Abundant sunshine and temperatures in the mid 60’s brought 21,000 visitors to the 150th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Pea Ridge on Saturday, March 10th.
A new one-day visitation record was set and it may well be that the last time so many people were assembled on the battlefield was during the actual battle itself, when 26,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought there in the March 7-8, 1862 battle.
Pea Ridge changed the strategic outlook of the Civil War in the trans-Mississippi west. Confederate General Earl Van Dorn was so demoralized that he took the Confederate Army of the West to the east bank of the Mississippi, leaving Arkansas defenseless. The victory by Union General Samuel Curtis at Pea Ridge secured Missouri for the Union. With Missouri and St. Louis secure, the Union emphasis switched to capturing the rest of the Mississippi River Valley.
The three day event began with a Friday night concert by noted Civil War music historian Bobby Horton sponsored by the Pea Ridge National Military Park Foundation. On Saturday and Sunday, a number of living history demonstrations and events occurred within the park. On Saturday night 3,400 luminaries, representing the number of dead, wounded or missing Union and Confederate soldiers, were lit. Between 6 and 8 p.m., visitors in over 500 cars drove by to witness this moving display.