The Civil War Missouri Compendium
Joseph W. McCoskrie Jr. and Brian Warren
The History Press, Charleston, South Carolina, 2017, 242 pages
Book Review published on: April 6, 2018
Missouri ranks third behind Tennessee and Virginia for the number of engagements and battles fought on its soil during the War Between the States, otherwise known as the Civil War. The Trans-Mississippi Theater has always been considered a “backwater” by most historians, even though the significance of the actions at the tactical and operational levels of war impacted the strategic level in a number of ways. In fact, the war is asserted by some historians to have begun as a result of the Missouri-Kansas conflicts of the 1850s. Missouri was significant in a number of aspects, including its geographic location, resources, the access to the Missouri River, and the population that was split between Unionists and pro-Confederates.
Joe McCoskrie and Brian Warren have done great justice to the study of the war in Missouri. The Civil War Missouri Compendium is a concise and fact-filled book that is an imminently useful resource for teachers, historians, and tourists. It is not intended to be a detailed chronology of the history of the war in Missouri, but it outlines the conflict as conventional forces, partisan rangers, irregular forces, and guerilla forces fought across the state.
Included within the book are the significant actions (battles) described and the lessor actions (engagements) listed with the key facts and casualties involved. The best part of the contents is the summarized analysis provided in each section titled “Why It Matters.” This is genius, as many readers who are not strongly conversant on the war may not understand the significance of the events without being prompted; therefore, the “Why It Matters” section prompts readers with an explanation that ties the facts together. For those who are just amateur historians, but enjoy visiting historical sites, there are “Tourism Notes” and “Historical Trivia” notes that add interesting points to the actions being described. “Biographical Notes” give excellent context to the participants whose actions are depicted.
The preponderance of the book deals with the war in 1861 and 1862; there is a reason for this. The first year and a half of the war saw major actions in both the conventional and unconventional realms. The federals reacted to the pro-Confederate populace by flooding the state with forces to suppress any rebellion. By mid-1862, however, the tide turned against the Confederates and the conventional forces were forced out of the state. Resistance to forced federal occupation and abuses created the conditions for a robust guerilla war that lasted until 1865, although it tapered off by the end of 1864.
The Civil War Missouri Compendium is illustrated with period images of key figures. Reading this book with a good military atlas compensates for the lack of detailed maps in the text. I like maps but understand how editors generally tend to omit them due to space and costs.
Whether one is a teacher, historian, or tourist, this is a must-have book. It is easy to read and references actions by dates. The five appendices and glossary are excellent references. I would recommend neophytes of the war begin by reading appendix I regarding tactics, operations, and strategy. Those unfamiliar with the types of forces, which can be confusing, should read the glossary first as well. Overall, this is another excellent book that adds to the knowledge of the war in the Trans-Mississippi.
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Edwin L. Kennedy Jr., U.S. Army, Retired, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama