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Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review: The Civil War on the Lower Kansas-Missouri Border

The Civil War on the Lower Kansas-Missouri BorderThe Civil War on the Lower Kansas-Missouri Border by Larry E. Wood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Larry Wood is a familiar name to those who study the Civil War in Missouri. He's written several books on lesser-known aspects of the war in the state.

This book covers the two Westernmost tiers of counties in Missouri, those that border Kansas. They were the hardest hit in the vicious border fighting of Bleeding Kansas and things would only get worse once the war started in earnest.

The Border Wars can boil blood even today, so it's refreshing that Wood covers the subject with an even hand, doling out praise and blame to those who deserve it regardless of what side they were on. The tit-for-tat burnings of Osceola and Humboldt are a perfect example of how both sides inflicted unnecessary suffering on civilians and his chapter on this is especially good.

Another interesting chapter covers the Skirmish at Island Mound, where the First Kansas Colored Volunteers became the first black unit of the American army to see combat. They fought off a much larger force of Confederate irregulars and went a long way to changing public attitudes about the ability of black soldiers.

There are also chapters on Shelby's 1863 raid, Price's retreat after his disastrous 1864 campaign, and the two battles of Newtonia. This last chapter has since been expanded by the author into a full book. It's high on my "to read" list. Additional chapters cover the small skirmishes and deadly personal rivalries that were rife in this part of Missouri.

While narrow in geographic scope, regional studies such as this one are valuable in giving readers a view of what in was really like to live in those days. Wood has been very productive and I hope he continues comes out with more books in the future.

This is a review for the second edition, published in 2003. Wood says it has been completely revised and has two new chapters. Make sure you get the second edition.

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