Stop 4: Foster's Farm-Day 1
" I have read in history of and seen depicted the horrors of battle where foe measured arms with foe in mortal combat but here my own eyes witnessed them. In every direction I could see my comrads falling. horses frencied and riderless, ran to and fro. men and horses ran in collision crushing each other to the ground. Officers tried to rally their men but order gave way to confusion. The scene baffles description."
Private Henry Dysart
The 500 Federal cavalrymen & artillerymen exited the treeline at the southwest corner of the field. Before them, marched McCulloch's 8000 men. The Federals positioned their three artillery pieces and fired at the unsuspecting Confederates. After the first shots, the Confederates quickly recovered. General McIntosh's cavalry wheeled to the right into line and began to charge. They quickly picked up speed as they crossed the field. The Federal guns fired five or six rounds each, before McIntosh's troopers were on top of them.
All three cannons were captured and the Federal cavalry broke and fled through the belt of trees. As they burst from the trees into the Oberson field, many were yelling to the infantry that the situation was hopeless and they were about to be overwhelmed as the cavalry had just been. Only quick action from Osterhaus and Colonel Nicholas Gruesel, his brigade commander, prevented "another Bull Run affair".
McIntosh’s attack was successful; but during the charge, the cavalry regiments became hopelessly intermixed. It took nearly two hours for the Confederates to regain order. This lull gave Osterhaus the time he desperately needed to regroup his cavalry and prepare a defense.
One incident on this part of the field would have national consequences. Attached to McCulloch’s Division was General Albert Pike’s Indian Brigade. They made a dismounted attack in support of McIntosh’s cavalry charge on the far end of the Confederate line. They ambushed two companies of Iowa cavalry. After the battle, the Federals came across the casualties of this ambush. Eight of the bodies had been scalped and a further 17 had been mutilated. A subsequent Congressional investigation concluded that Pike’s men had committed the atrocities.
Did You Know?
Pea Ridge was an atypical Civil War battle in that the Southerners actually attacked from the north, and the Northerners from the south.