Scenic USA - Arkansas

Pea Ridge National Military Park

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Pea Ridge National Military Park - Garfield, Arkansas

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Photography

   Although four Border States were pro-slavery during the Civil War, the states of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri never declared their secession from the Union. Tugged in each direction, these states contributed troops to both the Union and Confederate sides. Even families held opposing views, with brother against brother. Along this dividing line between the north and south, guerilla warfare, intense raids, and violence occurred throughout the war years.
   Keeping Missouri in the Union was a key objective of the Federal Government, and Pea Ridge became the focal point for the conquest of this key state. Troops from both sides amassed in northwest Arkansas on March 4, 1862, just a few miles from the Missouri border. Union Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis secured the high ground along the Pea Ridge bluff line overlooking Sugar Creek. Confederate troops, led by Brigadier General Earl Van Dorn, totaled 16,000 men and included two regiments of Cherokee Indians. Elkhorn Tavern Avoiding a suicidal frontal attack, Confederates circled around Union troops from each side. Cold, hungry and tired from this three day maneuver, hopes to win the battle turned grim when Confederate Brig Gen. Ben McCulloch and Brig Gen. James McIntosh were killed. Although Van Dorn's troops fared better and pushed Federal troops back beyond Elkhorn Tavern (inset), nightfall halted the fighting. The following morning on March 8th, a strong Union artillery barrage crippled the Confederate lines and scattered the remaining troops. With an order of withdraw from Van Dorn, the Battle of Pea Ridge was over.
   Today, the Pea Ridge NMP is open daily from 8am to 5pm. A loop road circles around the park, following along the foothills of the Elk Horn Mountains. Eleven stops along the tour highlight key points on the battlegrounds.

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