Sunday, February 12, 2012


[ The 11th Missouri Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster by Dennis W. Belcher (McFarland 800-253-2187, 2011).] Softcover, 14 maps, 91 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index.  Pages main/total:240/347.   ISBN: 978-0-7864-4882-1  $39.95 ]

Not unusual for Missouri regiments organized for Union service during the first months of the Civil War, the 11th Missouri Volunteer Infantry was primarily manned by Illinoisans (in this case, 9 out of 10 companies). One of Fox's Three Hundred Fighting Regiments, the 11th had a distinguished combat record, beginning at Fredericktown, Missouri and ending at Spanish Fort near Mobile, Alabama.

In defeating M. Jeff Thompson's Missouri State Guard division at Fredericktown on October 21, 1861, the 11th occupied the center of the Union attack. Later, it played active roles in the Island No. 10 and Siege of Corinth campaigns. Bolstering General William S. Rosecrans's right flank at Iuka, the regiment suffered heavy casualties. It repeated this stalwart performance in other Mississippi battles, backing up Battery Robinett at Corinth and assaulting the Stockade Redan at Vicksburg, where it lost one-third of its strength. In 1864, the by then decimated Missourians, joined by re-upped volunteers from the 7th Missouri, were reorganized as the 11th Veteran Volunteers, fighting at Nashville and ending their active service with the capture of Spanish Fort in 1865. Historian Dennis Belcher covers these events and more in his regimental history and roster study The 11th Missouri Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War.

Belcher's narrative is not an aesthetic success (and remains in need of a copyeditor's service), but it is well researched and packed with detailed information about the 11th Missouri's often critical role in numerous Trans-Mississippi and Western Theater skirmishes and battles. The author recognizes that regimental leadership during the formative years is often the determining factor in how well a unit performs under the stress of combat, and the 11th was fortunate in this regard to have had commanders of the quality of Joseph Plummer and Joseph Mower. Happily, this extensive military and organizational history is supplemented with many excellent operational scale and battlefield maps created by noted cartographer George Skoch.

The sections that arguably shine best in comparison to the typical regimental history are those associated with the officers and men of the 11th. In addition to the manuscript material incorporated into the text, a body of wartime letters are reproduced in full in the appendix section. At frequent intervals in the narrative, Belcher also inserts loss tables listing the fate (e.g. discharge, death, desertion, transfer, resignation) of individuals over specific periods of time. Another appendix contains biographical sketches of the regiment's officers. Full rosters of both the 11th and its later Veteran Volunteer incarnation are included. In these, vital statistics and available commentary are provided for each soldier.

Civil War history and roster studies comprise one of the most popular segments of the publishing market and most do not succeed on both levels, but that is not the case here. The history portion of The 11th Missouri Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War, presentational warts and all, nevertheless represents a complete narrative record of the regiment's service, and the information provided about the officers and men should prove invaluable for researchers, genealogists, and historians.

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