By George Arnold
Recently, I had an opportunity to take my almost 11-year-old grandson on a driving tour of the Pea Ridge battlefield. He’s already showing a serious interest in history, and we had planned this trip long before the pandemic shut everything down, including the Pea Ridge National Military Park. Things have reopened (for now), so, earlier this month, we grabbed the chance to finally make those plans a reality.
I’ve toured the battlefield several times over the years, as it’s conveniently nearby. It is well kept-up and the markers along the driving tour do a good job of explaining the battle and putting it into the wider context of the American Civil War. Here are a few of the photos I took on our latest visit.
This is one of the markers at the lookout on the top of Pea Ridge itself, explaining that the view from here would have shown almost the entire Union army at Pea Ridge arrayed on the second, and decisive, day of the battle.
Above is a photo from the overlook, looking roughly southeast. In the distance, just to the left of the road, is the Visitor Center, which, during our visit, remained closed. Too bad, because the center has a 30-minute movie explaining the battle. We’ll go back someday when we can watch the movie.
Above, another photo, this one aimed more southerly. The Visitor Center is still visible, but this photo gives a better view of the field where the Union army formed up on the second day.
Above is a third view from the overlook, this one aimed toward the west. In the distance is the Little Mountain (also called Round Top), near which and to the left, the Leetown fighting occurred. This view also looks toward the city of Bentonville, farther off to the right of the Little Mountain. Bentonville figured in the maneuvering before the battle.
After leaving the overlook, the tour takes you to Elkhorn Tavern, a focal point of the first day’s fighting. This view looks uphill from the old Telegraph Road, which Confederate General Earl Van Dorn used to make his attack on the Union troops posted around the tavern.
Finally, below are two more views of Elkhorn Tavern, which is a reconstruction. The tavern that existed during the battle was burned down later in the war. The elk horns from which the tavern gets its name can be seen on the top of the roof. The first photo also shows my young tour companion.