Friday, October 11, 2019

Booknotes: William Gregg's Civil War

New Arrival:
William Gregg's Civil War: The Battle to Shape the History of Guerrilla Warfare edited by Joseph M. Beilein, Jr. (UGA Press, 2019).

Even though it was completed under less than ideal conditions in 1906 when the writer was an old man, William H. Gregg's memoir of his Civil War experiences as a notorious bushwhacker remains a valuable record of events in Missouri and Kansas as witnessed by a close associate of William C. Quantrill. "Whether it was the origins of Quantrill’s band, the early warfare along the border, the planning and execution of the raid on Lawrence, Kansas, the Battle of Baxter Springs, or the dissolution of the company in early 1864, Gregg was there as a participant and observer." Edited by Missouri guerrilla conflict historian Joseph Beilein, William Gregg's Civil War: The Battle to Shape the History of Guerrilla Warfare contains the Gregg memoir along with other documents and features that should be of interest to students and scholars of the subject matter.

In addition to annotating Gregg's personal account (which runs 32 pages in the book, with 10 more pages of addenda), Beilein "also includes correspondence between Gregg and William E. Connelley, a historian. Connelley was deeply affected by the war and was a staunch Unionist and Republican. Even as much of the country was focusing on reunification, Connelley refused to forgive the South and felt little if any empathy for his Southern peers. Connelley’s relationship with Gregg was complicated and exploitive. Their bond appeared mutually beneficial, but Connelley manipulated an old, weak, and na├»ve Gregg, offering to help him publish his memoir in exchange for Gregg’s inside information for a biography of Quantrill."

The editor also contributes a lengthy introduction that discusses the origins of the Gregg memoir while also offering extensive historiographical context for it.

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