Pea Ridge National Battlefield Park near Bentonville, Arkansas, is one of the best preserved Civil War battlegrounds in the country. In late 1861, keeping Missouri in the Union was a primary objective for the federal government, and Confederate troops and state militia there had been increasingly pressuring pro-Union forces and raising support for the secession of Missouri. As Union troops swept southwest following the telegraph lines that bordered the main road connecting St. Louis and San Francisco at the time, Confederate troops converged from the south and moved north, intending to strike into Missouri and capture St. Louis. The 16,000-man Confederate force encountered the 10,500-man Union army firmly entrenched on the bluffs of the Pea Ridge plateau on March 6, 1862. In the two days of fighting that followed, the Confederate forces were defeated and withdrew to east of the Mississippi, leaving Missouri and Northern Arkansas in control of the Union and southern Arkansas virtually undefended and open to Union occupation. One of the largest battles fought west of the Mississippi, Pea Ridge was one of the few contests in the Civil War in which Southern forces outnumbered the Northern armies.
Case studies will focus on the adept use of competitive intelligence, the perils of assumptions and lack of validation, abandonment of mission focus amid diversion to a secondary and unexpected obstacle, the role of overconfidence and underestimating competitive capability, and adaptive leadership in reacting to unexpected enemy movements and thinking strategically to halt their advance.