Digging In


All through the day and night of March 6, 1862 Union General Samuel R. Curtis’s army labored in the freezing conditions to turn tree covered bluffs…

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Eleven paintings…one battle…one artist

This collection of Pea Ridge paintings are the permanent collection of artwork at the Pea Ridge National Military Park in Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Each image was also used on the wayside exhibits that are along the historic sites within the park.

 All through the day and night of March 6, 1862 Union General Samuel R. Curtiss army labored in the freezing conditions to turn tree covered bluffs into a hilltop fortress complete with rifle pits and artillery emplacements. The federals also chopped down hundreds of trees to create a deadly field of fire down to the valley below.

Enoch Trott owned a little store that sat along the Telegraph Road in the valley. Curtis ordered the store to be burned so that it would not provide cover for the oncoming confederates. Van Dorn realizing that he would have to cross the valley under the eye of Curtiss guns and attack on this strong position would be suicidal, had his army light fires all down the Little Sugar Creek valley fooling Curtis into believing the confederates were bedding down for the night. Van Dorns army then crossed over Little Sugar Creek on logs and moved along the Bentonville Detour and around Curtiss entrenched army. Van Dorn hoped to have his army completely around Curtiss and along the Telegraph Road by morning, blocking Curtiss route of retreat. Van Dorns troops, exhausted by the punishing three-day march and slowed by timber blockades along the Bentonville Detour, quickly fell behind so that when morning came, the Army of the West was dangerously spread out along the road.

Van Dorn altered his plan and ordered Benjamin McCulloch and his half of the army to back track and move down the Ford Road with the intention of linking back up with Van Dorn and Sterling Price south of the Elkhorn Tavern. Fate and the Federal army would intervene and force both halves of the confederate army to fight apart on the first day of the battle.

Breastworks of considerable strength were erected by the troops on the headlands of Sugar Creek as if by magic, and a battery near the road crossing was completely shielded by an extensive earthwork.

Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis, Commanding Army of the Southwest

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