Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Midlist Writer blog, where he talks about writing, adventure travel, caving, and everything else he gets up to. He also reproduces all the posts from Civil War Horror, so drop on by!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

How can I help you?

I like helping out fellow creatives, probably because I've received so little help of my own and so I know how hard this life is. If you're a follower of this blog, I'd be happy to have you as a guest blogger.

I've had several guest posts in the past and they generally get a large readership. I'm getting an average of 300 hits a day now and I announce every post on Facebook and Twitter. This blog is focused on the Civil War and the Wild West, with occasional posts about travel and history in general. If you have something you think might fit, I'd be happy to host you. If your book doesn't fit, I'm happy to take posts on writing as well, although I don't want to do too many of those since I want this blog to be outside the Indie Authors' Echo Chamber.

You don't even need to be a writer! Have you visited an interesting historic site and want to write it up? Are you are photographer? Wargamer? Reenactor? As long as it's related to the focus of this blog, I'm listening.

If you just want to make an announcement, drop me a line at the email in the lefthand column and I'll include it in my semiregular Reader News posts. I'm working on one for early next week if you have anything you'd like to share. It can be about writing, history, archaeology, adventure travel, etc.Book announcements are most welcome, but don't limit yourself to just those!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Cut your hair, soldier!"

I'm reading The Civil War on the Border by Wiley Britton, a 1000-page magnum opus on the Trans-Mississippi Theater written by a Union veteran in the 1890s. It was one of the earliest books to exhaustively cover the war west of the Mississippi and contains lots of interesting anecdotes.

This one comes from early 1863. The First Arkansas Union Infantry at Fayetteville was a new unit and was filling up rapidly. Many were Arkansas Unionists who had been in hiding from Confederate recruiters or who had been conscripted into the rebel army and had deserted. When they joined the Union army they found life a little different.

"Long hair was the fashion in the South, in that section, and among Southern soldiers, and there was at least one instance where one of these Arkansas recruits refused to have his hair cut and had to be caught and held until the operation was performed, and where one man was sent to the guardhouse because he refused to serve as one of the detail to catch and hold the comrade for shearing."

Photo of unidentified Confederate First Lieutenant courtesy Cowan Auctions.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Please allow me to reintroduce myself

Today I'm participating in the Please Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself blogfest. This is a chance for bloggers to tell a little about themselves.

Hmm. . .where to start? I'm a Canadian who hasn't lived in Canada for decades. Instead I've lived in the U.S., Denmark, Bulgaria, England, and most presently Santander in the north of Spain. I spent ten years working as an archaeologist before becoming a full-time writer. Coolest thing excavated: the city gate at Tel Gezer, Israel, commissioned by King Solomon.

Besides writing and archaeology, I love to travel, and one of my writing jobs is for the Gadling travel blog. Scroll all the way to the bottom of this blog to see a map of where I've been. This photo, courtesy Leo Stolpe, shows yours truly atop a burnt out tank in Somaliland.

Other interests: silent films, B-movies, hiking, and caving. I'm also happily married and the proud father of a seven-year-old boy. It's a school holiday today in Santander so most of the people in this blogfest are going to have to wait until tomorrow for comments. The parents among you will understand!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Italian Connection

My book Armies of the Adowa Campaign, about the disastrous Italian attempt to invade Ethiopia in 1896, has been translated into Italian by the publisher Editrice Goriziana. I haven't seen an actual copy yet, but I notice that they've changed the cover. You can see the new cover here.

I've also been invited to give a talk at a history conference in Italy this May. The subject of the conference is historical bandits, and my talk is tentatively called "Jesse James, Inc." I'll be talking about how Missouri's most famous outlaw was used to sell books, movies, tourist attractions, and generally make money. The process started even while Jesse was still running around robbing banks!

I'll post more details on this conference when the plans get finalized.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Interview with men's adventure author Hank Brown

Today we're chatting with action author Hank Brown, who is doing a blog tour for his most recent release, Tier Zero. Hank has come out with several novels and short stories in the men's adventure genre, a genre that was in the doldrums before the current publishing revolution. So with no further ado. . .

Checking out your list of publications, one that jumped to my attention was Radical Times, a Civil War story. Actually it's a Reconstruction story set in Arkansas right after the war. What made you pick a setting well away from the epic drama of the major battles?

Mostly it was because of history and my exposure to it. In school I had only learned the superficial facts about the Civil War...North, South, slaves, Abraham Lincoln...that was about it. Public school taught us even less about Reconstruction, which is to say: nothing.

Then about a year or two before I wrote Radical Times, I checked out a book from the library about that historic period. It blew me away how much I didn't know about it. And when that happens I'm compelled to set off on a researching spree. It annoys me how the truth of this tumultuous period are ignored, at best; or censored, at worst. Our present political dynamic depends on that ignorance (or censorship). Anyway, as all this information was floating around in my mind I began conceiving characters (as often happens). The story grew out of all that.

You served in the Armed Forces. Beyond the obvious, what are the main differences between warfare in the 1860s and the modern day? How is the soldier's experience different? Are there any similarities?

Beyond the obvious, I'd say it's the officers and men themselves that are most different, followed by the command doctrine. The US armed forces have become extremely top-heavy organizations, with a cumbersome bureaucracy only slightly less inept than the non-uniformed government institutions. The technology which enables unprecedented micromanaging runs the risk of turning fighting men into robots. The technological advantages and overwhelming air support our troops have enjoyed since WWII glosses over the chinks in our armor, of which I believe this is an example.

When Von Steuben was drilling Washington's troops to fight the British he remarked on what made the American soldier unique: You couldn't just institute a policy and expect Americans to follow it, without first explaining its purpose. That does not seem to be the case any longer. Once when training with some soldiers from the Mother Country, after Desert Storm, I remember the ironic moment when one of the Brits cried out in frustration about all the suffocating regulations he had to abide by while attached to the US Army. Holy historic role-reversal, Uncle Sam!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Old West Video: The Last Cowboy Song

Hey folks. This week there won't be the usual Photo Friday post because I'll have a special guest blogger coming in. So here are your Old West photos early, in video form! I recognize many of these photos from the Library of Congress collection and other collection. Others are new to me. The song is cool too. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A good book review and a strange one

Last week my Civil War novel A Fine Likeness received to more reviews. A new four-star review on the novel's Goodreads page says that while the reader isn't into paranormal, "The author does an excellent job in incorporating accurate Civil War and Missouri history and handles the military action sequences with ease. The tale reads smoothly and is a very easy read. The motivations of the main protagonists on both sides of the conflict are realistically developed."

He goes on to say: "A Fine Likeness is one of those novels that falls between genres: American historical fiction with a regional focus, paranormal, a bit of the "Western." That may limit the readership, but the writing shouldn't be penalized for that."

Yeah, that's one of the reasons I couldn't find a regular publisher. The rejection letters kept saying how they didn't know how to market it. So I'm marketing it myself!

The second review is from the Indie Book Review. It was positive ("intriguing" "timely") yet odd in places. While I'm not the kind of person who bites the hand that feeds him, I'm wondering why Captain Addison is referred to as "General Captain Addison" and how exactly my background as an archaeologist informs the novel.

But what the hey, don't look a good review in the details!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A deceptive quiet in Civil War Missouri

General Marmaduke's raid was over. He and his Confederate cavalry raiders were almost to the state line of Arkansas, where they would return to their winter quarters and eat meager rations until the spring campaigns. Most of the bushwhackers had also left the state. With the underbrush thinned out during winter, they had lost their advantage and blended with the civilian population or rode to quarters in Texas.

A few bands of rebels kept up the fight even through the depths of winter. On January 21, Union Col. Joseph Douglass and his men attacked a rebel camp near Columbia in the center of the state. The rebels fought until their ammunition was exhausted and then fled. Douglass rode back to Columbia with four prisoners in tow--all captains.

On January 27, Col. James Lindsay heard of a small rebel camp at Bloomfield and rode into town with 250 men of the Enrolled Missouri Militia and two pieces of artillery. The rebels hightailed it.

There would be scattered skirmishes throughout the winter. The relative calm wasn't to last. Come spring the bushwhackers would return, and so would General Marmaduke.

Image of "Pine Cottage" winter quarters for some Union soldiers, taken by Mathew Brady.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Guest blogging and headed to Estonia

Yesterday I was over at Alex Cavanaugh's blog doing a guest post about that greatest of challenges for the adventure traveler--the squat toilet. Head on over and learn how to handle this tricky device.

I should have posted about this yesterday but I was crazy busy. One thing I had to do was arrange my next trip, and next series for Gadling. In mid February I'm headed to Estonia. That's right, I'm hanging out for five days in one of the Baltic States to cover their annual ice sculpture festival. It will be my first trip to the region. Should be fun!

Photo of Tallinn courtesy Wikimedia Commons. My own photos coming next month!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Military History Photo Friday: The Killer Vespa

What? No Civil War Photo Friday? No Wild West Photo Friday? Nope, today I'm leaving the 19th century to delve into the 20th. The excellent Warfare History blog posted yesterday about the Algerian War of Independence 1956-1961 so I've decided to post about an odd weapon that came out of that war.

Introducing the Vespa 150 T.A.P., a girly Euroscooter painted a less-than-girly olive drab and equipped with a manly M20 75mm recoiless rifle!

I discovered this gem while blogging about tank museums, and was impressed by the clever mix of an inexpensive scooter and dangerous firepower.

France developed these in the late 1950s, when it was strapped for cash and mired in a bitter war with their colony Algeria. Vespas were fast, cost only 500 bucks, and light enough that they could be airdropped on parachutes, making them good rapid infantry transport. The shaped charge warhead on the M20 could penetrate 100mm of armor, capable of punching through pillboxes, buildings, and lightly armored vehicles. Since there was no recoil, they could be fired from the Vespa, although ideally they were dismounted and set up on a tripod. About 800 saw use in the war. Despite this, the French lost and Algeria became a nation.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons. For more pictures, check out this site.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Fatal Flaw of many Confederate Cavalry Raiders

On this date 150 years ago, Confederate Colonel Joseph Porter was dying. He had been fatally wounded at the Battle of Hartville, Missouri, a few days before while supporting General Marmaduke's cavalry raid.

Marmaduke was now retreating back to Arkansas, having caused a fair amount of trouble for the Union forces in Missouri. His raid could not be called a success, however. Marmaduke blundered badly at the Second Battle of Springfield when he attacked an entrenched position with little artillery and no numerical superiority. The rule of thumb is that you need at least 3-1 superiority in numbers to take an entrenched position.

The Battle of Hartville was another stand-up battle. While the rebels won this time, they lost many men and all they really achieved was an escape route out of Missouri.

Cavalry raids were most effective when they moved quickly and hit the enemy's weak spots. In between these two battles, Marmaduke's men burnt bridges, cut telegraph wires, and snapped up small Union outposts. They should have stuck with that. Getting into set-piece battles is not what a cavalry raid is for.

Porter should have learned that lesson before he ever joined Marmaduke in 1863. The year before, he'd been given the duty of raising troops and causing trouble in northeastern Missouri. His ranks swelled to some 2,000 men. While about half had no weapons, Porter fought a series of skirmishes and battles with Union forces that whittled away his numbers and led to a mass desertion of some 500 men in a single day. His ranks much reduced, he fled south and ended up under Marmaduke's command.

My books American Civil War Guerrilla Tactics and Ride Around Missouri: Shelby's Great Raid 1863 delve more deeply into this subject. I'm hoping to do another book on guerrillas in the Civil War this year. We shall see!

Since no photos of Porter are known to exist, here's a Wikipedia image of the flag he flew under, the state battle flag of Confederate Missouri.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Finishing up my Tangier series on Gadling

I'm pretty much done with my Tangier series on Gadling. As I mentioned before, my wife and I took a five-day break from the Christmas holidays for a romantic getaway in Tangier, Morocco. I wrote it up for Gadling, of course. Hit the link to see all the posts.

I'll probably do one more this week on visiting the tomb of Ibn Battuta, the great Arab traveler. My friends think I'm well traveled for having visited 33 countries. Ibn Battuta visited 44, more than 500 years ago! It was an honor to see where this great traveler was laid to rest.

Most of the photos are by my lovely wife, a Spanish astronomer who is responsible for getting me to move from Missouri to Europe. She even got this shot of me after I had become part of the Sultan's harem. She's very understanding.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cycling in 1887

I just finished work on the second edition of It Happened in Missouri. There will be two new chapters in this edition, one on Jesse James imposters and the other on the champion cycling race held in Clarksville in 1887.

While I've done lots of research on Jesse James, early cycling was new to me. Back in 1887 the bicycle of choice was the Ordinary. These were the days before gears, so if you wanted to go fast, you needed a big wheel.

That, and the many unpaved roads, made bicycles very unstable and many a cyclist "took a header." The guy on the right of this picture has his legs up on the handlebars as he descends the hill, a common precaution so that if he hits a rock or pothole and does a header, he'll land on his feet. A safer (and more ladylike) option was to use a tricycle.

I'm not sure when the second edition will come out. I'll be sure to mention it here, of course!

Image from 1887 courtesy Library of Congress.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: With Porter in North Missouri

With Porter In North Missouri: A Chapter In The History Of The War Between The StatesWith Porter In North Missouri: A Chapter In The History Of The War Between The States by Joseph A. Mudd
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This memoir by a Confederate veteran is a flawed yet still valuable look at an interesting part of the Civil War in Missouri.

The author rode with Colonel Porter in 1862 as they fought their way across Union-held northeast Missouri, gathering recruits, drawing bluecoats away from more important theaters, and generally causing havoc. There are few published memoirs from either side for this region so Mudd's book is intrinsically valuable.

Where it falls down, however, is its starry-eyed view of Porter. In Mudd's eyes the man could do no wrong. In fact, Porter made several basic tactical blunders, such as getting into a series of set-piece battles with larger and better-armed Union forces. It seems Porter thought of himself more as a general leading an army rather than a cavalry raider doing hit-and-run strikes. This led to his downfall and eventual death.

Further undermining the credibility of this volume are the lengthy quotes attributed to Porter, some running more than a page. Since this book was published in 1909, it's obvious that these conversations are made up. The content, however, generally corresponds with what we know of Porter's personality and tactics, thus only a few grains of salt are needed to get through these passages.

For serious students of the Civil War, this book is a worthwhile historic curio. Those with only a passing interest in the Civil War in Missouri or Confederate cavalry raiders would do best to look elsewhere.

View all my reviews

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Battle of Hartville and the death of Colonel Porter

Two days after losing the Battle of Springfield, Confederate General Marmaduke and his cavalry raiders were still causing trouble in southern Missouri.

They'd been riding east, picking off small Union garrisons, burning bridges, and cutting telegraph wires. About 60 miles east of Springfield at the small town of Hartville, they came across their first significant resistance.

Col. Samuel Merrill and about 800 Union troops were on a forced march to reinforce Springfield. Instead came across the rebels sooner than expected. Merrill's pickets west of Hartville spotted the Confederate advance column at around 3 am and fired on them.

At dawn the rebels pushed forward. For a time the Union troops held them, but the rebels outnumbered them three to one and soon outflanked the Union line to the south.

This was precisely what Marmaduke needed to secure his retreat to Arkansas. That wasn't all he wanted, however. He wanted to defeat the Yankees and take the town. The Union troops hurried back to Hartville with the rebels in pursuit. Merrill positioned his men on a thickly wooded hill northwest of town. He had his men lie down just inside the treeline readied his artillery.

Moments later, the rebels formed up south of town and charged at the Yankees. Just as they drew near, Merrill ordered his men to rise and fire. As Union veteran and author Wiley Britton put it, "the flash and roar of the discharge of eight hundred Federal muskets burst forth from the dark recesses of the wood, announcing that a storm of leaden hail had been sent forth winged with death and woe."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Reader News for January 10

My readers are busy folks. Here's the latest from some of the creative people who read this blog.

Aiden Potts, an artist friend, has come out with a new app in the itunes store. Called d-pixing!, it's a words and pictures game based on the rebus puzzle, where a word is represented by one or more images. It's truly unique because there are thousands of words and hundreds of illustrations by Aiden, challenging you with the sounds of English and testing your visual vocabulary against the clock!

Language is transformed into illustrated symbols, a strangely satisfying return to the root of all writing which began as a series of pictograms. There are unusual words, amusing contemporary visuals and entertaining, surreal juxtapositions. Good fun if you are learning or practicing English. The music and SFX is provided by the French DJ Mr Claude.

D-pixing! is $1.99 and there's a free version for the moochers.

Nick Wilford over at Scattergun Scribblings is hosting the Overcoming Adversity Blogfest on February 4-5. Entries will be compiled into a book and the proceeds will go to funding college for his stepson, Andrew, who has cerebral palsy. Check out the link for why this is more difficult than it should be in Scotland. He's looking for entries of 500 words or less, prose or poetry, on overcoming adversity for something you believe in.

Do you have any news you'd like to share here? It can be about writing, history, archaeology, adventure travel, etc. You know what I cover in this blog, so if it's at all related, send it along to the email on the sidebar to the left.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Indie Life: Reaching Beyond the Indie Authors' Echo Chamber

Today I'm participating in the Indelibles Indie Life blog hop. On the second Wednesday of every month we talk about various aspects of being an indie author. So let's get to it!

As every author knows, marketing a book is as hard as writing one. One trap many people fall into is to communicate only with other writers, a trend one author whose name I now forget called "the indie authors' echo chamber".

It's understandable. These were the people in the chatrooms and newsgroups who supported you as you wrote your book. These are the folks who followed your blog and you followed theirs. They feel your pain and share your joys. There's only one problem:

There are too few of them.

Sure, some indie authors will buy your book. Some may even review it. But they constitute a tiny fraction of your potential readership. You need to make your voice carry beyond the indie authors' echo chamber and reach the world at large.

There are many ways to do this and I'm still learning. Any suggestions would be highly appreciated. My main marketing platform right now is blogging. I'm a professional travel blogger for Gadling so it comes easily to me. On my own blog I try to make my posts have a wide appeal to my target readership. You'll see few posts about writing. There are plenty of other bloggers who do that well, like Cynthia Hope Clark and Dean Wesley Smith. I want to reach readers as well as writers.

I also do lots of guest posts on non-writing blogs. One of my favorites is that run by Osprey Publishing, which publishes my military history books. Since my Civil War novel has a military theme, this is a good audience, and of course I always mention my novel in the "about the author" section! I even focused on the book for a post on Weaving Military History into Fiction. Yeah, my traditional publisher let me push my indie book. They're cool.

Genre magazines often have blogs and they're a good place to pitch since they have readers who already like your genre. One of my faves is Black Gate. I've done a few posts for them, including one on Spiritualism during the American Civil War. Smaller blogs with a wide appeal such a Guerrilla Explorer are also good bets. They published my post on Did Jesse James Fake His Own Death?

All my guest posts include a links to my novel and personal blog. I also tweet about each guest post, using appropriate hashtags to reach beyond my followers.

So. . .how do YOU reach beyond the indie authors' echo chamber?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Marmaduke's First Missouri Raid and the Second Battle of Springfield

The year 1863 started with a bang in Missouri. On December 31, 1862, Confederate Brigadier General John Sappington Marmaduke rode out of Arkansas at the head of 3,000 cavalry to hit Union supply lines.

For the first few days, they rode in three separate columns through the sparsely populated Ozarks without the Union command being any the wiser. That changed on January 7 when the rebels fell upon Union outposts at Ozark and Fort Lawrence. Most of the garrison managed to flee. Some of the supplies were taken away or burned, and some fell into Marmaduke's hands.

That same evening Brig.-Gen. Egbert Brown, pictured here, was alerted. He was based in Springfield, the Union's base of operations for southwestern Missouri. He heard Marmaduke was coming straight for him with 6,000 men. For some reason Union reports consistently overestimated rebel numbers and this led to much unnecessary panic and retreating.

Not so with Gen. Brown. He decided to stick, even though he only had 2,100 men, many of them untested militia and a "Quinine Brigade" of convalescents from the military hospital; and five cannon, three of them on slapped-together mountings of old wagon wheels. The town was surrounded by four forts. Even though none were completed they were better than nothing.

Marmaduke desperately wanted the supplies stored in Springfield. All three of his columns were supposed to attack the town on this date, but only two showed. Col. Porter, with 800 men, didn't make it on time, thus Marmaduke was attacking an entrenched position without numerical superiority.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Spotted in Tangier: Creative use of English

Never underestimate the flexibility of language! My series on Tangier has started on Gadling. Check out all our posts on this wonderful city here. Mine is at the top and titled Avoiding Christmas in Tangier. More from my trip will go live this week.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Fine Likeness named "Favorite novel of 2012"!

It's always nice to receive acclamation from a fellow writer, especially one as talented as G.R. Yeates. On his blog he did a roundup of favorites for 2012 and had this to say about my novel:

"I’ve chosen a writer who has followed a similar path to myself – that of historical horror. A Fine Likeness by Sean McLachlan is set during the American Civil War and deals with Confederate rebels and Union soldiers facing off against a black magic cult that are seeking to use the war-time strife to their own ends. A thoroughly immersive read written by someone with a real passion for the period the story is set in. The level of detail is as impressive as the well-drawn and convincing characterisation. I also liked the touch of including real historical characters in amongst the mayhem to add to the tone of authenticity that resounds throughout the book."

Thanks, G.R.! Check out the guest blog he did for me about his World War One fiction here.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Civil War Photo Friday: William T. Biedler, 16 years old

This young rebel is William T. Biedler, who had his picture taken at just sixteen years of age. He was in Company C of Mosby's Virginia Cavalry Regiment.

I suspect this was taken at the beginning of the war because he's armed with an antiquated flintlock musket. Both sides, especially the rebels, had chronic supply problems and some men had to go to battle with inferior weapons or no weapons at all. They picked up better weapons from the dead or captured as soon as possible and it's doubtful that Biedler would have carried his flintlock beyond the first year of the war.

Compare this with the photo of Jesse James as a Confederate bushwhacker at the same age. There's quite a difference!

Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Writing Year: A Look Back and a Look Forward

It's a new year, the traditional time to take stock of what you've done and what you're planning on doing. Yes, it's completely arbitrary, but it's good to do these things every now and then.

The year 2012 was so-so for me. I only had one nonfiction book come out: The Last Ride of the James-Younger Gang, Jesse James & The Northfield Raid 1876. I also came out with the print version of my Civil War novel A Fine Likeness. Both have gotten good reviews, although I wouldn't mind better sales on the novel. I did get some nice attention when the city of Madrid paid me to give a reading at their annual Noche del Libro festival. Considering the state of the Spanish economy, I doubt I'll get to do that again!

Another milestone was seeing my fantasy novella The Quintessence of Absence come out in Black Gate Magazine. It's free online, so click that link!

For my travel writing, check out this Gadling post about my year in adventure travel and what to expect from me in 2013. I'm much more satisfied with that part of my career, with popular series on Iraq and the Orkney Islands. Lebanon won the "where to send Sean next" poll, so it looks like I'm going there, editor willing!

So what's up for 2013? I'm making fiction a priority. My dream has always been to divide my time evenly between fiction and nonfiction. My history and travel writing careers are humming along nicely, while fiction still lags behind. I wanted to finish the sequal to A Fine Likeness in 2012 but didn't. I'm also way behind on a story I promised A.J. Walker for an anthology we're doing. Several other fiction projects got nowhere fast.

It's time to get cracking. My goal this year is to write 200,000 words of fiction. While that sounds like a lot, it's actually only 550 words a day. Quite doable. Some days I'll write more, and some days I'll write none because I'll be traveling. When I'm on the road I need to focus on what I'm seeing and how I'm going to communicate that to my readers.

To keep myself honest I've put a word count bar at the bottom of this blog. I'll be updating it once a week or so. Light a fire under my ass if I'm not writing enough.

I'll also be ramping up this blog, reaching out to other bloggers for guest posts and to guest post on their own blogs. You'll see me participating in more blogfests too. This blog started the year with only 100 hits a day and finished with almost 300 daily hits. I'm going to see how much I can raise that.

It's going to be a fun and challenging year!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Civil War Missouri at the start of 1863

A hundred and fifty years ago, the war was not taking a holiday. On the Mississippi, Sherman was trying to take Vicksburg and failing badly. Grant was moving south towards the same objective. There was fighting further east too, despite it being the Christmas season.

Missouri wasn't getting a rest either. The state was now in Union hands. The Confederates had suffered setbacks at the battles of Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove and there was no rebel army to speak of within the state.

In the countryside, however, an increasing number of guerrillas staged hit-and-run attacks on Union forces and Confederate recruiters rode through rural areas picking up volunteers to go down to Arkansas to join the regular army.

The Civil War in Missouri had entered a new phase, with cavalry raids, skirmishes, and bushwhacking replacing actions by large armies. In fact, the first major raid had already begun. On December 31, 1862, Confederate Brigadier General John Sappington Marmaduke rode out of Arkansas at the head of 3,000 cavalry to hit Union supply lines. I'll be posting more about this raid in the next couple of weeks.

Later in the year, Marmaduke would launch a second raid and the famous Confederate cavalryman J.O. Shelby would head one of the greatest raids of the war. I write about all three of these raids at length in my book Ride Around Missouri: Shelby's Great Raid 1863.

There will be plenty to blog about in 2013 as I relate the events of 150 years ago!

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.