Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Late Battle Of Pea Ridge

Lieutenant Colonel Herron, of the Ninth Iowa volunteers, one of the regiments which bore so gallant a part in the actions at Leetown and Elkhorn, in Arkansas, (known officially as the battle of Pea Ridge,) recently arrived in this city, and is occupying a room at the Planters House.  He is in care of Dr. Charles A. Pope, and has promise of as speedy recovery from his wound as possible.  During one of the fiercest contests of the battle, and in which the Ninth had to struggle against a superior force of the enemy, a cannon ball passed entirely through Lieutenant Colonel Herron’s horse, and striking the rider’s right ankle, produced both a fracture and a dislocation.  While thus prostrated on the field, he fell into the hands of the enemy, and on the retreat of their army to Van Buren he was carried thither a prisoner, and exchanged, after two weeks’ detention, for Col. Hebert, of Louisiana, who was among the captives taken by the Union forces.  He was as well treated while in possession of the rebels as their limited means for hospitality and the courtesies of warfare would allow, and met among them several St. Louisans with whom he was acquainted before the breaking out of the war.  He saw or heard of them at the town of Van Buren, on the Arkansas river, four miles from Fort Smith. – It was on Van Buren that the enemy directed their retreat after the fortunes of the contest at Pea Ridge went against them, the columns of the deceased Generals McCulloch and McIntosh, taking the route via Huntsville, and Van Dorn and Price, the road through Bentonville.  They made capital time to Van Buren, and there effected a re-concentration of their defeated and dispirited followers.

Col. Herron Frequently saw and conversed with Gen. Price, and believes him to be rather the best and most sensible of the rebel magnates.  Price was shot through the left arm with a Minie ball.  It entered a few inches below the elbow and cut the bone without causing a complete fracture.  The arm was painful and much swollen, and Dr. France, Price’s Surgeon, had great difficulty in reducing the inflammation.

Gen. Slack received a mortal wound in the battle, and was found on the field by Federal soldiers, and carried to a hospital used temporarily for the treatment of the rebel wounded. – He lived only four hours.

Gens. McCulloch and McIntosh were buried at the same time, at Fort Smith.  An escort of cavalry accompanied their remains to the grave.

Gen. Rains after getting to Van Buren, became insubordinate, under the influence of copious drinks of bad whiskey.  He met. Maj. Gen. Van Dorn on the street, denounced him, and damned him for a coward – laying the loss of the battle wholly to Van Dorn’s account.  The opinion generally expressed by the rebel officers was that Van Dorn had courage enough, but lacked judgment.  He arrived at the confederate camps only the day before the battle, and was received with a grand artillery salute, the thunder of which was heard in the Federal lines.  Learning from the subordinate generals that their combined forces amounted to 40,000 men, he ordered them to move forward early next morning and surround the Federal troops.  The day before Col. Heron was released, Price received a commission from Richmond as Major-General.  This still left Price subordinate to Van Dorn, but he thinks the latter has retired or resigned leaving Price in chief command.

Two thirds of the rebel soldiers were armed with muskets, many of them of the Springfield and Enfield pattern, and having sabre bayonets.  The balance had shot guns and country rifles with usual variety.  A brigade of three regiments of Louisiana troops had good uniforms of gray cloth, but with the remainder of the army uniforms were few except with the officers.  They had forty-five pieces of artillery, many of the guns being superior to those in the Union army, who counted, all told, but forty two pieces.  The mules and wagons comprising the commissary train were better than our own, but in medical stores and hospital appliances they were very deficient.

The rebels generally were much dispirited. – Their officers studiously deceived them as to the extent of the late reverses.  They admitted that Fort Donelson had been lost to them with a garrison of two or three thousand men but they denied that Columbus had been evacuated, or that the Federal troops occupied Nashville.  The news of the naval engagement in Hampton Roads was bulletined throughout their camps on sheets of paper, printed in large type.  They represented that six Government vessels were then destroyed – on of them with the entire crew of five hundred men. –{St. Louis Rep.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, April 5, 1862, p. 2

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