Founded in the 1840s by John W. Lee, a farmer from Kentucky, Leetown was one of the earliest settlements in Northwest Arkansas. Directly north of Leetown lay two large farms owned by George Sturdy and Wiley Foster where there was significant fighting during the first day of the Battle of Pea Ridge.
The fighting at Leetown began around noon on March 7, 1862. While General Earl Van Dorn’s division of the Army of the West had headed toward Curtis’ flank via the Bentonville Detour, Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch and his division were ordered to cut across Ford Road. Ideally, the two divisions would have met up at the intersection of Ford Road and Telegraph-Wire Road, about a quarter mile south of the Elkhorn Tavern. However, McCulloch’s men were engaged near Leetown against Colonel Peter J. Osterhaus’ troops for much of the first day’s fighting, ending Confederates hopes of a surprise attack on Curtis’ rear.
Colonel Osterhaus placed his infantry along the tree line on the south edge of Oberson’s field at Tour Stop number 4, and sent his cavalry to the field beyond the trees to the north in order to engage the Confederate troops Osterhaus knew were there. The Federals were soon overrun by Brigadier General James McIntosh’s 3000 Confederate cavalry and fled towards the far southern edge of the field where they attempted to regroup.
General McCulloch planned to attack Osterhaus from the north tree line with the majority of his division. Once the attack was underway, Colonel Louis Hébert would attack the Federal right flank from Morgan’s Woods, the wooded area east of the tour road across from Oberson’s Field and Tour stop number 4. McCulloch rode forward to see the Federal lines for himself and was killed by Federal skirmishers who had taken position in Oberson’s field. McCulloch’s second-in-command, General McIntosh, was killed 15 minutes later by those same skirmishers while leading a regiment of his Cavalry Brigade forward.
The deaths of Generals McCulloch and McIntosh ended the Confederate assault from the north of this field. Their deaths were kept from the majority of the men in their division and Colonel Louis Hebert, third in command, was engaged in difficult fighting in Morgan’s Woods, unaware that he was now in charge of McCulloch’s entire division. No junior officer under McCulloch or McIntosh took the initiative to command that division and McCulloch’s men remained idle for most of the first day’s fighting.
Colonel Hébert, now the division commander, led his men forward through Morgan’s Woods when he heard the sounds of battle coming from the west. Initially successful his attack drove two Federal regiments back in disorder and captured part of an artillery battery. However, Hébert’s attack slowed as many of his men became separated in the thick woods.
Seeing no attack from the north due to the disorder caused by the deaths of McCulloch and McIntosh, Osterhaus swung his line to the right and attacked Hébert from the west. The two Federal regiments that were initially driven back regrouped and formed a new line. Colonel Davis, who was sent by Curtis to aid the Federals at Leetown, arrived with reinforcements and attacked Hebert’s Confederates from the east. Hébert’s command disintegrated after being attacked from three sides and Hébert himself became disoriented and retreated to the south. Hebert was captured near Curtis’s headquarters or Tour stop number 2, and thus, McCulloch’s Division lost its third commander of the day.