150 years ago today: First Day of Pea Ridge

On this day, March 7, in 1862, the battle of Pea Ridge opened.  General Earl Van Dorn’s wide march around the Federal positions along Sugar Creek might have succeeded were not for some turns on the battlefield.  Van Dorn outnumbered his opponent, and caught General Samuel Curtis off guard.  Shoulda… woulda… coulda…

Earlier today I posted an article on XBrad’s site examining one aspect of that first day’s fighting.  The breakdown of Confederate command on the western half of the battlefield (Ben McCulloch’s division) provides a timeless lesson for leaders.  Failure to relate intent has wrecked many a plan.  That was very evident on the afternoon of March 7 around Oberson’s Fields.

In that debacle, Albert Pike made a most significant decision, even though he was not properly in “command.”  He ordered a withdrawal.  Ultimately for this and many other reasons, Pike fell out of favor with the Confederate authorities.  By the end of 1862 he was out of the war.

There’s a statue honoring him in Washington, DC’s Judiciary Square, which I pass nearly every day.

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It is the only outdoor statue of a Confederate General in the District, placed more so due to his Masonic connections than any military achievement.  Yet the monument graces the same section in the nation’s capital as statues to Abraham Lincoln, George Meade, and John Marshall (along with the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial).  There is always some interesting back-story for public memorials in DC.

Tomorrow I plan to post a “guns of Pea Ridge” map.  For those interested in other aspects of the battle, some time back I ran a piece on massed artillery on the second day and another on battlefield preservation there.  And of course, please do check out the piece on XBrad’s site running today.