A Rout in the West
After yesterday’s opening battle, the struggle resumes at Pea Ridge between Van Dorn’s 16,000 Confederates and Curtis’s 11,500 Federals. The fight is concentrated near Elkhorn Tavern on the Union right. Once again, the artillerists—among them, two Ohio batteries—play a decisive role, smashing Confederate batteries that lack sufficent shot and shell to fight back effectively. Van Dorn’s “clever” plan to attack the Union rear has backfired on him, for he has cut himself off from his ammunition wagons.
Finally, a charge by 7,000 Federals led by Franz Sigel’s German-American regiments from Illinois and Indiana routs the Confederates, who flee in disarray. The outnumbered Union soldiers scatter the Southerners, and it will take Van Dorn two weeks to reassemble his forces. This delay will prevent Van Dorn from bringing reinforcements to Albert Sidney Johnston in time to make a difference at a place called Shiloh.
Pea Ridge is the biggest battle won during the Civil War by outnumbered Northern forces. Curtis’s Federals suffered 1,349 causalities, most of them killed or wounded; the Confederates, 4,600, most of them captured.
THE HALLECK-GRANT KERFUFFLE: Grant’s defense of his actions, telegraphed yesterday, makes no impression on Halleck, who airily waves aside any possibility he is wrong and replies, “You are mistaken; there is [no] enemy between me & you. There is no letter of yours stating the number & position of your command….Genl McClellan has asked for it repeatedly….He is out of all patience….”
On the same day, Halleck wires McClellan, “Strange to say I have not yet received any returns whatever from Grant….” Halleck is determined to give Grant no breaks.
Grant will make no further argument for several days.
ELSEWHERE IN THE CIVIL WAR: The C.S.S. Virginia, an up-armored steamship known to Northerners as the Merrimack, steams into the Union Navy anchorage at Hampton Roads and plays havoc, sinking or running aground several of the old-fashioned wooden vessels. As the Confederate vessel returns to home port, expecting to come backthe next day, the Union’s new iron-clad fighting ship, the Monitor, is wallowing its way to Hampton Roads. Soon, there will be a new kind of naval battle.
In Washington, President Lincoln confers with General McClellan, back from his useless expedition to Manassas. Reluctantly, Lincoln approves McClellan’s plan to attack Richmond from the South, so long as he leaves enough troops to defend Washington.
IT’S COMING SOONER THAN YOU THINK: April 12, 2011—less than 3½ years from now!—will be the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1861, April 12 was the day Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.
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