I was very pleased to receive a review copy of Gregory H. Wolk’s new book, A Tour Guide to Missouri’s Civil War: Friend and Foe Alike. This is a book that can be enjoyed by Civil War enthusiasts anywhere. Wolk provides a well crafted overview of the history that led up to the war and why that history was particularly volatile in Missouri and along its borders. Stuart Symington, Jr.’s fine “Foreward” sets the scene for Wolk’s exploration of why Missouri’s Civil War experience lasted longer and was arguably uglier than that of any other state. You may be surprised to learn, for example, that Missouri saw more Civil War battles or engagements than any state except Virginia and Tennessee. In fact, “almost half of the battles fought in 1861 occurred in Missouri.”
Wolk provides a good balance between narrative history, illustrations, maps, and photographs. Over 230 historic sites are described.
For those who want to get out and see the important sites and battlefields of the war in Missouri, Wolk provides five driving tours that include
St. Louis and the Southeast,
the Kansas City Region, and
He’s designed the tours as “Loop’s” that each take about two days to complete. Within each loop there are at least thirty heritage sites. Even if you don’t plan to take all of the driving tours, the book’s descriptions provide an excellent overview of the history of each region during the war era.
One of the book’s many strong points is its profiles of the fascinating individuals involved in the conflict. Readers are introduced, for example, to Lt. Colonel Frisby Henderson McCullough, the most prominent of fifteen southern men executed after the Battle of Kirksville for parole violations. Tour Stop 85 marks the “Kirksville Massacre Site” where the executions by firing squad took place on 7 August 1862 by the order of Col. John McNeil.
Wolk’s website and blog provide a gathering place for reference, discussion, and feedback. Visit friendandfoe.org to gain additional historical insights or to correspond with the author.
Particularly insightful is Leonard’s coverage of the role of black regulars in the clearing of the west’s natives for white settlement. This excerpt…
The strengthening of the fort system in Texas, and indeed all along the nation’s western frontier, and the posting of active duty soldiers at Fort Davis and a multitude of other military installations in this vast region constituted a key component of the army’s response to its postwar charge. Now that the Confederate rebellion had been suppressed and the South had been, in theory at least, reclaimed for the Union, a task of primary strategic importance for the united nation – though, in the eyes of many then and now, a morally questionable one – was to “pacify” the remaining unsettled land and Native people located within the boundaries of the United States in preparation for the advance of “American civilization. The black Regulars were to play a key role in this process. (pp. 76-66).
Leonard’s insightful overview of the Battle of Beecher’s Island is well worth a read. The Tenth Cavalry, largely black Regulars, saved the day.
The book is receiving well deserved “buzz.” This from James M. McPherson (Battle Cry of Freedom):
“Once again Elisabeth Leonard demonstrates the versatility and range of her skills as a historian and writer. This penetrating account of the black regular regiments in the U.S. army after the Civil War joins her earlier studies of women during the Civil War and the prosecutors of Lincoln’s assassins on a select shelf of important books.”
I’ll add that the book is just a pleasure to read. Highly recommend!