The Battle of Pea Ridge: The Civil War Fight for the Ozarks. By James R. Knight. Illustrated, photos, maps, notes, appendices, index, 160 pp., 2012, History Press, www.historypress.net, $19.99 softcover.
If one is looking for a good short history of Pea Ridge this is the book to pick. It is part of History Press’ sesquicentennial series, the goal of which seems to be to offer well written and illustrated short books. They are very good at what they intend to do. If instead you desire a detailed history of the battle, this is not for you.
Knight’s book on Pea Ridge is no different. It is peppered with great looking maps and plenty of pictures of leaders and modern views of the battlefield. Even in a short book Knight does a good job of providing the proper background on how the armies got here, gives a good amount of details of the fighting so that it does not seem overly generalized and then finishes up by placing the battle in its context in the war.
One slight drawback is that there is not a bibliography to easily see how varied the author’s selections were. But from reading through the end notes one can see that he relied heavily on the Official Records and Shea and Hess’s Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West, admitting in the preface that he used Shea and Hess as the backbone of the book. In a book with these space constraints it is expected so it is only a minor drawback to an otherwise fine book.
This is a good little book on Pea Ridge. It has great maps and is a quick read. If you’re new to studying Pea Ridge this book would be a great entry point and will certainly inspire you to learn more about this pivotal battle.