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Gen. Sterling Price was a good deal less indiguant than any Unionist at the unaccountable desertion1 of south-western Missouri by the new Union commander, directly on the heels of Fremont's triumphant and unresisted advance, when assured that his scouts were not mistaken in reporting the evacuation of Springfield and retreat to Rolla, by an army which he would not have dared to t attack. He gradually retraced his steps from the Arkansas border, entering Springfield in triumph, and subsequently advancing to Osceola, on the Osage, thence pushing forward his forces unresisted over the greater part of southern and western Missouri, occupying in force Lexington and other points on the great river, where Slavery and Rebellion were strong, and subsisting his army on the State from which they might and should have been excluded. The village of Warsaw was burned,' and Platte City partially so,' by Rebel incendiaries or guerrillas; and there were insignificant combats at Salem,4 Rogers' Mill,* near Glasgow, Potosi, Lexington, Mount Zion,' near Sturgeon, and some other points, at which the preponderance of advantage was generally on the side of the Unionists. Even in North Missouri, nearly a hundred miles of the railroad crossing that section was disabled and in good part destroyed * by a concerted night foray of guerrillas. Gen. Ilalleck
thereupon issued an order, threatening to shoot any Rebel caught bridgeburning within the Union lines—a threat which the guerrillas habitually defied, and President Lincoln declined to make good.
Gen. John Pope, commanding the district of Central Missouri, having collected and equipped an adequate force, at length demonstrated * against the Rebels occupying Lexington, under Rains and Stein, compelling them to abandon the line of the Missouri, and retreat southward. Having, by forced marches and his strength in cavalry, gained a position between them and their base at Osceola, he forced them to a hurried flight, with the loss of nearly 300 prisoners and most of their baggage, including 70 wagons laden with clothing and supplies for Price, who lay at Osceola with 8,000 men. Meantime, a detachment of Pope's forces, under Col. Jeff. C. Davis, surprised* a Rebel camp at Milford, not far from Warrensburg, and compelled its surrender at discretion. Three colonels, 17 captains, over 1,000 prisoners, 1,000 stand of arms, 1,000 horses, and an abundance of tents, baggage, and supplies, were among the trophies of this easy triumph. Pope's losses in these operations scarcely exceeded 100 men; while his prisoners alone were said to be 2,500. Among them was Col. Magoffin, brother of the late Governor of Kentucky.
SIGEL'S RETREAT PROM BENTONVILLS.
Price, thus roughly handled before he had been able to concentrate his forces, did not choose to risk a general engagement. He retreated rapidly through Springfield and Cassville, closely pursued, and fighting at intervals, until he had crossed the Arkansas line, forming a junction, soon afterward, near Boston Mountains, with Gen. Ben McCulloch, commanding a division of Texas and Arkansas Confederates, thus raising his entire force to a number fully equal with that which had so keenly pursued him, which was now commanded by Gen. Samuel R. Curtis, of Iowa, and which, after continuing the pursuit down to Fayetteville, Arkansas, had retraced its steps to and halted at Sugar creek, not far over the State line. Meantime, Price was joined19 and backed by Earl Yan Dorn, late a captain11 of U. S. regulars, now Confederate major-general, commanding the Trans-Mississippi department, and by Gen. Albert Pike, of Arkansas, heading a considerable brigade of Indians, swelling the numbers of the Rebels to about 20,000.
Van Dorn promptly resolved to give battle, and to fight it in such manner that the defeat of the Unionists should involve their destruction. Advancing rapidly from his camp at Cross Hollows, covering Fayetteville, he struck at" the division of Gen. Franz Sigel, holding Bentonville, the extreme advance of the Union position, 8 or 10 miles southwest from Gen. Curtis's center, near Mottsville, on the direct road from Fayetteville to Springfield. This attempt to isolate, overwhelm, and crush Sigel wa3 baffled by the coolness and skill of » March 3, 1863.
that general. Sending his train ahead under escort, he covered its retreat with his best battery and infantry, planting his guns on each favorable position, and pouring grape and shell into the pursuing masses, until their advance was arrested and disorganized, when he would limber up and fall back to the next elevation or turn in the road, where he would renew the dispensation of grape with like results, then concede another half-mile, and repeat the operation. Thus fighting and falling back, he wore out the day and the distance, repelling his foes, who at times enveloped his flanks as well as his rear, with a loss of less than 100 men, a good part of these from the 2d Missouri, Col. Schaefer, who, mistaking an order, had left Bentonville considerably in advance, and who fell into an ambuscade by the way. Before 4 p. M., Sigel was met by reenforcements sent him by Gen. Curtis, when the pursuit was arrested, and he deliberately encamped near Leetown, across Sugar creek, and in close proximity to General Curtis's center position. Pea Ridge is the designation of the elevated table-land, broken by ravines, and filling a large bend of Sugar creek, on which the ensuing battle was fought.
Gen. Curtis, knowing lumself largely outnumbered by the motley host collected to overwhelm him, had chosen a very strong position on which to concentrate his retreating force, provided the Rebels would attack it in front, as he expected. The country being generally wooded, he had obstructed most of the lateral roads with fallen trees; while his artillery and infantry, well posted and "March 6.
11 See page 18.
strongly intrenched, were prepared to give the foe the warmest kind of reception as lie advanced against them up the main road, leading from Texas through Fayetteville northward to Keytesville and Springfield. But Van Dorn perceived neither the necessity nor the wisdom of running into such a trap. Advancing from Fayetteville obliquely by way of Bentonville, and chasing Sigel off the direct road from the latter to Keytesville upon the cross-road that passes through the little village of Leetown and intersects the Fayetteville road at Elkhorn Tavern, he diligently improved the night following Sigel'a retreat in placing his entire army along the road from Bentonville toward Keytesville, on the flank and in the rear of his foe; so that all Curtis's elaborate preparations to receive him on the Fayetteville road went for nothing.
Curtis woke late on the morning of the 7th to a realizing sense of his critical condition, with a far more numerous foe practically between him and his resources, rendering retreat ruinous, and compelling him to fight the Rebels on the ground they had chosen, which proffered him no advantage, and with which their guides were far more familiar than his. But every moment's delay must necessarily be improved by Yan Dorn in making matters worse; so Curtis promptly changed front to rear, making the first and second divisions, under Sigel and Asboth, his left, the third, under Jeff. C. Davis, his center, and the fourth, Col. Carr, his right. The line thus formed stretched about three miles, from Sugar creek, through Leetown, to Elkhorn Tavern; of the Rebel line confronting it,
Price, with his Missourians, formed the right; Mcintosh was in the center, and McCulloch on the left. The dispositions being made, at 10^ o'clock, Osterhaus was directed by Curtis to advance, supporting his cavalry and light artillery, and open the ball; while, at nearly the same moment, McCulloch fell with overwhelming force upon Carr's division at and near Elkhorn Tavern. A broad, deep ravine, known as CrossTimber Hollow, but termed in some reports Big Sugar creek, rendered almost impassable by a windfall of heavy timber, crossed the battle-field, severing the lines of either army, but especially those of the Rebels.
Osterhaus advanced with great gallantry from Leetown nearly to the Bentonville road, on which he found the enemy moving rapidly in great force toward Elkhorn Tavern, where McCulloch's attack upon Carr was already in progress. Assailed in turn by greatly superior numbers, he was soon driven back in disorder, with the loss of his battery. Col. Davis, who had been ordered by Curtis to support Carr, was now directed to advance through Leetown to the rescue of Osterhaus, which he did with such vigor and determination that, though largely outnumbered and repeatedly compelled to recoil, his division held the ground assigned them, losing two guns of Davidson's battery by the sudden advance of the enemy when their horses were disabled, but regaining them by a desperate charge of the 18th Indiana, which, with the 22d, was honorably conspicuous throughout the day. Col. Hendricks, of the 22d, was killed while leading a charge of his regiment. Night closed on this division,
sinking weary but undaunted on the field it had Bo nobly won—a field reddened by the blood of many of their foes, including Gens. McCulloch and Mcintosh, both mortally -wounded.
Carr was so fearfully overmatched throughout the day that, though always presenting a bold front to the enemy, he was compelled to give ground, sending repeated and urgent representations to Gen. Curtis that he could hold out but little longer unless rcenforced. Curtis sent him from time to time a battalion or a few light guns, with orders to persevere; and at length, at 2 r. H., finding his left wholly unassailed, ordered Gen. Asboth to move to the right by the Fayetteville road to Elkhorn Tavern, to support Carr, while Gen. Sigel should reenforce Davis at Leetown, pushing on to Elkhorn if not needed in the center.
Gen. Curtis, with Asboth's division, reached Elkhorn at 5 p. M. He
found Carr sti 1 fiercely fighting, having received three or four shots, one of which inflicted a severe wound. Many of his field officers had fallen, with about one-fourth of his entire command. He had been seven hours under fire, during which he had been forced back about half a mile. As Curtis came up, he saw the 4th Iowa falling back in perfect order, dressing on their colors as if on parade, and ordered it to face about. Col. Dodge explained that it was entirely out of ammunition, and was only retiring to refill its cartridge-boxes. Curtis ordered a bayonet-charge, and the regiment at once moved steadily back to its former position.
Meantime, Gen. Asboth had planted his artillery in the road and opened a heavy fire on the Rebel masses just at hand, while, of his infantry, the 2d Missouri plunged into the fight. The fire on both sides was close and deadly. Gen. Asboth was severely wounded, Gen. Curtis's orderly was hit, and one of his bodyguard fell dead. As the shades of night fell, a messenger from Sigel gave tidings that he was coming up on the left, and would soon open fire. Asboth's Latteries fell back, being out of ammunition, and the Rebels ■were enabled to fire the last shot. A little after dark, both armies sank down on the battle-field, and slept amid the dead and the dying.
Curtis, finding that Van Dorn had concentrated all his forces on this point, directed Davis to withdraw all his reserve from the center, and move forward to the ground on Carr's left, which was effected by midnight. Sigel, though he had reported himself just at hand at dark, was obliged to make a detour, and did not reach headquarters till 2 A. M.
Van Dorn slept that night at the Elkhorn Tavern, from which he had dislodged Davis by such desperate efforts." He had thus far been fighting a part of our forces with all of his own, and had only gained ground where his preponderance of numbers was overwhelming. Curtis reports his entire command in Arkansas at 10,500, cavalry and infantry—of whom 250 were absent after forage throughout the battle—and 48 pieces of artillery. He estimates the Rebel force in battle at 30,000, including 5,000 Indians." Pollard says, "Van Dom's whole force was about 16,000 men." But now our whole army was
"Pollard Bays, "Wo had taken during the day 7 cannon and about 200 prisoners."
"The Richmond Whig of April 9th, 18G2, has a Rebel letter from one present to Hon. G. G. Vest, which says:
"When the enemy left Covo creek, which is south of Boston Mountain, Gens. Price, MeCulloch, Pike, aDd Mcintosh seemed to think—at <
in hand, while at least a third of it had not yet fired a shot. Not a man in our ranks doubted that our victory must be speedy as well as decisive. A
The sun rose; Gen. Curtis awaited the completion of his line of battle by Asboth's and Sigel's divisions getting into position; but no shot was fired by the enemy. At length, Curtis ordered Col. Davis, in our center, to begin the day's work. He was instantly replied to from new batteries and lines which the Rebels had prepared during the night, some of the batteries raking our ri-rht wing so that it was constrained to fall back a little, but without slackening its fire. Asboth's and Sigel's divisions were soon in position, completing our lino of battle a little to the rear of the first, but without a break, and much of it on open ground, our left wing extended so that it could not be flanked. Gen. Curtis ordered his right to advance to the positions held the night before, and, finding himself an elevation on the extreme right, considerably in advance, which commanded the enemy's center and left, here posted the Dubuque battery, directing the right wing to advance to its support, while Capt. llayden opened from it a most galling fire. Returning to the center, he directed the 1st Iowa battery, Capt. David, to take position in an open field and commence operations; and so battery after battery opened
least camp-talk amongst officers high in command so represented—that our united forces would carry into action nearly 30,000 men, more frequently estimated at 35,000 than a lower figure. I believe Gen. Van Dorn was confident that not a man less tlian 25,000 were panting to follow his victorious plume to a field where prouder honors awaited them than any ho had yet gathered."