Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign, William L. Shea, University of North Carolina Press, 2009. x + 358 pp. $35.00, hardcover. Also available: Kindle and Audible Editions.
Review entitled The Real End of the Confederacy in the Ozarks, Gary Edwards, H-Net Civil War Reviews, March 2011.
Excerpt: William Shea’s solid study of the Confederacy’s last significant offensive operation in the vast trans-Mississippi makes a fine argument that Prairie Grove, Arkansas (December 7, 1862) may be the most consequential battle you have never heard of. As a contest of combat, it does not lack for drama despite its diminutive scope. If analytically conjoined with operations in Maryland and Kentucky, it enhances the argument that the autumn of 1862 was a concentrated period of bold but failed Confederate offensives. At the same time it refutes the layman’s notion that after Pea Ridge the Confederacy was finished in the Ozarks. An established Civil War scholar, Shea has enlarged his repertoire and produced the first analytically significant study of the five-month-long Prairie Grove campaign. The final product represents a yeoman’s effort of exhaustive investigation that illuminates all aspects of this underappreciated Civil War contest.
Excerpt: Shea has produced a compelling narrative of a campaign that has never received its full due. He began with a remarkable claim that a Confederate victory would have altered the course of the war in the trans-Mississippi. While this is plausible, it was not conclusively proven nor did it appear to be the author’s primary concern. On the other hand, Shea’s argument that (post Prairie Grove) the Confederacy would maintain little more than a defensive posture in the trans-Mississippi for the rest of the war seems well founded. On the whole, Shea is neither excessively analytical nor inadvertently noncommittal. To his credit, he allows the participants a free hand to critique the campaign for themselves. However, his criticism of Schofield’s petty politics seems to be a pointed rebuke to Donald Connelly’s recent biography which presented the general as an “astute political soldier.” By contrast, there is perhaps an occasional twinge of empathy for Hindman but this is easily explained by Hindman’s vital narrative role--without his logistical acumen and daring offensive there would be nothing to write about. This is a sound and thorough study. It should stand as the benchmark work on Prairie Grove for at least the next generation.
Full Text Source: H-Net Civil War Reviews