Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Five Trans-Mississippi cavalry books: (Part 4) "Gettysburg of the West"

[Gettysburg of the West: The Battle of Westport, October 21-23, 1864 by Fred L. Lee (Two Trails Publishing, 1996 rev.-OP)]

Fred Lee’s eclectic mix of narrative, eyewitness accounts, newspaper articles, and biographical sketches dealing with the Battle of Westport is a treasure trove that has a little bit of everything for everyone. In addition to the text, photographs, maps, and illustrations fill the pages. Gettysburg of the West is not a structured battle study [it's rather haphazardly organized], but anyone with an interest in the raid should not miss adding this volume to the home library.

The book begins with an overview by renowned Missouri historian Howard Monnett of the Battle of Westport and the Confederate retreat after the battle*. Continuing on, the battles leading to the action at Westport (Little Blue, Independence, and the Mockbee Farm fight) are described from eyewitness accounts. The next section comprises reports, diary entries, reminiscences, and letters from both military participants and civilian observers. The experience of the wounded and the effects of the battles on local communities are also reported. Biographical sketches and obituaries are included along with an inventory of post-war parks and monuments. A self-guided battlefield tour of the Battle of Independence rounds out the main text of the book.

Numerous appendices provide additional information, such as the organization of the opposing armies during and after the Battle of Westport. Another item of particular interest is a catalog of the existing historical markers in the area. The entire text of each marker is reproduced. Additional information on historical sites in the area concludes the book.

* = The narrative is drawn from Monnett's pioneering, but now dated, work. While the late author's views are still of value to readers, the history of the raid is badly in need of a modern revisit -- hopefully that is just what we'll get from Kyle Sinisi's long awaited study.


  1. Drew,

    Good review, this looks like another one I'll be picking up. The title did spark a question, though, given that you know much more of the western theater than I do: Just how many "Gettysburg of the West"s are there? I've seen claims for everything from Glorietta to Pea Ridge to Chickamauga.

  2. Don,
    Individuals have come up with a bevy of inappropriate candidates. I think Franklin is another to add to the list, probably on some idea of similarity with Pickett's Charge. The whole concept is silly. Curiously, there is no "Shiloh of the East".

    Similarly, there are competing "Stonewall of the West"s as well. Bowen, Cleburne, and probably some others. IIRC, an early bio tried to make the case for Sterling Price as the "Lee of the West".



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