• Elkhorn Tavern, Federal Provost Marshal Headquarters and Field Hospital Used by Both Armies

    Pea Ridge

    National Military Park Arkansas

Eagle Hotel, Bentonville, Arkansas

As Curtis continued deeper into Arkansas, Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch's Western Army was forced to abandon its winter camp at Cross Hollows and join Price's retreat. The two Southern armies established a new camp in the Boston Mountains south of Fayetteville, Arkansas. On February 22, Curtis halted his army at Cross Hollows after marching nearly 250-miles. Now that Curtis had driven Price from Missouri, he now had to make sure that the Missouri State Guard did not return.

The Confederates had a new commander by now, Major General Earl Van Dorn. On the evening of March 3, 1862, Van Dorn gathered his commanders together and outlined his plans for dealing with Curtis' army. The campaign would begin the next day. The men would travel light, besides their weapons & equipment, they were allowed to carry only a single blanket and rations for three days. The army, now renamed the Army of the West, would march quickly and split Curtis in two. He would first attack the half south of Bentonville. He would then turn and attack the remaining half and capture Curtis's supply base. The road would now be clear for the liberation of Missouri.

 

Van Dorn's plan began to fall apart almost immediately after it was put in action. Van Dorn began his advance on March 4. A winter storm broke as the column reached the Ozark Plateau, slowing the column. Van Dorn tried to make up time and quickened the pace. Rations started to run out the next day as they marched north. The same day, Curtis received several warnings from Fayetteville Unionists that the Southerners were marching north. He ordered the army to erect earthworks along the Little Sugar Creek.

 

"It had turned bitter cold and was snowing a regular March blizzard. We had no tents and only one blanket to each man. We built log heaps and set them afire to warm the ground to have a place on which to lie, and I remember well the next day there were several holes burned in my uniform by sparks left on the ground."

Private Asa Payne
1st Missouri Brigade

 
The Bentonville Public Library, site of the Eagle Hotel. General Sigel was eating his breakfast here when the Confederates attacked.

This building, now the Bentonville Public Library, sits on the site of the Eagle House. General Sigel was eating breakfast here when Confederate Cavalry attacked Bentonville from the south.

On the morning of March 6, 1862, General Franz Sigel was eating breakfast at the Eagle Hotel. Although he had been told by Curtis that the Confederate Army was marching north towards him, he remained in Bentonville with 600 men and battery of six pieces after sending his two divisions to the Little Sugar Creek. Confederate cavalry, under Brigadier General James McIntosh surprised Sigel and forced a hasty retreat. In 1887, Sigel returned to the battlefield and stayed at the hotel. He remarked that he had come back to finish his breakfast.

 

It is unsure why Sigel remained behind in Bentonville on March 6. He was nearly cut off; but McIntosh's attack was poorly coordinated. Sigel was able to escape the trap and led a skillful retreat. He later explained that he stayed behind to find out which route the Confederates were taking, although Curtis had given him that information the day before.

The best explanation is that Sigel was trying to restore his reputation that had been tarnished after Wilson's Creek. The only way that he could do this was to win a spectacular battle independent of Curtis. It is true that he led his troops out of McIntosh's trap skillfully and courageously. The problem is that he placed his men into the same trap by remaining behind.

 
Confederate monument in the Bentonville town square.  Federal soldiers camped here just prior to the Battle of Bentonville.

The Confederate monument in the town square in Bentonville. Federal troops under Sigel camped here prior to McIntosh's attack.

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