Regular readers know that on occasion I highlight notable marches made by soldiers in the trans-Mississippi. While perusing Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West by William L. Shea and Earl J. Hess recently, I came across another example of a long march in a relatively short time.
In February 1862, Major General Sterling Price, well aware of a Union advance on Springfield, Missouri, decided to retreat from that area. He and his Missouri soldiers marched south on Telegraph Road and retreated toward Arkansas. At first, Union forces under Brigadier General Franz Sigel made only modest efforts to speed Price’s force on their way, but on 16 February Sigel started pressing the enemy.
Here is a brief passage from Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West that describes the ensuing march:
“The rebels hurried over the fifty miles from Crane Creek in Missouri to Little Sugar Creek in Arkansas in less than thirty-six hours. Weather, fatigue, hunger, and demoralization took a severe toll. Everyone became ‘foot sore and tired from marching over the hard and frozen ground.’ Exhaustion was a critical problem because the Missourians had not had a full night of sleep since February 11 in Springfield. Whenever the column halted for a few moments, men in the ranks dozed while leaning against one another. Soldiers even fell asleep while marching” (p. 34). Union troops also marched quickly, but they “had rested well in Springfield on February 13 and had the psychological advantage of knowing that the enemy was on the run” (p. 34-35).