Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History

Article excerpt

The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History. By Louis S. Gerteis. Shades of Blue and Gray Series. (Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 2012. Pp. [xviii], 237. $29.95, ISBN 978-0-8262-1972-5.)

Louis S. Gerteis sees two troubling and related developments in the historiography of the Civil War in Missouri. First, recent work, especially since the publication of Michael Fellman's Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri during the American Civil War (New York, 1989), "has overemphasized the role of guerrillas" such as William C. Quantrill and William T. "Bill" Anderson, often to the neglect of conventional military forces in the state (p. 1). This trend, Gerteis maintains, has contributed to the second problem, the marginalization of Missouri within many Civil War histories, which overlook the part played by organized armies in a state seemingly awash in brutal guerrilla violence. This single-volume narrative history seeks to correct these trends by illuminating conventional warfare in Missouri, which saw more Civil War battles than any state except Virginia and Tennessee, and by assessing Missouri's broader significance for the trans-Mississippi West and, indeed, the entire nation.

Gerteis argues that this border state held strategic importance for both Union and Confederate leaders, who fought for control of Missouri through nearly all of the Civil War. Sitting at the confluence of the nation's great rivers, Missouri was a vital link to the West, and the state's early posture of armed neutrality served to extend the Confederacy's long northern boundary well beyond the Mississippi River. The book's first chapter details how the collapse of this posture by the summer of 1861 framed the basic elements of the war in Missouri. Federal troops under Nathaniel Lyon seized control of St. Louis and advanced up the Missouri River, forcing Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson, fellow rebel sympathizers, and the newly created Missouri State Guard to flee the state capital toward the southwest. Confederate troops regrouped under the fraught partnership of Benjamin McCulloch and Sterling Price and won a significant victory at the battle of Wilson's Creek. …

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