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Friday, September 30, 2011

Civil War Photo Friday: A Union blockhouse

In the Civil War, both sides quickly realized the importance of fortification. Blockhouses like this one could be made from logs quickly and cheaply, and provided protection from bullets. They were especially useful in Missouri against bushwhackers, who didn't have artillery and therefore couldn't take such simple fortifications.

There was a famous incident in Missouri in 1864 when the bushwhacker gang of Bloody Bill Anderson, which included Frank and Jesse James, attacked a blockhouse in Fayette. They were bloodily repulsed. One of the protagonists in my Civil War novel has unwillingly joined up with Bloody Bill and he and his friends don't fare too well during this attack.

One of the fun things about researching a historical novel is pairing up fiction with real history. For example, my other protagonist is a fictional Union captain named Richard Addison who is charged with protecting Columbia, Missouri. I knew there was a blockhouse at the intersection of 8th St. and Broadway. It was put there because it was one of the town's main intersections, but I also add the detail that Captain Addison's drygoods store is on that corner and so the blockhouse was put there to keep the local secessionists from burning his store down.

I talk more about the use of blockhouses to ward off guerrilla attacks in my book American Civil War Guerrilla Tactics.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

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