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Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign (Civil War America) [Hardcover]

William L. Shea
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 15, 2009 0807833150 978-0807833155 1
William Shea offers a gripping narrative of the events surrounding Prairie Grove, Arkansas, one of the great unsung battles of the Civil War that effectively ended Confederate offensive operations west of the Mississippi River. 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.

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Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign (Civil War America) + Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West (Civil War America)
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Editorial Reviews


"This is a sound and thorough study. It should stand as the benchmark work on Prairie Grove for at least the next generation."--H-Net Reviews

"Fields of Blood is impressive."--Journal of the Civil War Era

"A fine addition to the growing body of literature on the long-neglected Trans-Mississippi Theater of the Civil War. . . . A model campaign study, and it will become the standard work on the subject."--North Carolina Historical Review

"Thoroughly researched and engagingly written….Shea's ability to illuminate the interconnections among strategy, logistics, and geography is especially noteworthy….[This] is an excellent study of an important but often overlooked campaign and is a welcome addition to the literature on the Trans-Mississippi Theater."--The Annals of Iowa

"Making ample use of firsthand accounts to describe the battle's various stages, Shea leaves his audience feeling cold, hungry, exhausted, scared, and lucky to be alive, all without sacrificing the narrative's flow—an impressive feat for a scholarly study. . . . Fields of Blood stands as a model for future studies."--The Journal of Southern History

"Shea cogently unravels the campaign he calls one of the war's 'best--kept secrets.'"--Military History of the West

"With an exhaustive array of archival materials, insightful analysis, and good writing. . . . Fields of Blood provides readers with a concise, illuminating look at a forgotten fight. . . . A model campaign study which draws on as many of the scarce resources available to make sense of what today is still a very confusing battle. . . . Students of the Trans-Missippi and those who enjoy solidly constructed and easy to read campaign studies will want to own this book. Those who enjoyed Shea's earlier work on Pea Ridge will doubtless appreciate this effort equally."--TOCWOC: A Civil War Blog

"Anyone interested in Civil War military operations should read this book."--The Journal of America's Military Past

"Thoroughly researched and engagingly written. . . . Shea's ability to illuminate the interconnections among strategy, logistics, and geography is especially noteworthy. . . . An excellent study of an important but often overlooked campaign."--Annals of Iowa

"Shea brings to his work a great deal of familiarity with the campaign . . . enjoyable and insightful. . . . Will stand as the standard account of the Prairie Grove campaign, which, thanks to Shea, no longer resides in underserved obscurity."--Arkansas Historical Quarterly

"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

"A first rate history of this remote part of the Civil War."--Blue & Gray Magazine

"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

"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 the Trans-Mississippi theater, it is deserving of a place on the bookshelf of every Civil War student. Very highly recommended."--Andrew Wagenhoffer, Civil War Books and Authors

Book Description

"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

Product Details

  • Series: Civil War America
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (November 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807833150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807833155
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #858,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author takes on a difficult project -- that in telling the story of the Arkansas/Missouri conflict in the later part of 1862 culminating in the Battle of Prairie Grove. The difficulty stems from the paucity of writings and sources on the Confederate side, but the author does a masterful job in recreating what most likely took place.

For those readers unfamiliar with the Civil War in Missouri and Arkansas (other than along the Mississippi River), the initial campaign was by the Union General Nathaniel Lyon that ended disastrously at Wilson's Creek on August 10, 1861 (skipping over the actions by Missouri home guards and militia). The Federals regrouped and General Curtis led another expedition into Southwest Missouri and Northwestern Arkansas, defeating the Confederates at Pea Ridge on March 8, 1862. The Confederates then dispersed, with Van Dorn taking the bulk of the troops to Mississippi. At this point, the fortunes of the Confederates were at a very low ebb in the West, Missouri was lost, and the entire state of Arkansas was in danger of being occupied by Federal troops. That is where this book takes up its narrative.

General Hindman was sent to Little Rock to form an army, drive the Federals from Arkansas, and lead a campaign into Missouri. Unfortunately, Hindman was only one man, and he was not given any troops, supplies and support. Nonetheless, he re-energized the Confederates in Arkansas (many of those in Northern Arkansas were Unionists), and rapidly built an army out of almost nothing to hold an East-West line along the Arkansas River. The author puts Hindman in a rather favorable light, but is brutally honest with Hindman's superior, General Holmes.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellant work. November 22, 2009
This study is a very welcomed addition to the other works on the war in Arkansas and the Trans-Mississippi. Shea tells the story of the Prairie Grove campaign in a manner that is easy to follow and understand. The chapters are of reasonable lenght which makes for easier reading too. Having a chapter on the raid on Van Buren rounds out the story quite well.
The maps are many and good but they could have been improved. I would have liked them to be larger to make them easier to see. For the maps that show the attacks of the actual battle it would have been nice for them to have been a little more detailed and there could have been a few more maps to help brake the action down into more segements. But the maps are very adaquate and useful.
I was disappointed that Shea did not use any of the artwork or drawings of the battle that have been made over the years. I know of several. I think using them would have added to the telling of the story.
For the order of battle at the end of the book I would have liked to have seen the casualities listed for each unit if they were known. These seems to be standard practice in most works on battles. I do not know why it wasn't done in this one. But the casualities are given in the narrative of the book, but having them all in one place would have been handy for reference.
My minor suggestions for improvements not withstanding, I throughly enjoying reading this book and learned much from it. I hope that works on the war in Arkansas of this type will continue to appear.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "must have" book November 25, 2009
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Civil War History of the Trans-Mississippi
William L. Shea is the recognized modern expert on the campaigns in Northwest Arkansas with this addition and his "Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West. Read more
Published 5 months ago by William Richmond Jr
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Done
If the Prairie Grove battle is of interest to you this is a great book. Mr. Shea describes not only the battle but the officers, politics, weather, and terrain. Read more
Published 14 months ago by James A. Herndon
4.0 out of 5 stars Fields of Blood was very well written.
After reading William Shea's book Fields of Blood I was able to vist the Prairie Grove battle field. Read more
Published 14 months ago by edward j. bond
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book About Another Unknown Battle of the Civil War.
This book describes another of the Civil War battles that only readers who want to know every facet of this war want to know about. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Tony Marquise Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem
If you are like me, an obsessive student of the Civil War, you are probably reading about the same battles in increasing detail and looking for something new. Read more
Published 22 months ago by J. M. Rugo
4.0 out of 5 stars Very well written Work on an Obscure Campaign...
After purchasing this book a few months ago I finally got around to reading it and was very pleased. Read more
Published on February 2, 2012 by Jordan Henderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!
A great book on a little known bloody battle in the Western theater. William Shea is a great author! Read more
Published on June 24, 2011 by yankeefan2
5.0 out of 5 stars well writen history
Typical Shea writing, well researched and well writen. I pretty much read it in one sitting. My wife kept saying, slow down and savor it. Read more
Published on May 14, 2011 by StephenX
5.0 out of 5 stars My family connection - and a great book
I was drawn to this book because my great-great-grandfather was a private in Co. F, 26 Arkansas Infantry and was present at the Battle of Prairie Grove. Read more
Published on December 31, 2010 by James T. Sparks
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard Marching on the Ozark Plateau
Excellent follow-up to Mr.Shea's Pea Ridge campaign study. Very good on the different personalities and motivations of the senior officers. Well-written tactical narrative. Read more
Published on August 24, 2010 by Fife and Drummer
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