Print this page

General Curtis' Headquarters

Pea Ridge NMP Tour Stop #2

Pea Ridge National Military Park Tour Stop 2 SignDirections: The next stop along the Park's Tour Road is Curtis' Headquarters [ Waypoint = N36 26.452 W94 01.939 ]. It's just 0.2 miles down the Park's Tour Road.

Union General Samuel CurtisDescription: You are standing in the general area where Union Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis established his headquarters around March 6th. Think about the tactical situation for the Federal Commander. About two miles down the Wire Road, Curtis had established his lines of defense on the north side of Little Sugar Creek. His wagon trains containing his supplies and ammunition reserves were about one mile to the north near Elkhorn Tavern. Curtis still expected the Confederate attack to come from the south.

"The Enemy is Behind Us!" Interpretive SignBut early in the morning on March 7th, Union General Samuel Curtis was surprised to discover that a large Southern force was flanking his position on Little Sugar Creek. Curtis soon decided that the Union forces at Little Sugar Creek had to do an about face because of the threat from Southern forces to the north.

He had been informed of this by his Provost Marshall, Major Eli W. Weston and Captain Barbour Lewis. Early that morning while on patrol in the rear of the Federal army, Weston's 24th Missouri Infantry Regiment had engaged in skirmishes with the approaching Southerners. Curtis immediately called in his commanders for a council of war. Some favored withdrawal and some wanted to stay and fight.

Union General Peter Osterhaus

Union General Eugene Carr

Curtis decided to take the initiative and send a detachment of cavalry and light artillery, supported by infantry, under the command of Colonel Peter J. Osterhaus to determine the enemy's position and strength. When they found the enemy, they were to engage them. Curtis ordered Colonel Eugene Carr to move his Fourth Division north towards Elkhorn Tavern. Curtis described this in his official report:

“The approach by Bentonville brought the enemy to my extreme right, and during the night of the 5th and 6th he began a movement around my flank by the road before mentioned, which crosses Pea Ridge some 3 miles northwest of the main Telegraph road. I ascertained in the morning this flank movement of the enemy, which I perceived was designed to attack my right flank and rear. I therefore immediately called my commanders of divisions together at General Asboth's tent, and directed a change of front to the rear, so as to face the road upon which the enemy was still moving. At the same time I directed the organization of a detachment of cavalry and light artillery, supported by infantry, to open the battle by an attack from my new center on the probable center of the enemy before he could fully form. I selected Colonel Osterhaus to lead this central column.

“The change of front thus directed reversed the order of the troops, placing the First and Second Divisions on the left, their left still resting on Sugar Creek, Osterhaus and the Third Division in the center, and the Fourth Division became the extreme right. While I was explaining the proposed movement to commanders and Colonel Osterhaus was beginning to rally and move forward this attacking column, a messenger brought me intelligence that my picket, commanded by Major Weston, of the Twenty-fourth Missouri, had been attacked by infantry. This was at Elkhorn Tavern, where the new right was to rest. Colonel Carr being present, he was ordered to move into position and support the major as soon as possible.

"The Battle Begins" Interpretive SignOsterhaus detached the following units and moved them to an open field north of Leetown:

Cavalry, under command of Colonel Cyrus Bussey, consisted of Third Iowa Cavalry, First Missouri Cavalry, Fifth Missouri Cavalry, and three pieces from First Missouri Flying Battery.

Infantry units detached were the Twelfth Missouri Regiment, Thirty-sixth Illinois Regiment, Twenty-second Indiana Regiment, Hoffmann's battery and three pieces (12-pounder howitzers) from Welfley's battery.

Union General Peter OsterhausOsterhaus later described this movement in his official report about the battle:

“Early morning brought us in the intelligence that the united forces of the Confederate and Missouri rebels had passed our right flank and were deploying also on our line of retreat near Elkhorn Tavern. They advanced during the night by the direct road leading from Bentonville, Ark., to Cassville, Mo. This road joins the Telegraph road from Fayetteville to Cassville at a point a few miles north of the above-mentioned Elkhorn Tavern. To prevent the enemy from still more strengthening their position in our rear and to engage a part of his forces General Curtis ordered me to make a demonstration on their right flank towards Leetown, and, if necessary, on the Bentonville and Cassville road.”

Curtis was still not convinced that the entire Southern army was in his rear, but on the morning of March 7th Curtis had changed the Federal deployments:

  • Brigadier General Asboth was on the left with the First and Second Divisions
  • Colonel Osterhaus was in the center in command of a detachment moving to Leetown.
  • Colonel Davis was in the center with the Third Division.
  • Colonel Carr was on the right flank moving part of his Fourth Division up toward Elkhorn Tavern to support Major Weston.


Back: Trail of Tears
Next: Leetown

The Muse South African