Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign / Edition 1

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On Sunday, December 7, 1862, two armies collided at an obscure Arkansas hamlet named Prairie Grove in a desperate battle that effectively ended Confederate offensive operations west of the Mississippi River. In Fields of Blood, historian William L. Shea offers a gripping narrative of the events surrounding Prairie Grove, one of the great unsung battles of the Civil War.

Shea provides a colorful account of a grueling campaign that lasted five months and covered hundreds of miles of rugged Ozark terrain. In a fascinating analysis of the personal, geographical, and strategic elements that led to the fateful clash in northwest Arkansas, he describes a campaign notable for rapid marching, bold movements, hard fighting, and the most remarkable raid of the Civil War. After months of intricate maneuvering punctuated by five battles in three states, armies led by Thomas C. Hindman and James G. Blunt met one last time at Prairie Grove. The costly daylong struggle was a tactical draw but a key strategic victory for the Union, as the Confederates never again seriously attempted to recover Missouri or threaten Kansas.

Historians have long ignored the complex campaign that ended in such spectacular fashion at Prairie Grove, but it is at last brought to life in these pages.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Combined with excellent maps, Shea's description of the operational maneuvers and his detailing of the tactical actions are masterful. . . . A superb account of a signature campaign of the theater."
-Journal of Military History

"The definitive study of an important campaign that heretofore has not received the scholarly attention its significance merits. . . . A fascinating analysis of the personal, geographical, and strategic elements that led to the fateful clash in northwest Arkansas."
-McCormick Messenger

"If further proof were needed of William L. Shea's mastery of the Civil War campaign history, this is it. . . . He has attained even loftier heights with a thoughtful and meticulous account of Prairie Grove."
-Civil War Book Review

"William Shea set the standard for campaign narrative in his classic work Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West. In Fields of Blood, he has raised the bar and established himself as the foremost historian on the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi. Smooth. Polished. Riveting!"
-Terrence J. Winschel, historian, Vicksburg National Military Park, author of Triumph and Defeat: The Vicksburg Campaign, Vols. 1-2

From the Publisher
"A great read and . . . very informative about a lesser-known battle that had major consequences."—The Oklahoman

"Characterized by deep research, clear organization, shrewd analysis, and engaging writing, William L. Shea's Fields of Blood should be regarded as the new standard history of the Prairie Grove Campaign. A weighty contribution to the literature of

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807833155
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2009
  • Series: Civil War America Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 392
  • Sales rank: 1,280,189
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

William L. Shea is professor of history at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. He is coauthor of several books, including Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West (UNC Press) and Vicksburg Is the Key: The Struggle for the Mississippi River.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A "Must Have" book

    By 1862, the "regrettable tendency to concentrate on the East, slight the West and ignore the Trans-Mississippi" is well established. One author that counters this tendency is William L. Shea, "Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West" covered that critical campaign. This is the companion volume to that excellent history, covering the Prairie Grove Campaign in the winter of 1862. Each book is a complete standalone history of a campaign. However, reading both is an enjoyable rewarding learning experience that I recommend.
    Prairie Grove is the last major battle on the Missouri Arkansas border. The Union "victory" ensures that Missouri is safe and converts Arkansas into no man's land. This small battle plays a major role in the direction of the war during 1863 and much of 1864. The size of this battle allows the reader to become friends with all of the major players and understand what diverse and colorful armies existed in the Trans-Mississippi. Indians, ruffians, red legs and bushwhackers mix with volunteer units under the command of Kansas Abolitionists, dynamic West Pointers, tired old men and backstabbers. The characters are larger than life and while almost unknown, great fun to read about.
    This is a detailed history of the campaign. The first 90 pages, establish the situation, the characters and the hostile environment. The Boston Mountains and the Ozark Plateau are a primitive area presenting major logistical problems. Roads are few, poor and not able to bear the load an army places on them. Moving cross-country is difficult at best and almost impossible at worst. This forces the campaign into a structured environment with few options for either commander. The author excels at explaining the available options and detailing the difficulties the armies face. While doing this, he never loses sight of the civilian population, slave and free, living in the area. The ebb and flow of the armies has a dramatic impact on their lives. Slaves flock to the Union encampments following the army to freedom. Whites welcome their army, shun the other army but find either army is very hard on fences and storehouses. For most of the men in these armies, 'Hard War" had started in the late 1850s. They were not reluctant to take what they needed from the "other side" and felt they had no choice if they took it from their side.
    The area will be unknown to the majority of readers. Anticipating this, the book contains an excellent series of well-placed maps. I never had a problem understanding the marches and counter marches or in following them on the limited road net. In addition to the maps, illustrations are everywhere. All the major characters and photos of places, most taken just after the war, fill the book. This very nice touch personalizes the history giving names faces and images.
    The battles at Crane Hill, Fort Smith, Old Fort Wayne and Prairie Grove are well done and detailed as Blunt, Herron, Curtis, Hindman and Holmes struggle for a Confederate return to Missouri. This is the third Confederate invasion of 1862 and the one we hear the least about. This is a "must have" book in every Civil War library, readable and enjoyable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2011

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