Monday, December 26, 2011

Wire Road

Unlike the Eastern and Western Theaters, the trans-Mississippi only had a rudimentary transportation network. This lack made it much more difficult for armies to maneuver and helps to explain why armies in the trans-Mississippi were smaller than their counterparts further east. With such a limited transportation network, authorities on both sides found it much more difficult to supply a large army.

Wire Road (also known as Telegraph Road) was one of the most significant byways in the trans-Mississippi. Constructed in 1838 by the federal government, the road stretched from Springfield, Missouri, to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Part of the road eventually became part of the Trail of Tears, and it became one segment of the Butterfield Overland Mail route. Since it was such an important road, it is not surprising that major campaigns occurred near it. In fact, three major battles of the trans-Mississippi occurred either directly on or near Wire Road. These were the battles of Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove.

Wire Road runs through the Pea Ridge National Military Park with the best section near Elkhorn Tavern. Here is a photograph depicting the Wire Road about 200 feet northeast of the Tavern.

You can almost hear a Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach rolling along or the sounds of soldiers marching down the road. Do you have an interest in retracing the route of Wire Road? If so, consult the following guidebook:

Hess, Earl J., Richard W. Hatcher III, William Garrett Piston, and William L. Shea. Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge & Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide with a Section on Wire Road. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006.

In the spirit of disclosure, the guidebook was also used to provide the background about Wire Road. And, if you have an interest in learning more about the logistical challenges of campaigning in Arkansas and Missouri then the following article will be of interest to you:

Piston, William Garrett. "Struggle for the Trans-Mississippi." North & South. Vol. 11, No. 5. 14-21, 67.

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