Academic journal article Military Review

Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border

Academic journal article Military Review

Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border

Article excerpt

CIVIL WAR ON THE MISSOURI-KANSAS BORDER, Donald L. Gilmore, Pelican Press, Gretna, LA, 2006, 376 pages, $29.95.

Donald L. Gilmore has written a vivid, enlightening account of events along the Kansas/Missouri border from 1854 to 1865. He discusses the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Compromises of 1820 and 1850, and other problems that led to the border conflict. This was a time that challenged men's souls as they experienced life and death in "Bloody Kansas" and in western Missouri's "Burnt District," and Gilmore describes it well.

Gilmore breaks new ground by offering a version of the border war from mostly the Missouri point of view. In doing so, he provides an in-depth study of why good men do bad things. The book highlights infamous Kansans such as John Brown, James Montgomery, Daniel Anthony (brother of Susan B. Anthony), James Lane, Charles Jennison, and the "Red Legs" whose solutions to problems were to terrorize, murder, pillage, and burn (a practice otherwise known as jayhawking). Many of the Red Legs' actions (not unlike the exploits of Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun) would be considered war crimes today.

The book discusses law-of-war violations in Missouri, such as sealpings, the severing of extremities, executions of prisoners of war, illegal use of civilians on the battlefield, robberies, the burning of homes and businesses, and the round-up and confinement of insurgent families. According to Gilmore, these events help explain why William "Bill" Quantrill transitioned from a school teacher to a bushwhacker, and how he overcame his moral scruples to raid Olathe, Paola, and Lawrence-the latter resulting in the massacre of every townsman from 16 to 60. …

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