I. THE BATTLE OF PEA RIDGE, OR ELKHORN, AND ITS MORE IMMEDIATE EFFECTS
The Indian alliance, so assiduously sought by the Southern Confederacy and so laboriously built up, soon revealed itself to be most unstable. Direct and unmistakable signs of its instability appeared in connection with the first real military test to which it was subjected, the Battle of Pea Ridge or Elkhorn, as it is better known in the South, the battle that stands out in the history of the War of Secession as being the most decisive victory to date of the Union forces in the West and as marking the turning point in the political relationship of the State of Missouri with the Confederate government.
In the short time during which, following the removal of General Fremont, General David Hunter was in full command of the Department of the West—and it was practically not more than one week—he completely reversed the policy of vigorous offensive that had obtained under men, subordinate to his predecessor. In southwest Missouri, he abandoned the advanced position of the Federals and fell back upon Sedalia and Rolla, railway termini. That he did this at the suggestion of President Lincoln and with the tacit approval of General McClellan makes no
[Footnote 1: The Century Company’s War Book, vol. i, 314-315.]
[Footnote 2: Official Records, first ser., vol. iii, 553-554. Hereafter, except where otherwise designated, the first series will always be understood.]
[Footnote 3:—Ibid., 568.]
difference now, as it made no difference then, in the consideration of the consequences; yet the consequences were, none the less, rather serious. They were such, in fact, as to increase very greatly the confusion on the border and to give the Confederates that chance of recovery which soon made it necessary for their foes to do the work of Nathaniel Lyon all over again.
It has been most truthfully said that never, throughout the period of the entire war, did the southern government fully realize the surpassingly great importance of its Trans-Mississippi District; notwithstanding that when that district was originally organized, in January, 1862, some faint idea of what it might, peradventure, accomplish did seem to penetrate, although ever so vaguely, the minds of those then in authority. It was organized under pressure from the West as was natural, and under circumstances to which meagre and tentative reference has already been made in the first volume of this work. In the main, the circumstances were such as developed out of the persistent refusal of General McCulloch to cooeperate with General Price.
There was much to be said in justification of McCulloch’s obstinacy. To understand this it is well to recall that, under the plan, lying back of this first
[Footnote 4: Official Records, vol. liii, supplement, 781-782; Edwards, Shelby and His Men, 105.]