The Last Hurrah: Sterling Price's Missouri Expedition of 1864

By Draper, Wallace Dean | Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

The Last Hurrah: Sterling Price's Missouri Expedition of 1864


Draper, Wallace Dean, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society


The Last Hurrah: Sterling Price's Missouri Expedition of 1864. By Kyle S. Sinisi. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. Pp. xxvii, 432, illustrations, bibliography, notes. Cloth, $55.00.)

While much has been written of the American Civil War, the trans-Mississippi theater of operations has been a fairly neglected area for historical analysis. As the author Kyle S. Sinisi remarks, "There are very few book-length examinations of a campaign that ranks among the most unique of the war. Riding at the head of an army that initially numbered twelve thousand poorly armed and ill-disciplined men, Price attempted a deep strike behind enemy lines and the liberation of a state long occupied by Union forces" (xiii). In The Last Hurrah, Sinisi, history professor at The Citadel and author of Sacred Debts: State Civil War Claims and American Federalism, 1861-1880 (2003), succeeds in filling this gap in Civil War historiography.

A former governor of Missouri with a checkered career as military leader, Sterling Price was permitted to lead a campaign into his home state in the fall of 1864. Ostensibly, the mission objectives were to undermine that slave state's position in the Union and to damage President Abraham Lincoln's re-election hopes. Doomed almost from the beginning with a divided theater command, poor logistical support, and stronger resistance than expected, General Price certainly failed to serve himself well with questionable strategic decisions and battlefield leadership. The Confederate forces did manage to inflict significant physical damage in its wake and met with some initial success against opposition forces. However, during the long course of the campaign, the invaders faced food and ammunition shortages that gravely affected morale and led to increasing rates of desertion. Finally, in late October, at the Battle of Westport, Price's forces met a "near total" defeat, which left them "scattered in a headlong retreat south along the state line" (259). For Sinisi, this ill-fated campaign represented the "Confederacy's last hurrah west of the Mississippi River" (362).

Professor Sinisi's work on Price's 1864 Missouri campaign is a creditable one, providing needed synthesis of a variety of sources on this oft-neglected aspect of the American Civil War. …

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