HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Battle of Wilson’s Creek
Author: Edwin C. Bearss
Illustrator: David Whitman
Publisher: Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Foundation, fourth edition published in 1992
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Bearss, Edwin C. The Battle of Wilson’s Creek (originally published in 1961, fourth edition published in 1992, by Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Foundation; printed by Litho Printers and Bindery, 904 West St., Cassville, MO 65265). When we lived in Affton, MO, near St. Louis, we found that one could not study the Civil War’s impact on Missouri without learning about the Battle of Wilson’s Creek near Springfield. Since this was on the opposite end of the state from where we were, we were never able to visit the site during that time. However, after moving to Illinois, we had an opportunity to make a trip to Texas that took us through Springfield, so on our return we stopped to see Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Park, and I picked up this book there in the gift shop as a memento of our visit. Author Edwin C. Bearss was a Civil War park historian for the National Park Service.
Missouri was a border state with many pro-southern and many pro-northern citizens. But the elected governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson, was a secessionist. Union General Nathaniel Lyons, commanding the North’s Army of the West, drove Jackson’s Missouri State Guard from Boonville, but Union Col. Franz Sigel failed to stop them at the Battle of Carthage, allowing them to join with the South’s Western Army commanded by Confederate Brigadier General Ben McCulloch outside of Springfield, where the Missouri State Guard was now turned over to Major General Sterling Price. The two forces clashed on August 10, 1861. Lyons was killed, and it was a technical victory for the Confederates as the Union troops retreated into the pro-northern city of Springfield and then to Rolla, but the southerners were unable to capitalize on their win due to their own losses and disagreements between Price and McCulloch. Eventually, the secessionists were driven from the state following the battles of Lexington, Fredericktown, and Springfield.
This book is a great introduction to the Battle of Wilson’s Creek or Wilson Creek, also known as the Battle of Oak Hills, which was the second major land battle of the Civil War in Missouri and the first important battle of the Western Theater of the American Civil War. It was also the first battle in which a commanding officer was killed. There are maps and summaries of the battle’s action, along with 26 illustrations which show the principal characters and events. Also, some interesting information is included in the Footnotes, and the Appendix has a good Order of Battle. There are several references to cursing, and the “d” and “h” words are occasionally used in quotations but except for one time they are usually spelled out as “d—n” or “h—l,” with “G-d d—n” found once. The Battle of Wilson’s Creek is a relatively detailed and sometimes rather technical account of an important minor battle of the American Civil War. It will likely not appeal to the casual reader, but Civil War buffs will probably appreciate it.