The Curtis/Van Dorn Exchange
The American Civil War would be the last of the chivalrous wars fought between two governments that our nation would know. In the aftermath of most battles correspondence would pass among the commanding generals in reference to Christian burial of the dead and the vanquished would offer parties under white flag to accomplish such a purpose. The day following Major General Earl Van Dorn's route from the battleground at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, he engaged in a series of correspondence with Major General Samuel Curtis regarding the interment of the dead.
The army holding the ground had already begun burying the dead, utilizing a number of Confederate surgeons that had fallen into the bluecoats hands, however gave approval for General Van Dorn's further assistance.
While under the task of interment however, it was reported to General Curtis that a number of his dead on the field had been tomahawked, scalped, and mutilated. A brigade of Choctaw Indians had engaged in the fight here commanded by Confederate Brigadier General Albert Pike. The federal general was appalled that such barbaric methods would be used against his soldiers and expressed to the Confederate Army Commander his hopes that the war would not turn savage on either of them.
Major General Samuel Curtis was one whose writings and historic actions give the reader a picture of someone possessing great common sense. Often times not simply sending staff officers to obtain the truth behind unbelievable reports, however, riding out with them to account for it with his own eyes.
The correspondence between these two military leaders had been passed both through their adjutants, as well as personally taking pen into their own hands, personalizing their concerns with one another. The requests by both to look into and investigate their own armies for brutalities unbecoming of civilized warfare spanned over a period of five days. Certainly there was sufficient evidence to justify the issues.
Finally, on the 14th of March, General Van Dorn's Assistant Adjutant General, Dabney H. Maury expressed their reports of Germans murdering captured rebels. In light of this both sides agreed to do whatever necessary to ensure such atrocities would not occur in the future.
While Brigadier General Albert Pike's brigade of Choctaw Indians fled the scene at the close of hostilities on March 8th, none of his colonels felt what was left should be held to the Confederate Army under Van Dorn. Agreed upon by the brigade commander, the Indians were allowed to hide their own weapons and disperse.
These atrocities, if ever there were would cease, a lesson in humanities from a war that would destroy a generation of the age.
Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a new feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at firstname.lastname@example.org