Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Preparations for Elkhorn Tavern

During 1861 and the first months of 1862, the Northern armies had driven the Southern sympathizing Missouri militia out of their state. Samuel Curtis continued on with 10,250 men and 50 cannon into Arkansas. The Confederate commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department was Major General Earl Van Dorn. To resist Curtis, Van Dorn had gathered 16,000 men. This would be one of the few times during the Civil War where the Southerners would have more men than their Union opponents.

Curtis picked the best defensive position he could find and waited for Van Dorn to attack. Van Dorn did not want to attack the Federal entrenchments frontally, so he planned to march around Curtis' position and strike his army in the flank and rear.

The Confederates undertook a night march to the Union flank 150 years ago today. Like many Civil War Van Dorn's men were much slower than expected. The roads had been obstructed by Curtis, and Van Dorn had no engineer corps to handle clearing the roads. It was a terrible march for the men, with one third of them falling out of the ranks before arriving at their destination. However, they were able to get in a wonderful position. On the morning of March 7th, they would be directly in the Federal rear. It seemed all but certain that victory was at hand for the Confederates in Arkansas.


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