Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Wood: "Other Noted Guerrillas of the Civil War in Missouri"

[Other Noted Guerrillas of the Civil War in Missouri by Larry Wood (Hickory Press - (email) hpress@joplin.com: Joplin, MO, 2007).  Softcover, 4 maps, photos, notes, bibliography, pp. 304.  ISBN: 978-0-9702829-2-7 $19.95]

Books about pro-Southern Missouri guerrilla leaders continue to be churned out at a steady pace, many by small publishers. While some are overly emotional, poorly researched works that make little attempt to separate legend from supportable assertion, others strive for a more evenhanded approach, with conclusions reached through sober examination of the primary source material. The works of Larry Wood can be placed in the latter group. [An earlier book by Wood was reviewed here]

With Other Noted Guerrillas (a take on the title of John N Edwards' famous--and unfortunately very influential--romanticized mythologizing of Quantrill and his colleagues, Noted Guerrillas), Wood brings to light the Civil War careers of guerrilla leaders, many of whom were well known to both sides ("notorious" as they say) at the time, but are little remembered today.

We are reminded that not all guerrillas behaved in the same manner, and the author chose a diverse cross section of candidates for study, both geographically and by reputation. They are:

William Marchbanks, Henry Taylor, Tom Livingston, John Clem, Benjamin Parker, Joe Hart, Mart Rider, Jim Jackson, Clifton Holtzclaw, Jim Anderson, John Thrailkill, Silas Gordon, John Rucker, James Pulliam, Sam Hildebrand, and the various Bolins.

For the most part, each guerrilla has an entire chapter devoted to him. A few paragraphs of pre- and post-Civil War biographical information is provided, bracketing a lengthy and suitably detailed history of the individual's wartime career.

For me, the most interesting chapter was the last, with the heading "Missouri Guerrillas: Who Were They?". Here, Wood gives a rundown of the historiography of the guerrillas from the Civil War period to today, tracing the evolution of the treatment (scholarly and otherwise) of these figures in books and articles. I think the chapter might have been more effectively placed at the beginning of the book, perhaps as a prologue, as it provides some excellent context. All in all, by providing well documented wartime biographical sketches of a number of comparatively neglected figures, Other Noted Guerrillas makes a more than worthwhile contribution to the Civil War historiography of Missouri.

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