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Visitor Statistics101,969 visitors
Pea Ridge National Military Park
#237 Most Visited National Park Unit
Source: NPS, Rank among 378 National Park Units 2018.
Park Size4,279 acres (Federal); 4,300 acres (Total)
Park Fees$7 per person; maximum $15 per car. $10 per motorcycle.
Fees subject to change without notice.
WeatherSummer - Hot and humid with possible thunderstorms. Winter - Cold with snow and ice.
Image above: General Franz Sigel at the Battle of Pea Ridge by Currier and Ives 1862. And yes, we do think he looks like Leonardo DiCaprio in that one. Right: Lithograph of Pea Ridge by Kurz and Allison, 1889. Both images courtesy Library of Congress.
Pea Ridge National Military Park
It was March 1862, March 6-8, and the battle for the western theater was raging across the midwest. In northwest Arkansas, the spring of 1862 had seen movement. The Federal Army, under General Samuel Curtis, began positioning the Army of the Southwest in Benton County, over ten thousand strong. This was not going to sit well with Confederate General Earl Van Dorn; his sixteen thousand man Trans-Mississippi District Army would attempt to push the Federals out of Arkansas and reopen the gateway to Missouri. The battle would rage for three days and despite the unusual man advantage for the Confederates in the battle, they would not win. Missouri would not be threatened again by the South during the rest of the Civil War.
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Pea Ridge Then
Prior to the start of the Battle of Pea Ridge in 1862, the area had been collecting troops of the Federal Army of the Southwest around Benton County. With ten thousand five hundred men, including half in Sigel's German immigrant corps, Confederate forces began to move in their direction, intending to attack the rear of General Curtis and force a retreat or capture.
Chronology of the Battle
March 6, 1862 - Van Dorn splits his army into two divisions, marching north on the Bentonville Detour without his supply trains.
March 7, 1862 - Warned by scouts of the Confederate movement, half of Van Dorn's troops battled Federal forces at Elkhorn Tavern. Waves of Confederate attacks forced the Union troops back to Ruddick's field. A counterattack late in the afternoon was recalled. Meanwhile an attack on eight thousand Confederate troops under McCullough near Leetown around noon was thwarted by Bussey's cavalry and infantry reinforcements. General McCullough and McIntosh were killed, unknown to many of their troops, forcing a vacuum in command. The Confederates withdraw.
March 8, 1862 - Federal troops were consolidated and a morning artillery bombardment on Southern lines was successful. At the same time, General Sigel led an infantry charge on the Confederate right with Davis attacking the center. Confederate troops, lacking supplies and support, withdraw from Pea Ridge.
Photo above: Lithograph of Pea Ridge by Currier and Ives, 1862. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Scene over the battlefield at Pea Ridge. Source: National Park Service.
Pea Ridge Now
The battle of Pea Ridge solidified the control of Missouri for the remainder of the Civil War. In 1956, the park was preserved as a National Military Park. Today you can visit the park, one of the best preserved Civil War sites, watch the Visitor Center film on the battle and see many of the visual landscapes that were there during 1862. From the Leetown Battle Site to Elkhorn Tavern, the self-guided tour road covers the two main actions of the first day, as well as the fighting of the second day, which ended in a Confederate withdrawal and subsequent control of Missouri for the Union.
Today, the battlefield at Pea Ridge is considered one of the major preservation successes of the entire Civil War, with intact sightlines and terrain over which to contemplate the battle and its outcome. Why is the Battle of Pea Ridge relevant? Because it allowed the Union to thwart any future attempts by the Confederate Army in the western theatre to gain reentry into Missouri. What are some of the lessons to be learned from its tactics? The risk of splitting your forces in two, which the Confederates did prior to the battle, and its affect on reinforcing your lines. The hazard of leaving your supply trains in exchange for speed of movement. An army needs supplies to be successful in battle. These two lessons cost the Confederates, with superior numbers, to withdraw.
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Pea Ridge Battlefield
Things You Should Not Miss
1. Watch the twenty-eight minute movie "Thunder in the Ozarks" in the Visitor Center. Gives you a great overview of the battle.
2. Take the Ranger Guided Caravan Tour. Offered in the summer, usually from Thursday through Sunday. Great way to understand the battle. Takes about one and one half hours. If it's not offered on your day there, the self-guided auto tour takes you to many of the same places.
3. Hike or ride the battlefield. Whether you stay on the tour road or dip into the trails that span the park, it's a great way to understand the terrain.
Photo above: Night scene over the battlefield. Source: National Park Service.
What's There Now
Pea Ridge National Military Park
Visitor Center - Film "Thunder in the Ozarks," exhibits, ranger orientation, bookstore, and only restroom facilities in the park.
Elkhorn Tavern - Although it survived the battle of Pea Ridge, the original tavern did not survive the war. It was burned to the ground by Confederate guerrillas in January 1863, but after the war was rebuilt by the Cox family and used, at times, as a battlefield museum. The current structure is the second incarnation restored to the 1862 appearance. Today, the only two monuments on the battlefields are located here.
Battlefield Tour Road and Trails
Tour Road - Ten stopping points of interest about the Battle of Pea Ridge, including one about the Trail of Tears, which traversed two and one half miles through the park.
Hiking Trail - Main trail seven miles long. Short loop trails from Elkhorn Tavern.
Horse Trails - Two trails from the horse trailhead near Stop 1, one five miles long, one nine miles long.
Photo above: Elhorn Tavern and cannons in winter. Courtesy National Park Service.
Directions to the Park
Pea Ridge National Military Park is located in northwest Arkansas at 15930 East Highway 62, Garfield, AR 72732, which means, it's not really close to anything. Battlefield is near equidistant between Little Rock, Arkansas and Kansas City, Missouri, about 4.5 hours and 230 miles from each. Closest town is Rogers, Arkansas, which is larger than you think with a population close to 60,000. From there, you would take US 62 east for about fourteen miles. There's a new entrance to the park from there; you should see signs when you get close.
Photo above: Wire Road trail at Pea Ridge National Military Park. Source: National Park Service.
Lodging and Camping
While the battlefield may be remote, there's a good deal of lodging in the towns of Rogers and Bentonville. Check out your favorite online lodging site such as Expedia for the lodging type of your choice.
There is no camping within the park and campsites are not plentiful nearby. Twenty miles away, Roaring River State Park in Missouri has options in three family campsites and a recreation area, and there are a large number of campsites, nearly seven hundred, about thirty miles away in the Beaver Lake area, which is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers site.
Historic lithograph of the sheet music for the Pea Ridge march dedicated to General Sigel. Image by L. Kurz and Company, 1862. Courtesy Library of Congress.
More Photos of the Park
Above: Photo of Elkhorn Tavern from the Historic American Buildings Survey, date unknown, Library of Congress.
America's Best History where we take a look at the timeline of American History and the historic sites and national parks that hold that history within their lands.
Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, americasbesthistory.com and its licensors.