“This Act of Brutal Savageism”: Coverage of Native Americans at the 1862 Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas


  • James E. Mueller University of North Texas




The clash between Confederates and Yankees at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, in 1862 is famous as the battle that saved Missouri for the Union, preventing a Southern army from a planned invasion to drive through the state and capture St. Louis. But a less well-known fact is that Pea Ridge was the only major battle of the Civil War in which Native American troops participated in significant numbers. About 1,000 Indians from the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Cherokee tribes fought for the South at Pea Ridge, and some might have scalped dead and wounded Union troops. This article examines stories about the battle from a sample of both Northern and Southern newspapers with the intent to shed light on the coverage of Native Americans during the Civil War. The article concludes that the type and quantity of coverage of Indians at Pea Ridge depended upon whether the journalists were Southern or Northern. The article thus adds further support to the notion that the Civil War press served as an arm of the government, and the stories of war correspondents of both sides have to be evaluated with the knowledge that facts were often secondary to supporting the war effort


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