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Word Count: 548
At dawn on March 7 the head of the Confederate column had reached Telegraph Road but the tail was still back at Little Sugar Creek Van Dorn now made another snap decision to save time Prices division would proceed south on Telegraph Road on the east side of a rocky hill called Big Mountain McCullochs division would move south on Ford Road on the west side of Big Mountain The two halves of the Army of the West would reunite around noon at Elkhorn Tavern atop the broad plateau of Pea Ridge There the Confederates would deploy for battle and advance upon the unsuspecting Federals from the north Van Dorn had no qualms about dividing his army in the presence of the enemy because he confidently assumed that the Federals were still in their fortifications at Little Sugar Creek facing south Van Dorns confident assumption was wrong Federal patrols detected the Confederate movement on the Bentonville Detour early on March 7 and Curtis acted immediately to seize the tactical initiative He launched two spoiling attacks intended to intercept and delay the approaching enemy forces on either side of Big Mountain While these operations were underway he began the enormously complex task of turning his entire army around to meet the threat from the north By the end of the day the Federals atop Pea Ridge had successfully completed a 180-degree change of frontThe next morning March 8 Curtis waited to see if Van Dorn would continue to press his attack When nothing happened Curtis concluded that the Confederates had shot their bolt and that he now held the initiative He ordered his artillery to wheel forward For two hours twenty-seven Federal cannons hammered the Confederates at ever-closer ranges The most intense artillery bombardment of the war up to that time it made a great impression on the soldiers who were present It was a continual thunder and a fellow might have believed that the day
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