Friday, July 6, 2018

Five books on the Missouri State Guard in action

1. The Battle Of Carthage: Border War In Southwest Missouri by David C. Hinze and Karen Farnham (1997).
Last time, a list of five essential Missouri State Guard reference books was presented. Today, we'll look at five representative studies of MSG operations in the field, listed in chronological order by event. Though Kenneth Burchett's more recent study of the July 5, 1861 Battle of Carthage is wider in scope (see my review), it does not supplant Hinze and Farnham's account of the fighting, and the latter serves our purposes here better with its primary focus on MSG units and men.
2. Skim Milk Yankees Fighting: The Battle of Athens, Missouri, August 5, 1861
by Jonathan K. Cooper-Wiele (2007).
One might not expect the obscure little battle at Athens to have two book treatments, but it does. Ben F. Dixon and Patricia Mullenix's The Battle of Athens (1991) is a worthwhile and now hard to find source compilation, but Cooper-Wiele's well-researched book is clearly the best available narrative history of the battle. Its discussion of military events and MSG operations in NE Missouri during the opening moments of the war is invaluable.
3. Wilson's Creek: The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It
by William Garrett Piston and Richard W. Hatcher (2000).
Ed Bearss's The Battle of Wilson's Creek has undergone several editions and is still a highly useful classic account. In some ways, I prefer its tactical treatment of the battle to Piston & Hatcher's, but Wilson's Creek is the most comprehensive and expansively researched examination of the battle and the MSG's integral role in it.
4. The Siege of Lexington, Missouri: The Battle of the Hemp Bales by Larry Wood (2014).
Rumors that Michael Gillespie was looking to expand his wonderful plus-sized pamphlet history of the MSG's Lexington Campaign into a full-fledged book treatment unfortunately never panned out. Though also not definitive in scale, Wood's book picks up the slack and easily provides the most detailed overall account of the MSG's last great independent operation.
5. Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West by William L. Shea and Earl J. Hess (1992).
In addition to being the standard study of the Battle of Pea Ridge, Shea and Hess's book recounts at unsurpassed depth the MSG's participation in the battle and the events leading up to it. This campaign marks the Guard's last significant field operation, with most of its members either joining Confederate service or going home.

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