Looking out on the Pea Ridge Battlefield at Sunset Photo Credit: Matthew McCall
It is sunset on the Pea Ridge National Military Park in Arkansas. While the battle has been over for almost 150 years, it is at dusk that both the North and South’s fighting would have well ceased, with a Northern victory declared at high noon.
The moans of soldiers seem to still resound as loud bugs fill the silence through the expansive battlefield. Pea Ridge modestly sits in northwestern Arkansas, a part of Benton County and easily one of Arkansas’ must see places.
The battle fought at Pea Ridge would go down as one of the most pivotal Civil War exchanges. Pea Ridge would also maintain the bragging rights of being the best preserved Civil War battlefield in the country.
From March 7-8, 1862, 26,000 soldiers fought to determine the fate of one state, Missouri. The Federal Army of the Southwest under Brigadier General Samuel Ryan Curtis would defeat the Confederate Army of the West under Major General Earl Dorn.
The implications of such a victory held that Missouri would remain in the Union, failing to join the Confederacy. Over 3,000 men lost their lives on Pea Ridge’s acreage. General Samuel R. Curtis remarked of the battle, “The scene is silent and sad. The vulture and the wolf have now the dominion and the dead friends and foes sleep in the same lonely graves”.
Visitors to Pea Ridge can partake in a driving tour of the two-day battle, covering the 4,300-acre park. Open everyday from 8-5, drivers can stop at the 10 marked spots depicting the battle.
If you want to drive the park, you must arrive before the driving portion closes at 5. Even if you do not make it in time, pedestrians and bicyclists are welcome to traverse the grounds from 5-9. Neighborhood kids seem to come here to ride their bikes on a lazy evening, but who can blame them. Pea Ridge is strangely beautiful, perfect for peddling through lines of cannons depicting a piece of American history any day of the week.
One of the best times to visit the park is without question later in the afternoon. Most have cleared out for the day and a ghostly silence overcomes the battlefield with ideal lighting from the low hanging sun.
Visitors will not have a hard time picturing the battle by car, foot, or bike. Pea Ridge National Military Park almost seems sleepy on a late evening, perhaps only tired from the strain of war some 150 years ago.
Lined cannons throughout the battlefield Photo Credit: Matthew McCall
For more information, visit the Pea Ridge National Military Park’s website.
Also for more on battlefield exploration in Arkansas read, Taking a trip back to the Civil War at the Prairie Grove Battlefield in Arkansas.