For every Gettysburg, Antietam, and Vicksburg in the American Civil War, there were tens of smaller actions that did not involve the great Generals and large numbers of troops. However, these small actions often had real strategic consequences. On 8 January 1863, a Confederate advance led by Brigadier General John Sappington Marmaduke made an attempt to capture the important Union supply point at Springfield, Missouri. Marmaduke was a 1857 West Point graduate and had been severely wounded at the Battle of Shiloh. He would later be captured at the Battle of Mine Creek. The Supply point, led by Brigadier General Egbert B. Brown, was important to supplying the Union Army of the West. Brown was a former Mayor of Toledo, Ohio and a prominent Missouri grain merchant. He would be severely wounded at Springfield, but survived the end of the Civil War. The battle is unusual in the fact that it involved a substantial amount of urban combat..something fairly uncommon in the Civil War.
Second Battle of Springfield
The Union garrison was warned of the advance with a few hours to spare. The supply post was short on experienced soldiers, but had the advantage of high ground in the form of four earthen forts around the town. Marmaduke was short of one of his three columns, which had been delayed by skirmishing near Hartville, but decided to attack on the morning of 8 January anyway. Marmaduke made several attempts, but failed in each. Most of the fighting occurred around fort number four with Marmaduke trying frontal assaults and flanking movements with little success. As night fell, Marmaduke realized he had lost and retreated back to Arkansas.
The Second Battle of Springfield will never be called a turning point in the USA Civil War, but one could imagine that Vicksburg and the final Mississippi River stronghold of Port Hudson, LA, might not have fallen in July 1863, if Springfield had been lost to the Confederates in January.
Second Battle of Springfield Motorcycle Ride
Follow the general direction that Marmaduke took from Harrison, Arkansas to Springfield, Missouri, through Ozark on US Highway 65.
By the end of 1861, the Union forces had secured Missouri by routing the Missouri militia that favored secession. In early 1862, the Union commander, General Samuel Curtis moved his Army of the Southwest into northwest Arkansas to take the fight to the Confedrates and secure Missouri from Rebel cross border incursions.
Newly appointed Confederate Army of the West commander, General Earl Van Dorn decided to take his numerically superior, but logistically inferior forces to the northwest of Arkansas and push the Union back onto the back foot in both Arkansas and Missouri.
After several skirmishes in February and early March, 1862, Curtis settled on favorable ground to the east of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Van Dorn knew it was a good position, so decided to split his forces in an attempt to draw Curtis into a weaker position.
Battle of Pea Ridge or Elkhorn Tavern
On day one of the battle, Curtis took the north and west of the position by heading off a flanking movement. The day was carried by the quick movement of the Union forces, the loss of two Confedrate Generals and the capture of a Colonel. Van Dorn led the other Confederate column to take the south and east near Elkhorn Tavern. On day two, Curtis regrouped and attacked Elkhorn tavern with heavy artillery support. Van Dorn held the position but at a tremendous cost in casualties and ammunition and eventually had to retreat and leave the position to Curtis.
The Union continued to hold the area and the strategically important state of Missouri for most of the rest of the war.
Side note: One of the Confederate leaders at Pea ridge was Stand Watie who commanded the Cherokee Mounted Rifles. Watie was a pro-treaty Cherokee who had survived the Trail of Tears move from the Carolinas/Tennessee/Georgia homelands to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Watie would later be promoted to Brigadier General and become the only Native American General on either side of the Civil War. After Pea Ridge, Watie commanded a brigade of Native Americans for the Confederacy. He and his troops participated in many battles and campaigns for the South.
Motorcycle Ride Recommendation
Begin or end your ride with the online tour of the battlefield. Outside of the Pea Ridge Battlefield National Military Parkpark take a through the loop ride through the Hobbs State Park and around Beaver Lake.
Photo Credit: By Kurz and Allison [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons