Digging In - Trenches at Little Sugar Creek

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After the Union army chased Major General Sterling Price and the Missouri State Guard out of Missouri and into Arkansas mid-February 1862, Brigadier General Samuel Curtis, leader of the Federal Army of the Southwest, decided to spread the Federals out in northwest Arkansas to forage for food, with the center of the army being the Telegraph Road around Little Sugar Creek. The army spread out from Bentonville to War Eagle Creek. When Confederate Major General Earl Van Dorn arrived from the east to take command of the combined Missouri State Guard and Confederate armies, they decided that the best way to gain a quick and easy victory over the Union invaders would be to attack while they were spread out and vulnerable. The Southern army leaves the Boston Mountains on March 4, 1862 and heads north. On March 5, Curtis receives word through a local Unionist that the Confederates were advancing on the Union position from the south. This early warning allowed Curtis time to call in his troops toward Little Sugar Creek. All of the Federals managed to gather at Little Sugar Creek by March 6, although Brigadier General Franz Sigel had a close call in Bentonville, and Curtis waited on the defensive. The Federals entrenched themselves on the bluffs overlooking the Telegraph Road and Little Sugar Creek by clearing trees, digging trenches and building breastworks. When an officer asked General Curtis what would happen next, Curtis replied, “I will either fight them tomorrow or they me.”