Captain Champion's daring charge at Pea Ridge
According to the Missouri State Archives. Civil War Confederate Service Record for Champion, J. Rock, Capt., Co. K, Second Reg’t, Mo. Vols. C. S. A. CAV. Jefferson City, Missouri. Captain J. Rock Champion was transfered to command Company K, 2nd Missouri Cavalry under Colonel Robert "Black Bob" McCulloch January 7, 1862. This is more proof that the 2nd Missouri Cavalry (McCulloch's Cavalry was at Pea Rigde, AR on March 7th and 8th, 1862). Read Was the 2nd Mo Cav at the Battle of Pea Ridge?
This is an old newspaper account that was in the St. Louis Republican written by Hunt P. Wilson, who was a member of Guibor's Missouri Confederate battery, that was on the Confederate left flank with Major General Price's men from Missouri. He was also a very good painter! This is his eye-witness account of the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern (Pearidge). Anything written in blue is what I added. I found this article in the Book "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War Vol.I page 323".
"The Missouri army by a long night march had passed completely around the Federal right flank, marching to the north-east of Big Mountain, then forming line of battle facing south on the Keetsville and Fayetteville or 'Wire' road, directly in General Curtis's rear. The country on this side of the hill is broken with high ridges and deep hollows through which the Wire road runs. The column entered by what is called Cross Timber Hollow. Some of the ridges are 150 feet high. In the valley of this defile is located what is known as the tan-yard (the foundation of a tan yard building is still there today), three-quarters of a mile from Elkhorn Tavern. From the tan-yard there is a gradual ascent, and alongside the road runs a deep hollow reaching up to the springs near the tavern. At the head of this and crossing it is a 'bench' along the base of the mountain. Along this bench was the United States Cavalry under General Carr. Along the road leading down from the tavern were the Iowa troops with artillery, and on their right, reaching to the east of the Van Winkle road, on which there are a few clearings, General Curtis prolonged his line of battle. Another hollow leads from the tan-yard to the south-east, and at the head of this hollow rested the Federal right. . . . The battle was opened by the Iowa Battery [Hayden's] of 4 guns, on the Wire road, supported by Iowa troops with 2 guns 150 feet further up the road, to which Guibor's battery responded from the opposite ridge at a distance of 250 yards. The other Confederate batteries with the infantry arriving by the same road, took position further to the left, and opened on the enemy's right wing."
He describes the first Confederate line:
"Some State Guard Cavalry under Bob McCulloch (could have been either Colonel Bob McCulloch or his cousin Major Bob McCulloch, both were in the 2nd Mo Cav at this time) and Congreve Jackson formed on the extreme left. Then on their right came Bledsoe's and Clark's and McDonald's batteries, Rains's infantry, Wade's battery, a regiment of infantry, and then Guibor's battery. This filled out the ridge. Little's Confederate brigade was on the right across the tan-yard hollow. Within an hour the Iowa Battery was obliged to withdraw. Soon after, Gates's (Colonel Elijah Gates of the famous 1st Missouri Cavalry and part time Brigade commander of the famous 1st Missouri Brigade of infantry) regiment of cavalry came up the hollow in front of the gun's and went half-way up the slope, dismounted, every fourth man holding the horses, then formed and moved up the brow of the hill. At the same time, Little's Confederate brigade, which had by this time come into line, opened on the Iowa troops in their rear, with Gates in their front. After a fierce contest of musketry, Little's brigade swung around and cut off part of the Federal line, the remainder retreating up to the tavern. Guibor's battery now moved around to the position which had been held by the Iowa Battery. Guibor's battery had gone up with Little's line and the fight was renewed on the new line."
Here he describes the Confederate advance:
"The fire in front began to lull, and Slack's brigade with Rives's and Burbridge's regiments came up on a left-wheel, with Rains on their left, across to the hollow, and the whole line charged up with a wild cheer. Captain Guibor, who well understood how to fight artillery in the brush, took all the canister he could lay his hands on, and with two guns went up in the charge with the infantry. General Rains's brigade on the left, led by Colonel Walter Scott O'Kane, and Major Rainwater made a brilliant dash at the redoubt and battery which had been throwing on them for an hour or more from its position in an open field. Eight guns were captured along the line. The Federal troops being dislodged from the woods began forming in the fields and planted some new batteries back of the knobs in the rear. And now the fight grew furious. Gorham's battery could not hold its position, and fell back to its old place. Guibor planted his two guns directly in front of the tavern and opened at close quarters with grape and canister on the Federal line, in which great confusion was evident, as officers could be seen trying to rally and re-form their men."
The Federal right wing falls back:
"The entire Confederate line was charging up to the Elkhorn Tavern; Colonel Carr, the Federal cavalry commander, had withdrawn his command from the bench of the mountain on the Confederate right. The Illinois Battery, at first planted in the horse-lot west of the tavern, had limbered to the rear and taken a new position in the fields. The Federal Mountain Howitzer Battery had also moved away. The 8th Iowa Battery, which had poured such a hot fire down the road upon Guibor and Gorham, had by this time lost the use of two of its guns, dismounted by the fire of Guibor's battery, but continued to fight its two remaining guns until the Confederate regiment of Colonel Clint Burbridge was upon them; when, their horses being killed, that regiment took them in, and at nightfall brought them down the road. To the left on the Van Winkle road the [Confederate] batteries of McDonald, Bledsoe, and Wade had been engaged in a severe artillery duel in which the Federal batteries held their own until the Confederate infantry got within range, when they were forced back, leaving two guns captured by Rains's men led by the gallant O'Kane. The cavalry on the extreme left, under General John B. Clark and Colonel Robert McCulloch (Commander of the 2nd Missouri Cavalry), had turned the Federal right wing, and the latter's entire line was falling back to meet reënforcements hurrying to their assistance from Sugar Creek on their left rear. The Federals placed 18 or 20 guns to command the tavern. Guibor moved up with the Confederate line, or a little in advance, and formed in battery in the narrow road in front of the tavern, losing several horses in the movement. And now commenced a hot fight. The rapid fire of the twenty pieces of Federal artillery . . . commenced waving and blazing in his front, while the two guns were replying with grape and canister.
Captain Champion's daring charge:
Now came the crisis. A regiment of United States infantry moved out of the timber on the left front of the guns, about one hundred yards distant, with a small field intervening, the fences around it leveled to the ground. On Guibor's right was the tavern, on his left a blacksmith's shop, and in the lot some corn-cribs. Behind these buildings 'Rock Champion' had placed his company of cavalry to protect their horses from thickly flying bullets. Rock's quick eye saw the bright bayonets as they were pushing through the brush, and, riding up, he yelled in his rough-and-ready style, 'Guibor, they're flankin' you!' 'I know it, but I can't spare a gun to turn on them,' was the reply. There was no supporting infantry on his left. Said Rock, 'I'll charge them!' This meant to attack a full regiment of infantry advancing in line, 700 or 800 strong, with 22 men. . . . Galloping back a few paces to his little band, his clear, ringing voice could be heard by friend and enemy. 'Battalion, forward, trot, march, gallop, march, charge!' and with a wild yell in they went, their gallant chief in the lead, closely followed by 'Sabre Jack' Murphy, an old regular dragoon; Fitzsimmons, Coggins, O'Flaherty, Pomeroy, and the others. The last named were old British dragoons; three of them had ridden with the heavy squadrons at Balakava and all well knew what was in front of them. . . . Within thirty seconds they were right in the midst of the surprised Federal infantry, shouting, slashing, shooting. Corporal Casey charged on foot. Guibor's two guns were at the same time turned left oblique and deluged the Federal left with canister. The result was precisely what Champion had foreseen, and proved his reckless courage was directed by good judgment. The attack was a clear surprise, the result a stampede; the infantry fired an aimless scattering volley, then, expecting a legion of horsemen to fall on them, fled in confusion. Champion did not follow. Knowing when to stop as well as to commence, he secured their flag and quickly returned to the battery which he had saved, with a loss of only three of his gallant rough-riders."
Copyright © 2001-2008, 2nd Missouri Cavalry C.S.A. All rights reserved.