Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Prairie Grove Hero

About three weeks ago, I went on a day trip to Fayetteville and visited the National Cemetery there. First established in 1867 with internments of Union soldiers from the battlefields at Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove, it is a beautiful and well-maintained cemetery. The Civil War burials are on the top of the hill, but soldiers from later wars are intermingled with their earlier counterparts. While studying the inscriptions, I took a photo of the grave marker of 4th Sergeant Lindsey E. Teal and later discovered a story of heroism.

Sergeant Teal enlisted in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, in a unit that became Company A of the 20th Wisconsin Infantry. The regiment’s highest casualties occurred at the battle of Prairie Grove on December 7, 1862. These Wisconsin soldiers entered the battle after an epic march of 120 miles over three and a half days. They were among the regiments that made piecemeal attacks up a ridge toward the Borden House; the specific target of the 20th Wisconsin were the three guns of Captain William D. Blocher’s Arkansas Battery near the house. William L. Shea describes what happened next in his Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign:

[Major Henry A.] “Starr bellowed ‘Forward!’ and the Twentieth Wisconsin dashed toward the Rebel guns. ‘We rushed over a rail fence and the battery was ours,’ wrote Captain Miller. ‘What a shout of exultation arose!’ Color Sergeant Lindsey E. Teal climbed onto one of the guns and exuberantly waved the Stars and Stripes. The ‘whole command was wild with excitement,’ noted a Wisconsin soldier. ‘We thought we could clear up the whole business at once,’ recalled another. A quick check revealed that not a man in the regiment had been hurt” (page 170). The regiment advanced on and part entered a ravine where they were mauled by Confederate troops. By the end of the battle, the 20th Wisconsin had suffered a 49% casualty rate. Among the fifty men killed in action was Color Sergeant Lindsey Teal.

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