Book Review Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign

Rusk County Avengers

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By: William L. Shea
Title: "Fields of Blood The Prairie Grove Campaign"
Published: 2009
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Pages: 358 pages including index and sources
Price: Hardcover $30.66, softcover $23.77 based on online search
ISBN: 978-0-8078-3315-5

Fields of Blood is an awesome book, filled to the brim with surprises. To most Civil War students, the Prairie Grove Campaign is a matter of General Thomas Hindman heading up to NW Arkansas, fighting a battle with General James Blunt, being beaten, and retreating. This book is an eye opener, that takes you deep into the campaign. Here you learn of the Battle of Cane Hill, the Battle of Old Fort Wayne just over the Arkansas border in the Indian Territory, an in depth take on the Battle of Prairie Grove, Hindman's horrifying retreat from that battle, and Blunt and Herron's raid on Van Buren along with other actions. The author does an excellent job of showing this campaign from every angle, from the lowliest Federal or Confederate private, to the minds of Hindman, Blunt, Herron, Curtis, and Schofield, and down to the terrible experiences of the citizen population in NW Arkansas.

As mentioned, the Prairie Grove Campaign is often over-simplified, and even often forgotten, much like the rest of the Trans-Mississippi, or at the very least overshadowed by the much more well known Battle of Pea Ridge. The author, William Shea, goes above and beyond in showing the unjustness in that. To most students of the Civil War the Trans-Mississippi was a backwater devoid of large scale battles outside of Pea Ridge, or Mansfield in Louisiana. This book, without a doubt, dispels that notion. But that's not to say there isn't anything here to interest students with a preference for the battles East of the Mississippi. Of particular note, is Shea's treatment of General John M. Schofield, the famous victor of the 1864 Tennessee Battle of Franklin. For me this book, was quite a shock on General Schofield, for I myself never knew just how much of a self aggrandizing glory hunter he could be. His actions in this campaign, backed up by excellent sources in the book, show him in some ways to be a more desperate glory hunter than many of the famous "political generals" of the War.

As for the other top personalities of the campaign, Shea does an excellent job of helping the reader to know and understand them. We get an in depth look at Generals Hindman and Blunt, along with Medal of Honor holder Francis J. Herron, whos march from Springfield, Missouri to Prairie Grove to the relief of Blunt, rivals the famous marches of Confederate Stonewall Jackson, yet remains completely unknown to many today. We get to see one of the first "live" conversations over great distances when Shea shows us the back and forth telegraphing between Hindman and superior General Theophilus Holmes in Little Rock with the two not sending notes from their offices to the telegraph office, but rather standing in the telegraph office arguing with each other in real time over a distance of a couple hundred miles, likely one of the first times that happened, (some today could call it the first text message argument) which along with so many other unique happenings during this 1862 campaign has been forgotten.

Once again, I can't understate how much is unknown of the battles and campaign here. It is often overshadowed by Pea Ridge, but as many soldiers who had been at Pea Ridge, the battle at Prairie Grove was far bloodier and more terrifying in their eyes. We get to see a unique happening with Union troops of the Kansas Division under Blunt going without shoes, lacking proper winter gear, and uniforms in taters, but the Confederate Army under Hindman, while being deficient in food, being mostly better uniformed and shod, along being better armed, for the most part, (some Confederates still went without shoes, and starved, with some units being unarmed, but for the most part according to Union soldiers they were better off shoe and uniform wise). We see the horror of hogs, (Arkansas razorbacks) descending upon the battlefield to feed on the wounded, forcing wounded of both sides to build walls out of their fallen comrades to protect themselves, and we see the only time Generals of both sides agree on a name for a battle, together when they met to discuss a truce, the Battle of Prairie Grove. Whether your a fan of the war in Virginia and Tennessee, the war as a whole, or of the Trans-Mississippi, this book is a great read that shouldn't be passed up.

William L. Shea is a professor of history at the University of Arkansas, and the author of "War in the West: Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove" as well as co-author of "Vicksburg is the Key: The Struggle for the Mississippi River", "Wilson's Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove: A battlefield Guide with a section on Wire Road", along co-authoring with Earl J. Hess "Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West".

Review written by Michael Pepper, Coffeeville, TX ("Rusk County Avengers" on Civil War Talk)
 

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I think one problem with Schofield versus some of the other commanders during the war was his age - he was only in his early thirties and probably thought the war was a do or die situation where his career was concerned. There were some others of these young firebrands like Custer and Wilson who were even younger but they served at lower levels than did Schofield. Blunt, Herron, and Curtis all seem to have received short shrift during their lives and even more so from posterity; all were good commanders at varying times, though they had their faults as well, but deserve better than has been their lot. This sounds like a book I need to read before venturing back to the Prairie Grove area!
 
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Rusk County Avengers

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I think one problem with Schofield versus some of the other commanders during the war was his age - he was only in his early thirties and probably thought the war was a do or die situation where his career was concerned. There were some others of these young firebrands like Custer and Wilson who were even younger but they served at lower levels than did Schofield. Blunt, Herron, and Curtis all seem to have received short shrift during their lives and even more so from posterity; all were good commanders at varying times, though they had their faults as well, but deserve better than has been their lot. This sounds like a book I need to read before venturing back to the Prairie Grove area!
I wish I had my copy of this book when I was there a few weeks ago. It would have come in real handy.

As for Schofield, reading through this book taught me, that I really needed to re-access the man. I never knew of him having a glory hunter streak in him, and reading his conduct, and extreme jealousy during this campaign really sent him to the bottom inn my estimation. If I had been in Curtis's position, I'd have tried for a court-martial, or arranged for an accident to get rid of him. Schofield would have been deserving of it during this campaign.
 

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I read Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign a number of years ago. It sits on one of my book shelves today. Well written, the best account I've seen about the battle. Hope to visit Prairie Grove and Pea Ridge some day.
I haven't ever got to see Prairie Grove, or Pea Ridge proper, but being up in that neck of the woods recently I'd say its well worth a visit. Especially Cane Hill...

 

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My main regret going through Kansas City was not seeing the Steamboat Arabia Museum. I finally found it, saw the lines out the door and huge crowds, and said "Nope!" and drove on.
 

AlexPensFan86

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I wish I had my copy of this book when I was there a few weeks ago. It would have come in real handy.

As for Schofield, reading through this book taught me, that I really needed to re-access the man. I never knew of him having a glory hunter streak in him, and reading his conduct, and extreme jealousy during this campaign really sent him to the bottom inn my estimation. If I had been in Curtis's position, I'd have tried for a court-martial, or arranged for an accident to get rid of him. Schofield would have been deserving of it during this campaign.
I may be mistaken but I believe Schofield behaved similarly towards George Thomas during the Franklin/Nashville campaign.
 

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Aw man! I want to buy this book! But I do have this on my list at amazon.com and hope to purchase this soon. I also want to get Pea Ridge by Shea too. Then the; The Darkest days of the War: The Battles of Iuka and Corinth by Peter Cozzens. Cozzens is awesome! He did a great job on Chickamauga and Chattanooga. I have many books on the Eastern theater but want to build up my library on the Western theater.
 

Mr King

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Want to say, Abebooks.com is a great site to buy books from and a bookseller I highly recommend is: Midtown Scholar, they're from Harrisburg, PA (who also sells at amazon too), they are of great service and always provide good deals. They have at least 20 copies of this book for sale for $7.94 (Crisp, clean and UNREAD condition)with free shipping! Now don't everyone buy all these books at once! Save a copy for me!
 
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Mr King

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So close! I was very close to purchasing this book today! First of all, I purchased: Westerners in Gray by Tucker just under 22 bucks(appears UNREAD)which is a great deal compared to other sellers that are much more expensive. As for a second book on this war it was either Fields of Blood by Shea or Pea Ridge by Shea. The seller of Pea Ridge by Shea had just 1 copy under 7 bucks which is good for me budget wise. Since the seller I mentioned in earlier post who has at least 20 copies of Fields of Blood, I can wait next week to buy this one. Man! After reading your post, Rusk County Avengers, and wikipedia on this battle I just gotta have this! And I will! Mark my words I'll tell you what!!! lol.
 
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Mr King

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Check this out, just found it a few minutes ago, I was looking to watch this battle animated and this website has it! It's divided in 3 segment videos; day before, the battle, and day after:
 

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. Man! After reading your post, Rusk County Avengers, and wikipedia on this battle I just gotta have this! And I will! Mark my words I'll tell you what!!! lol.
And I've often been told I'm uninspiring, or not charismatic enough...

Inspiring such eagerness and passion is very unexpected to me especially with a book review. Well Mr. King, I'm glad to have been a help, and I hope the books don't disappoint. Glad to pointed you in the direction of an apparent collection of books lol.
 

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I'm glad you posted this thread. One of my Confederate ancestors was with the 26th Arkansas Infantry at Prairie Grove and died in camp in Little Rock several weeks later. Fortunately his son had already been born and therefore I am here. Anyway, I will look forward to reading this book in eager anticipation that it might shed some light on his experiences.
 

Mr King

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Here is another website on this battle:
And I've often been told I'm uninspiring, or not charismatic enough...

Inspiring such eagerness and passion is very unexpected to me especially with a book review. Well Mr. King, I'm glad to have been a help, and I hope the books don't disappoint. Glad to pointed you in the direction of an apparent collection of books lol.
Rusk County Avengers, you DO inspire and I enjoy reading your posts. It was your thread to start with got me to seek and become eager to get this book! It's folks like you and many others on here that makes this historical period so fun to talk, discuss and learn from each other and building up that knowledge. Don't let others, (nor negative self-talk; something many of us all struggle with including me) try to keep you down. Keep up the good work! :smile:
 
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Mr King

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I'm glad you posted this thread. One of my Confederate ancestors was with the 26th Arkansas Infantry at Prairie Grove and died in camp in Little Rock several weeks later. Fortunately his son had already been born and therefore I am here. Anyway, I will look forward to reading this book in eager anticipation that it might shed some light on his experiences.
I tip my hat to you sir and your ancestor who fought in the war. It's sad to say that many good boys died who had such a young and promising life and to not be able to watch their children grow up but God is good and all works well according to his plan and those who love him.
 

OldSarge79

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I tip my hat to you sir and your ancestor who fought in the war. It's sad to say that many good boys died who had such a young and promising life and to not be able to watch their children grow up but God is good and all works well according to his plan and those who love him.
Thank you sincerely. And, speaking from experience, He certainly does!
 

Mr King

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Just want to say that I just placed order for copy of Fields of Blood by Shea! Along with a copy of The Darkest Days: The Battles of Iuka and Corinth by Cozzens. Can't wait to read em!
 


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