Shea, William L. and Earl J. Hess. Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West. Chapel Hill: The
If you haven’t read this yet, then you are in for a reading treat! Over the years I have read many, many campaign histories and this is a top-tier book. In many ways, this is the best campaign history that I have ever read. Every time I visit the Pea Ridge National Military Park, I take this book with me with all the maps marked with post-it notes. Did I mention maps? So often you read a campaign history and wish for more maps. This is one of the few campaign histories that I have read that helpfully includes all of the maps that you will need.
Dr. Shea and Dr. Hess walked the battlefield many times; this familiarity with the battlefield’s terrain adds much to their analysis. They focus on Earl Van Dorn, a flamboyant soldier with few organizational skills; he led his Confederate army to disaster. By sharp contrast, his opponent was Samuel Ryan Curtis, a reserved, older gentleman who had all the organizational skills that Van Dorn lacked. Although the book’s treatment of the events leading up to the battle and the battle itself are extremely well done, my attention was most caught by the section that details what happened after the battle. Curtis’s army battled the elements and the terrain to march 500 miles to
The Pea Ridge campaign is quite a story, and this book does full justice to its importance. Check it out.
NOTE: William L. Shea’s book Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign will be published by the