This is a guidebook to the battlefields of Wilsonís Creek in Missouri, Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove in Arkansas (the reviewer has been to all three battlefields) that also includes a guide of Wire Road, which was an important road that ran from Springfield, Missouri to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Also known as Telegraph Road since the telegraph lines ran along it, this artery was also important for the armies of the Civil War to move within southwestern Missouri and northwestern Arkansas. All three battles in this guide were fought near the road.
The introduction includes a how-to-use section as well as presenting the battlefields as they are today. Wilsonís Creek and Pea Ridge are protected by the National Park system; Wilsonís Creek National Battlefield has 70 percent of the original battlefield, and Pea Ridge National Battlefield has most of the original battlefield. The Prairie Grove Battlefield, in an Arkansas state park, has not been as fortunate, although this is improving with each passing year. These three battles were the three most important battles of the Civil War upper Trans-Mississippi theatre.
The authors of this guide have written other books about these battles. Richard W. Hatcher III and William Garrett Piston co-authored Wilsonís Creek: the Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It (2000). William Shea and Earl J. Hess co-authored Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West (1992). William Shea authored War in the West: Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove (2002) and co-authored with William Baxter Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove (2000). These scholars know these battles and infuse this interesting guide with their cumulative expertise.
Each battle section begins with a map of the battlefield, then an overview of the battle is given. This is followed by the various stops on the tour of the park. Each tour begins at the visitor center, and each stop has a title and the time at which an event happened. Directions are given, then the tourist is oriented to what he or she should see and supplied with a description of what happened, which varies in length. Analyses and vignettes of interesting anecdotes or history are an added benefit to the guide. Many maps and illustrations, both drawings and Civil War period photographs, are included. The stops on the tour given by the guide are more numerous than those given by the park system. This is noted at the title of the stop and in the text. The maps and photographs are clear and appealing to the eye.
The tours of Wilsonís Creek and Pea Ridge are mainly by car, but walking tours of specific stops are also mentioned. One, though, should be sure to obey the parkís rules - some might not allow tourists to walk to every one of the various points of the battlefield. The National Park System provides short one-page guides, but if one wishes to know more during or before visiting the park, this guide makes itself invaluable.
The tour of Prairie Grove is complicated; much of the tour by car of the battlefield is outside the park, and one must be cautious about traffic. The walking tour, however, is on the park property. Over time it is hoped that this park will be able to gain more property of the actual battlefield.
The tour of Wire (or Telegraph) Road, on or near which several minor battles occurred, is longer and strung out over many miles. Much of it is not accessible by modern roads, but the authors have detailed where the old Road was to allow touring it by close proximity. Visiting the end of the Road at Fort Smith, Arkansas is worthwhile.
This tour guide is highly recommended to Civil War enthusiasts. Obtaining all of the tour guides of Civil War battlefields being published by the University of Nebraska Press is recommended for those planning on touring the battlefields.