Monthly Archives: September 2010

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of September 27

This week, thirty-eight additions to the Civil War category in the Historical Marker Database.  States represented are Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

– The Tannehill Ironworks near McCalla, Alabama provided kettles, ovens, hollow-ware, harness and canteens to the Confederate government.

– The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ monument in Norwalk, Connecticut honors that community’s Civil War veterans.

– Several markers from around Milledgeville, Georgia.  Some 25,000 Federals camped outside of the city on November 22-25, 1864.   General Sherman briefly used the Governor’s Mansion as his headquarters.  St. Stephens Episcopal Church was damaged when the nearby arsenal was destroyed.

– A stone marker in Atlanta notes the location of Manigault’s Brigade during the Battle of Atlanta, July 22, 1864.

– Several markers related to the Battle of Ezra Church, on the west side of Atlanta.  On July 26, 1864 General S.D. Lee’s Corps stepped off to attack Federal lines from a line near present day West View Cemetery.   General J.C. Brown’s division led the attack on the left of Lee’s line.  Clayton’s Division advanced on the left.    Lick Skillet Road was a prominent feature on the battlefield.

– A wayside marker in Augusta, Georgia orients visitors to the site of the Augusta Arsenal.

– A state marker in West Point, Georgia details an action fought there on April 16, 1865.  Fort Tyler was the last Confederate fort to fall in the war.

– Some of the interpretive markers recently added from Fort Scott, Kansas cover Civil War related topics.  On December 16, 1858, “Free Staters” raided the fort to free one of their imprisoned compatriots.  Another marker discusses garrison activities during the war.

– A marker near Cynthiana, Kentucky discusses Dr. James A. Henshall author, naturalist, and physician, who rendered aid to wounded of both sides during the war.

– John J. Crittenden, of Russellville, Kentucky, worked hard in the early days of the war to find a compromise.  The war divided his family, with his sons on opposite sides, both serving as generals.

– In Southeast Missouri, the towns of Poplar Bluff and Caruthersville suffered from guerrilla activities during the war.

– The Federal Army of Southeast Missouri wintered near Van Buren, Missouri in the winter of 1862-63.

– On September 23, 1861 Kansas troops under General James H. Lane destroyed the town of Osceola, Missouri.   Parts of the movie Outlaw Josy Wales are based on this episode.

– Missouri State Guard under General Sterling Price defeated some of the Kansas “Jay Hawkers” on September 2, 1861 at the battle of Drywood, near modern Nevada, Missouri.

– A memorial in Passaic, New Jersey honors soldiers of the Revolutionary and Civil War.

– Another marker tracing Morgan’s Raid this week, this time from near Harrisville, Ohio.

Camp Boone, just over the Kentucky-Tennessee state line near Clarksville, Tennessee, served as a muster point for Kentucky men joining the Confederate army.

– A combined operation at Galveston, Texas on January 1, 1863 recaptured the port for the Confederacy.  Captaining one of the Confederate ships was Leon Smith. Smith was very active with coastal patrols and blockade running during the war.  Confederate troops occupied fortifications on Virginia Point outside Galveston.

– A state marker notes the location of Fort Martin Scott, in Fredericksburg, Texas.  The fort was a pre-war frontier fort, used by Confederates during the war.

– A memorial in Isle of Wight, Virginia honors the county’s Confederate veterans.

– A state marker in Jonesville, Virginia briefly notes an action fought there on January 3, 1864, resulting in a disaster for a Federal raiding force.  Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, a leader in the field of osteopathy, was born in Jonesville and served in the war.

– A state marker and a Civil War Trails marker discuss the Battle of Marion, Virginia, fought on December 17-18, 1864.   Colonel William Peters, of the 21st Virginia Cavalry, and college professor both pre- and post-war, was buried in Marion.

– A memorial in Surry, Virginia honors Surry County’s Confederates.  A nearby plaque notes the death of Captain Jacob Faulcon, killed during a Federal raid on November 11, 1864.

– A marker near Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin discusses a Chippewa settlement there.  Many of the tribe fought in the Union army during the war.  The famous Old Abe mascot of the 8th Wisconsin was captured on the lake.

Pea Ridge: A Restored Battlefield

Yesterday I closed saying Pea Ridge was a well restored and maintained battlefield.   Yes restored.

When established in 1956, Pea Ridge National Battlefield Park included over 4,000 acres of the core battlefield area.  Unlike many other fields, Pea Ridge’s bounds included nearly all the contested ground.  But that area included several dozen structures – homes, barns, cribs – none of which dated to the war.  Farmers cleared much of the wartime forests for fields in the years after the war.   The effect of agricultural activity on the battlefield is clear in this 1940’s aerial photograph.

1940's Aerial Photo of Pea Ridge (see note)

With a patchwork of fields across the core battlefield area, only the familiar Big Mountain along with traces of the road network stand out.   I’ve traced placed some notations on the photo in the view below.

1940s Map with Fields, Roads and Points Noted. (Click to enlarge.)

Yellow lines show the existing road network.  In particular notice the Telegraph and Leetown Roads, which were still in full use at that time.   On the left, County Road 700 would become the western boundary of the park.  I don’t think the US highways were designated in the 1940s, but have labeled them as such here for reference.  Green boxes indicate the important fields that existed during the battle.  And I’ve added some red stars for notable reference points for discussion.

In stark contrast to the forest with a few patches of fields, in 1940 only a few stands of trees stood on what was otherwise an expanse of farmer’s fields.  Numerous buildings appear in those fields.

On the left, notice the Leetown battlefield.  The wood line where McCulloch and McInstosh fell was not there in 1940.   Morgan’s Woods, where combatants fought a bitter close-quarters contest, were also gone save a small stand of trees.   Little Mountain retained its wooded slopes, but stood surrounded by open, clear fields.

Looking to the eastern part of the field, at Welfley’s Knoll shadows of several buildings lay in what is an enlarged Cox’s Field.  Big Mountain, while still wooded, had several open fields on top.  A new structure stood at the site of Elkhorn Tavern.  And the wood lines around Ruddick’s and Clemon’s fields were gone.  The wide intersections near the tavern imply that the Telegraph Road, Ford Road, and Huntsville Road were in use.

Compare to a Google Earth view today, with the same points indicated.

Modern View of Pea Ridge Battlefield

(You may wish to browse the Google Map I prepared this from for reference also.)

Most apparent are the restored wood lines.  But look close.  Practically no buildings (Elkhorn Tavern, the visitor center, and some park maintenance areas).  Where did they go?  In a visit to the battlefield in the  early 1980s, I recall seeing debris piles and remains off to the sides of the display areas.  At that time park rangers indicated those were structures leveled for landscape restoration.   (During my recent visit, a volunteer at the park further elaborated that in the 1960s, many structures were simply leveled in place as the park lacked funds.  Those were cleaned up over time.)

So can you “restore” a battlefield?  Perhaps.  In the case of Pea Ridge, the National Park Service worked for more than half a century to restore wood lines and clear non-wartime structures.  Sure, no shopping complexes or apartments were leveled, but the starting point in 1956 was far from the 1862 appearance.  The change is remarkable, but is not the whole story.  The overhead views do not provide details of fence lines, artillery pieces, and a reconstructed Elkhorn Tavern.   For those touches, organizations outside the park aided the efforts (and rightfully should be covered in another post).

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Elkhorn Tavern from the old Huntsville Road Trace

Pea Ridge was not exactly a pristine battlefield which the park service simply had to maintain.  When created in 1956, the field was a diamond in the rough that has taken well to fifty plus years of polishing.


NOTE:   Source for the aerial photo is “The Battle Raged…With Terrible Fury:” Battlefield Archeology of Pea Ridge National Military Park, Midwest Archeological Center Technical Report No. 112, by Carl G. Carlson-Drexler, Douglas D. Scott, and Harold Roeker.   Lincoln, Nebraska:  United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Midwest Archeological Center, 2008, page 7.   I recommend this very detailed study of the field’s artifacts for those interested in the battlefield.

Massed Artillery in the West: Pea Ridge

In his report of the Battle of Pea Ridge, Captain Louis Hoffmann, Forth Independent Battery, Ohio Light Artillery recounted his activities on March 8, 1862:

The battery was placed on the left wing of the First Division, on a high plateau, and has not changed its position, firing without interruption during nearly four hours. After having compelled the enemy to stop the firing of his batteries, Hoffmann’s battery turned its whole attention to a high rocky hill opposite our plateau, occupied by the strongest force of the enemy, for the support of our infantry, which that time commenced its marching up the said rocky hill…. The four 6-pounder rifled guns of the battery have thrown 460 shots and the two howitzers 106 shells and spherical case. [OR, Series I, Volume 8, Serial 8, page 238]

Hoffmann’s battery was one of six batteries, or surviving portions of, massed on the Federal left on the second day of battle at Pea Ridge.  All told, twenty-one cannons formed across Cox’s Field, spanning from the Ford Farm nearly to the Telegraph Road.

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Right End of Federal Gun Line in Cox’s Field

The massed guns was the largest concentration of field artillery seen thus far in the war (keep in mind Shiloh was a month in the future, and the great eastern battles of 1862 had yet to transpire).  In what was perhaps the greatest day in his military career, Brigadier General Franz Sigel, commanding the First and Second Divisions (in other words a “wing”) of the army, directed this concentrated firepower against the Confederate lines in preparation for an infantry assault.

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View of Confederate Lines Opposite Cox’s Field

Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis, commanding the Army of the Southwest, put events in motion the previous night by ordering Sigel to concentrate his command for a morning attack against Confederates.  Sigel sent his First Division commander, Colonel Peter J. Osterhaus, to examine the ground and begin placing the troops.  Osterhaus, exhibiting a keen eye for terrain, noted a rise on the western side of Cox’s Field.   Today the ground is known as Welfley’s Knoll, named for Captain Martin Welfley, whose Missouri Light Artillery deployed on that high ground.

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Looking West Down Federal Artillery Line at Welfley’s Knoll

On the Confederate side, Major General Earl Van Dorn did not prepare for this concentrated assault.  At no time during the morning were more than a dozen guns positioned to counter Sigel’s artillery.  In his official report, Van Dorn cited ammunition shortages.   To some degree this was true, but Van Dorn and his commanders did little to direct the guns in defense.

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Confederate Gunner’s View of Telegraph Road and Federal Guns

But other factors also worked against the rebel gunners.  The lay of the ground worked against the Confederates.  Big Mountain hemmed in the Confederate right flank.  And batteries deployed at the edge of Cox’s Field were enfiladed by Welfley’s Battery.  Ranges varied between 500 yards to 800 yards.  With many rifled guns and better fuze-shell combinations, the Federal gunners had a technical advantage also.

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Welfley’s Knoll from the Confederate Gun Line

The bombardment left a memorable impression upon those on the field that day.  Some witnesses estimated a cannon fired once every two seconds that morning.  Just based on Hoffmann’s report, that Ohio battery averaged a shot every two minutes over the span of four hours from each rifled gun; and one every four minutes from each howitzer.  And likely the average does not properly reflect the intense firing mid morning.   Still even a conservative estimate is a round every thirty seconds from Hoffmann’s gunners alone.

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View of Confederate Artillery from Welfley’s Knoll

Under cover of this bombardment, Sigel advanced his infantry in bounds to staging points.  Upon seeing several Confederate batteries withdraw, Curtis remarked to Sigel, “General, I think the infantry might advance now.”  With that order, the entire Army of the Southwest, four divisions, stood on line and advanced.  A sight not often seen during the war in the east, much less in the far west.   The infantry assault broke the Confederate line and triggered a general retreat, if not full route.

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View of Cox’s Field from East Overlook

On the second day of Pea Ridge artillery did pave the way for an infantry assault.  Some will point out the Confederate Army of the West was not widely equipped with rifled muskets.  That may be true, but the bombardment ranges at Pea Ridge were closer than at battles later in the war.  And those massed guns were mostly Mexican War vintage smoothbores and 6-pdr bronze rifles, with only a handful of 12-pdr Napoleons.  That said, perhaps, with the bombardment and the grand attack of the Army of the Southwest on line considered, Pea Ridge was among the last true “Napoleonic” battles.

The restored and well maintained battlefield at Pea Ridge offers the student of the war the opportunity to study the tactical use of massed batteries.  And that battlefield preservation is the subject of my next post on Pea Ridge.