deepening shadow of its approaching doom. That three days’ death-grapple among the ridges and hills which link together Missouri and Arkansas at their western boundary must have been a picture of rare, almost of inconceivable grandeur. Sigel to the right, Asboth to the left, Osterhaus and acting Brig. Gen. Davis in the center; the right wing now sustaining gallantly alone the attack of the combined Rebel forces; then, turning the left of the enemy and crossing-firing on his center with the enemy pressed into the arc of a circle; anon a steady, glorious charge of the National infantry, extending along the entire line; and finally, late in the third day, the break in the enemy’s lines, the rout and retreat in broken and disordered sections through the defiles of the mountains, with the brave Sigel and a cavalry force in pursuit. Such is the broad outline of the picture as we see it in the rigidly subdued report of Gen. Curtis.
…In this decisive battle—among the most memorable that has ever been given to history—Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, and Missouri, each won laurels of imperishable worth. The dash and fire of sudden attack, and speedy victory, were eclipsed by the coolness and the resoluteness by which the enemy was ultimately forced into flight; and we find the conditions of merited success so well fulfilled in every part of the prolonged struggle, that it is a pleasure to linger over the story as it comes to us in the simple language of the Commanding General. Bitter as the unreported incidents must be, terrible as the losses are admitted to have been, it is in such ways the Nation is asserting its manhood before the world, so that its power shall be held indisputable at home, and hereafter, for all time, respected abroad.
When the Southern press received word that the Confederate forces had retreated, they presented the news to their readers in the best possible light. This article was printed by the Daily Columbus Enquirer (Columbus, Georgia) on March 14, 1862:
Progress and Events of the War
Richmond, 12th.—Van Dorn dispatches to the War Department, date, 9th inst., that he was victorious on 7th, and slept on the field of battle. On morning of the 8th, in consequence of the death of Gen. McCulloch and others on the right wing, he deemed it judicious to alter his position, and withdrew his command to the west of Fayetteville, 13 miles from the battlefield. He retired in good order. Loss on both sides heavy. This is reliable.
Showing a mastery at “spinning” the news comparable to today’s slickest press agents, this Southern paper went beyond describing the retreat as one “in good order,” actually praising Van Dorn’s withdrawal as “as one of the most brilliant acts of the present war”! This article was printed by the Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia) on March 17, 1862:
Later Memphis Particulars
Fort Smith, March 11.—Captain Hickory Rogers arrived here yesterday in charge of the ammunition wagons. He brings with him official and some very interesting details of the battle between our forces and the enemy at Elkhorn four miles from the Missouri line.
Capt. Rogers says the fighting was terrible. A larger portion of our troops being armed with the common hunting rifles and shotguns, charged the enemy time and again, clubbing their guns and driving the enemy, who were armed with the best of guns, from their first position. The enemy gained a much stronger position, when, from the exhausted state of our troops, they fell back.
Gen. McCulloch’s division having lost so many of their officers, Gen. Van Dorn, fearful that they might become disorganized, deemed it advisable to withdraw, which he did in splendid order. The next day he attacked the enemy in their second position, and while the fighting was going on withdrew his whole army.
Gen. Van Dorn says he is not whipped, and cannot be with the reinforcements which he will receive and by giving his troops a few days rest. He says he will drive them back to their starting place. The withdrawal of so large an army in such fine order, after losing so many valuable officers, is looked upon as one of the most brilliant acts of the present war.
The Northern press was quick to pounce on this false portrayal of the Confederate defeat and retreat. The Providence Journal ran a scornful article that was reprinted by the Lowell Daily Citizen and News (Lowell, Massachusetts) on March 27, 1862:
Drawing It Mild
We have repeatedly had occasion to praise the ingenuity of the rebels in devising new terms. Stealing government property was “resuming” it, in their dialect. In the rebel account of the battle of Pea Ridge, it is stated that Gen. Van Dorn says he is not whipped, and that the withdrawal of the large army “is looked upon as one of the most brilliant acts of the present war.” To get defeated and run away is hereafter to be termed, not a misfortune or disgrace, but “a brilliant act.” The South is radiant with such brilliancy just now, from North Carolina to Arkansas.
The North won a great victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge, and reacted accordingly. This article was printed by the Wisconsin Patriot (Madison, Wisconsin) on March 15, 1862:
Rejoicings at Rolla over the News
Rolla, Mo., March 10.—A victory equaled only by that at Fort Donelson has just been achieved by the Union army which has pursued Price’s fleeing horde into Arkansas.
After three days’ hard fighting on Sugar Creek, Ark., we have gained the most signal victory yet achieved. Price, McCulloch and Van Dorn have been vanquished and completely routed by our victorious arms under Maj. Generals Curtis and Sigel.
The guns of Fort Wyman, at Rolla, are booming out the glad tidings of victory, and the city of Rolla is glowing—illuminated tonight.
The reports are that there has been terrific fighting, and that the losses are very heavy on both sides. The rebel loss is about 2,000 in killed and wounded, and we have taken a large number of them prisoners, and captured some of their best guns.
An article praising the Union victory was run by the New York Evening Post and reprinted by the Lowell Daily Citizen and News (Lowell, Massachusetts) on March 17, 1862:
General Curtis’s Campaign
The New York Evening Post says of this campaign in the wilderness region of Missouri and Arkansas:
General Curtis, the leader of the gallant western men, has achieved as signal a victory as has yet distinguished our arms. The splendid contest at Fort Donelson was not more stubborn, spirited or glorious, than his stern struggle along the ridges and through the hollows of the Ozark Mountains. He had followed the troops of Price for more than a hundred and thirty miles, from Springfield to Fayetteville, through mud, and snow, and storm, crossing swollen rivers, scaling lofty hills, fighting battles at different points, until he had driven the enemy to a natural stronghold among the spurs of the Ozarks. At that point, having been reinforced by the several divisions under the famous Texan Ranger, Ben McCulloch, General McIntosh and General Van Dorn, the rebels at last made their stand. They doubtless imagined that in drawing Curtis among inextricable defiles of those deeply wooden hills they had enticed him into a trap, far from home and the base of his operations, and where they could easily overwhelm his little army with their superior numbers, aided by their superior knowledge of the country.
More details were provided by this article, printed by the Farmers’ Cabinet (Amherst, New Hampshire) on March 20, 1862:
Rolla, Mo., March 16.—The remains of Col. Hendricks of the 29th Indiana regiment, killed at the battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, arrived here yesterday, accompanied by his brother and two or three other gentlemen. They left the battleground on the Monday following the fight. They represent the contest as terrible. The rebels fought desperately, using stone in their cannon when their shot gave out. Their force is stated at 25,000, including 2200 Indians under Albert Pike. As near as could be ascertained our loss was 600 killed and 800 to 1000 wounded. The rebel surgeons who came to dress the wounds of their fallen, acknowledge a loss of 1100 killed and from 2500 to 3000 wounded. We took 1600 prisoners and 13 pieces of cannon, 10 of which were captured by Gen. Sigel’s command, and 3 by Col. Patterson’s brigade. Two of our cannon, belonging to Davidson’s battery, were taken by the rebels, but were recaptured by our troops. The rebels were completely defeated, one division under Gen. Price flying in one direction, and the other under Gen. Van Dorn taking another. Major Herbert, of one of the Louisiana regiments, who was taken prisoner, says that Gen. Frost, of Camp Jackson notoriety, was killed.
One of the lesser-known aspects of the Civil War is the fact that many Native Americans participated, on both sides, and such was the case for the Confederates in the Battle of Pea Ridge. The Indians' actions caused some controversy, as described in this article printed by the Wisconsin Patriot (Madison, Wisconsin) on March 22, 1862:
The rebels had in their army about 2,000 Indians, we suppose under the command of McIntosh. Eighteen of our soldiers were found scalped and otherwise mutilated by these savages.
The following correspondence passed between Gens. Curtis and Van Dorn, after the battle, in which the atrocity is properly referred to by the Federal commander:
Headquarters Trans-Mississippi District, March 9, 1862.
To the Commanding Officer of the U.S. Forces on Sugar Creek, Arkansas:
Sir—In accordance with the usages of war, I have the honor to request that you will permit the burial party whom I send from this army with a flag of truce to attend to the duty of collecting and interring the bodies of the officers and men who fell during the engagement of the 7th and 8th instant.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Earl Van Dorn, Major General Commanding Army.
Headquarters Army of the Southwest, Pea Ridge, March 9, 1862.
Earl Van Dorn, commanding Confederate forces:
Sir—The General commanding is in receipt of yours of the 9th, saying that, in accordance of the usages of war, you send a party to collect and bury the dead. I am directed to say all possible facilities will be given for burying the dead, many of whom have already been interred. Quite a number of your Surgeons have fallen into our hands, and are permitted to act under parole, and, under a General Order from Major General Halleck, further liberty will be allowed them if such accommodation be reciprocated by you. 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, and expresses a hope that this important struggle may not degenerate to a savage warfare.
By order of Brig. Gen. S. R. Curtis.
--T. J. McKinney, A.A.A.G.
When the full facts of their defeat at the Battle of Pea Ridge were known, the South became dismayed and angry about how the war was being managed. Missouri was now lost, and Grant was poised to invade the Southern middle interior. The Charleston Mercury ran an article criticizing the government of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, reprinted by the Lowell Daily Citizen and News (Lowell, Massachusetts) on March 26, 1862:
The Richmond correspondent of the Charleston Mercury winds up a complaining appeal as follows:
Shall the cause fail because Mr. Davis is incompetent? The people of the Confederacy must answer this plain question at once, or they are lost. Tennessee, under Sidney Johnston, is likely to be lost. Mr. Davis retains him. Van Dorn writes that Missouri must be abandoned unless the claims of Price are recognized. Mr. Davis will not send in his nomination. A change in the cabinet is demanded instantly, to restore public confidence. Mr. Davis is motionless as a clod. [Union general] Buell’s proclamation to the people of Nashville has disposed the young men, already dissatisfied with Johnston, to lay down their arms, and paved the way to the campaign of invasion in the Mississippi valley. Mr. Davis remains as cold as ice. The people must know, and feel, and be felt. The government must be made to move.
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