When I think of Pea Ridge, the picture in my mind is the view across Cox’s Field with massed Federal batteries to each side and Confederate batteries to the distant front. I posted on that action, the centerpiece of the second day of the battle, some time back. Usually we think of cavalry or irregular forces when considering the Trans-Mississippi theater of war. But in one of the largest battles in the theater, artillery played a critical role on both days of battle.
The majority of weapons in the order of battle were smoothbores not far removed from Mexican War-era technology, and only a little more removed from the Napoleonic-era. However in the second day’s bombardment, about half the Federal guns were bronze rifles (either James or similar alterations to 6-pdr guns). There were only four rifled guns in the entire Confederate force. Both sides deployed a handful of Napoleons. The short battle ranges in the second day duel, between 500 and 800 yards, negated the advantages of the rifles and Napoleon guns.
Today Pea Ridge National Military Park boasts twenty-four authentic Civil War artillery pieces, complemented by several reproduction guns. Most “un-historic”, there are more 12pdr Napoleons in the park today than any other type. On my last visit in 2010, the park had a large number of unfilled carriages. I’ve included the authentic guns, reproduction, and empty carriages in the map below.
I’ve heard the park has brought in more reproductions and perhaps moved some of the pieces around. So I’d appreciate any updates to ensure the map is accurate.
Pea Ridge NMP features an excellent trail system, with more than just Civil War themes. The park is a restored gem – dare I say a mandatory stop for any battlefield stomper? And when you do visit Pea Ridge, take some time to examine the bronze and iron “artifacts” around the battlefield.