Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Quick Photographic Tour of the Battle of Leetown

When I woke up yesterday, I checked the weather forecast and then decided to drive to the Pea Ridge National Military Park for the day. Before I reached the battlefield, I made a detour to Fayetteville to eat at a great restaurant: The Catfish Hole. Regrettably, I skipped the Dickson Street Bookstore—the University of Arkansas Razorbacks were hosting the South Carolina Gamecocks later in the day, and I feared that the traffic would be bad. After fortifying myself for a battlefield visit by eating catfish and hush puppies, I drove to the Pea Ridge battlefield. It had been quite some time since I last visited, and I noticed that the displays have been almost completely revamped in the visitor center; also workers have constructed several new fences on the battlefield. One major upgrade over the past few years has been the installation of new interpretive signage; these new signs, illustrated by artist Andy Thomas, are a significant improvement over the old signs.

My companion for this tour was Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge & Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide with a Section on Wire Road (2006) by Earl J. Hess, Richard W. Hatcher III, William Garrett Piston, and William L. Shea. This guidebook has served me well on visits to Wilson’s Creek and Prairie Grove; it is well organized with clear maps. In case you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West (1992) by William L. Shea and Earl J. Hess. This is an outstanding campaign history!

The battle of Pea Ridge was basically a two-part fight with action occurring near Leetown on March 7, 1862 as well as fighting near Elkhorn Tavern on March 7th and 8th. What follows are a handful of photographs of the Leetown battlefield with brief commentary.

This first photograph looks west along a fence bordering the south edge of Oberson’s Field. The view depicts the area occupied by the 22nd Indiana Infantry until they moved toward Morgan’s Woods.

Next a view looking north from the position of Captain Martin Welfley’s Independent Missouri Battery (Union). The 2nd Arkansas Mounted Rifles were positioned in the treeline in the distance. Skirmishers from the 36th Illinois Infantry killed Confederate Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch along the treeline shown on the far left of this photograph; Brigadier General James M. McIntosh met his demise along the treeline at about the 11:00 position in the photograph.

A view of Morgan’s Woods where the 3rd Louisiana Infantry and the 4th, 14th, and 15th Arkansas Infantry clashed with the 18th Indiana, the 22nd Indiana, the 37th Illinois, and the 59th Illinois. Fighting was difficult in such a tangled wood.

The cannons mark the position of Captain Peter Davidson's Peoria Battery (Battery A, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery). Parts of the 3rd Louisiana Infantry and the 4th Arkansas Infantry emerged from their fight in Morgan's Woods and charged toward this battery. A part of the 37th Illinois Infantry provided support with Captain William P. Black earning a Medal of Honor by firing a Colt revolving rifle at the advancing Confederates until he fell wounded. Captain John M. Simpson of the 4th Arkansas Infantry leaped on top of one of the cannon and then was mortally wounded as Confederates captured two of the guns.

The cannon marks the position of Captain John J. Good’s Texas Battery. Oberson’s Field is over the treeline. Before Good’s battery took position, a brief clash took place nearby at Foster’s Farm. The events there were perhaps the most controversial of the battle with allegations that Cherokee Indians had scalped Union soldiers.

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