|Williams Hollow Farm and bordering stream (Copyright The Conservation Fund)|
A 140-acre parcel that was the scene of Confederate troop movements and a hospital during the March 1862 Battle of Pea Ridge in northwest Arkansas has been bought by a coalition of conservation and historical groups, with plans to donate it to the National Park Service.
The Williams Hollow Farm is surrounded on three sides by Pea Ridge National Military Park; the acquisition in effect fills in a missing puzzle piece.
The Conservation Fund and the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust earlier this month announced the purchase. Spokeswoman Ann Simonelli with The Conservation Fund told the Picket the seller is an extended family that has owned the property since the time of the battle.
|Maj. Gen. Price|
“There is nothing on the land at the moment. It is currently made up of forest and degraded field. The park service aims to eventually do restoration of the field to manage it as vegetation from the 1862 time period,” Simonelli said.
While the groups did not disclose the purchase amount, it is believed to be in the hundreds of thousands. The Pea Ridge National Military Park Foundation is helping with fund-raising to cover the purchase and eventual donation of the property to the federal government.
Among those efforts is NWA (Norwest Arkansas) Gives on April 2.
The March 6-9, 1862, Battle of Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern) has been called by some historians “the Gettysburg of the West.” Forces under Union Maj. Gen. Samuel Curtis defeated the men of Confederate Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn, whose leadership has been faulted by historians. The Union won control of Missouri and weakened the Confederate hold in Arkansas.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the Pea Ridge campaign permanently altered the balance of power in the Trans-Mississippi. Few Civil War operations had such an impact on the course of events,” according to the National Park Service.
|Kurz & Allison's fanciful depiction of battle (Library of Congress)|
Jami Lockhart with the Arkansas Archeological Survey performed research on the Williams Hollow Farm and surrounding areas that played a part in the battle.
Confederate and Federal units clashed at Cross Timber Hollow and the Tanyard area north of Elkhorn Tavern. Rebel troops likely traversed the ground comprising the purchased property. Missouri State Guard troops under Maj. General Sterling Price emerged from Williams Hollow on March 7 as part of a drive on the Union right flank, according to histories.
The coalition cited other historical aspects of the area.
Lockhart wrote: “The historic Telegraph Road approaches to within 150 feet of the conservation property, and runs roughly parallel with the property along the entirety of its eastern boundary. Telegraph Road (also known as Old Wire Road) is integral to the history of the region. This road formed a portion of the route associated with the forced relocation of thousands of Native Americans, and is commonly known as the Trail of Tears. It was the route of the Butterfield Overland Mail and Stage line serving the area between St. Louis and San Francisco during the period 1858 to 1861. Telegraph Road was also the primary transportation artery in the area during the Civil War. Telegraph Road is especially well-known for its central role in the Battle of Pea Ridge.”
|Sunset at Pea Ridge National Military Park (NPS)|
During the night of March 7 into March 8, 1862, both armies concentrated forces on Telegraph Road. A powerful Union bombardment and assault on March 8 put Confederates into a retreat.
It’s not just the Civil War aspect of Williams Hollow Farm that is important, the groups said in their announcement.
“Once protected, the Williams Hollow Farm will secure the view shed of the Pea Ridge National Military Park and conserve mature forest habitat for migratory songbirds and rare bats, including the threatened northern long-eared bat. Keeping the property undeveloped will also help provide water quality protection of Sugar Creek within the Elk River watershed.”
Pea Ridge National Military Park Superintendent Kevin Eads told the Picket the acquisition would help protect and preserve cultural and natural resources.
Jackie Crabtree, mayor of the town of Pea Ridge and head of the Pea Ridge National Military Park Foundation, said during the time of fundraising the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust will work with the park staff to keep the property maintained. The tract currently has a large open field surrounded by timber.
|Rock formations at Williams Hollow Farm (Copyright The Conservation Fund)|
Crabtree said the purchase was a rare opportunity to protect such property during a time of rapid growth in the region.
Needless to say, the Civil War is an important part of the town’s background and tourism.
“There are several families still in the area that were here during the battle,” Crabtree told the Picket. “The thing that makes Pea Ridge unique however is the naming of our streets. North/South streets are named for Union soldiers who fought in the battle. East/West streets are named for Confederate soldiers. This is set in city ordinance for developers.”