Print this page

Elkhorn Tavern Taken

Tour Stop

Directions: Now walk the approximately quarter of a mile back to Elkhorn Tavern. Just north of the tavern and east of the Wire Road is the “Elkhorn Tavern Taken” Interpretive Sign [ Waypoint = N36 27.228 W94 00.911 ] on your right.

Elkhorn Tavern Taken Interpretive Sign“Elkhorn Tavern Taken” Interpretive Sign text reads as follows:

“Confederate commander Earl Van Dorn had pushed his army relentlessly for a week to catch the Union army by surprise. Now, after hard fighting up the Telegraph Road, here in the sight of Elkhorn Tavern, Van Dorn gambled by committing all of his reserves. As the Missouri State Guard regiments drove back the last Federal defenders, Elkhorn Tavern appeared to be a bold Confederate victory.”

“Like magic the word 'Charge' ran along the line...a battery [of six Union cannon] opened upon us...tearing through our lines...[we] recoiled for an instant under the iron hail...when 'On to the battery!' was the cry,and with a yell...we closed upon the closing ranks...the thunder of the artillery and the opening roll of the muskets...were deafening...the torrent of lead and iron poured through the surrounding smoke. – Ephraim Anderson, private, 2nd Missouri Regiment”

Union General William VandeverDescription: You are standing near where Colonel William Vandever led his 2nd Brigade to the support of Colonel Grenville Dodge's 1st Brigade who were trying to hold off the rebel advance north of Elkhorn Tavern. The artillery pieces here mark the location of Captain Mortimer M. Hayden's 3rd Independent Battery, Iowa Light Artillery. After learning that there was a strong Confederate force north of Elkhorn Tavern, Union Brigadier General Samuel Curtis had ordered Vandever's Brigade forward to reinforce Colonel Eugene Carr. Now Carr's entire 4th Division was engaged near Elkhorn Tavern.

Vandever described the day's events in his official report:

“Upon arriving at the Elkhorn Tavern the artillery immediately took position near the main road and opened a brisk fire, infantry forming mainly on the left, Colonel Dodge's brigade being to the right. Soon after my whole line of infantry was briskly engaged with the enemy, who fell back, we pushing forward and driving him until met by an overpowering force. The infantry then resumed the position in advance of the Elkhorn Tavern where the enemy was first encountered, and retained it during most of the day against greatly superior odds. Towards evening, the enemy having concentrated a heavy fire of artillery and infantry upon our position, and to avoid the chance of being flanked during the night, I fell back to a line of timber and formed on the right of the main road.”

Confederate General Earl Van DornAfter back and forth fighting all day just north of Elkhorn Tavern, Van Dorn prepared his Confederates to make a coordinated attack against the Federals. The coordination and overwhelming numbers of the Confederate forces overcame the rugged terrain and they were able push the Federal defenders southward. By late afternoon on March 7th, Van Dorn was in control of the ground around Elkhorn Tavern.

Confederate General Henry LittleConfederate Colonel Henry Little commanding the 1st Brigade of Missouri Volunteers described this action:

“It was very late in the day when the sharp battle of small-arms in the direction of our extreme left announced the moment for action. I ordered the charge. My men advanced in one unbroken line. We met the foe. For a few seconds he resisted, and then fell back before our lines, as with a shout of triumph Rives' and Gates' regiments dashed onward past the Elkhorn Tavern, and we stood on the ground where the enemy had formed in the morning.”

Confederate Colonel John T. Hughes described this fighting in his official report:

“...a charge was ordered along the whole line, and the right rapidly advanced down the steep sides of the mountain, leaping from rock to rock over the rugged descent for some half a mile, driving the Federals like a tempest before them. The Federals retreated to their baggage trains, some distance off and renewed the cannonading. The volleys of musketry and the booming of cannon were heard until night put an end to the strife.”

Union General Francis HerronColonel Francis J. Herron was wounded during the withdrawal by Vandever's Brigade from Elkhorn Tavern to this spot. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

“Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel, 9th Iowa Infantry. Place and date: At Pea Ridge, Ark., 7 May 1862. Entered service at: Pittsburgh, Pa. Born: 17 February 1837, Pittsburgh, Pa. Date of issue 26 September 1893. Citation: Was foremost in leading his men, rallying them to repeated acts of daring, until himself disabled and taken prisoner.”


The Muse South African