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  • Tony Brown
    Apr 29, 2001
      >Dear Carl,
      > Firstly, my main computer has gone haywire, so if this does not
      > post please feel free to relay it to the board, I managed to read your
      > last message before the machine collapsed again and for the next few days
      > will receive messages on this one - but I may have lost my back files.
      > Pea Ridge was a close run thing, and if Van Dorn had conducted
      > his affairs properly he could have won a battle, and in that terrain,
      > probably destroyed the still inexperienced Federal army - but Curtis was
      > a better battle commander than Van Dorn, and had his army better
      > organised. an anecdote that makes an illuminating comparison - an item
      > in the OR states that Curtsi shared the rations of his troops as they
      > advanced through the Ozarks towards Pea Ridge, where as an item in the
      > Southern Historical Society Papers by Dabney Maury describes the
      > luxurious food the Confederate leaders were eating as they led their
      > half-starved troops into the mountains. Such stories usually have one
      > ending - a victory for the "spartan" side.
      > As to youiour very good question about Curtis's march. I really
      > must be more careful about my terms. By Northern Arkasnsas I meant that
      > part of teh Ozark Mountains ( or Plateau ) within Arkansas - armies could
      > starve there very easily indeed!. Curtis made his march in an "east by
      > south east " direction through the basin of the White River - lowland and
      > fairly fertile areas. Also, he did not march to Helena from Pea Ridge -
      > he first retreated into Missouri, and re-entered Arkansas when Van Dorn
      > left. He advanced to Batesville, but reached the very limit of his
      > supply lines - wagons to him from his base at Rolla were largely loaded
      > with fodder for the double trip as there was little to be had
      > locally. He did get as far as Searcy, where a forward foraging party
      > was wiped out at Whitney's Lane, and that reverse satisfied him, that he
      > could not go on to Little Rock without a secure supply line. Halleck
      > tried to organise this up the White River, but a timid commander whoi had
      > listened to Grant's cautious advice too well dared not risk water levels
      > in the river falling, even with a major Federal force nearby. It was
      > from Batesville that Curtis advanced to Helena, but once there the
      > Federals dominated the line of the White River and its catchment area -
      > the region from where any Confederate counter-attack into Missouri had to
      > be organised. Curtis had also stripped the country through which he
      > passed of provisions and slaves, so the Confederates now had production
      > problems in what should have been a major supply area.
      > Speaking of Bruce Catton, I do like one of his comments on the
      > battle that it was a measure of Van Dorn's evil luck that he fought the
      > battle on the only day of the war in Which Franz Sigel performed competently.
      > I hope that my normal computer service will resume soon - my big
      > machie is going into dry dock tomorrow! Still, if you want me to add
      > anything keep sending and I will do my best.
      > Tony