Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Lincoln and Citizens' Rights in Civil War Missouri: Balancing Freedom and Security

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Lincoln and Citizens' Rights in Civil War Missouri: Balancing Freedom and Security

Article excerpt

Lincoln and Citizens' Rights in Civil War Missouri: Balancing Freedom and Security. By Dennis K. Boman. Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2011. Pp. [xii], 356. $45.00, ISBN 978-0-8071-3693-5.)

Dennis K. Boman revisits an issue explored by Mark E. Neely Jr.'s Pulitzer Prize-winning study, The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties (New York, 1991). Neely examined military arrests in Missouri to gauge the veracity of a central theme of Lost Cause ideology: that a tyrannical president abused the civil liberties of civilians. Boman brings new materials to the table from the National Archives collection of Union provost marshal files, the Missouri portion of which has recently been made searchable online by the state archives (http://www.sos.mo.gov /archives/provost/). With these records, Boman tells a number of interesting stories. But he has not developed a research methodology to make systematic use of these records. Consequently, his new data is impressionistic, and his judgments about the issues he examines reveal more about his views than they do about Abraham Lincoln's policies.

In general, Boman concurs with Neely that Lincoln did not act as a "military dictator" (p. 2). But Boman is particularly interested in Lincoln's policy toward Missouri guerrillas. In Boman's judgment, "Lincoln failed occasionally to stop unfortunate abuses of power"; "the most egregious of these" failures was Lincoln's "acceptance of the summary execution of guerrillas caught in the field in arms" (p. 279). Boman argues that the Federal decision to equate guerrillas with brigands contributed to "the bitterness and intensity" of irregular warfare in Missouri and that Lincoln "should have" experimented with a more lenient policy (pp. 279, 280). …

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