Monday, August 2, 2010

Guide to Missouri Confederate Units - full review

Guide to Missouri Confederate Units 1861-1865. By James E. McGhee. Photographs, bibliography, index, 314 pp., 2009, University of Arkansas Press,, 479-575-7258, $34.95, cloth.

As a student of the Western Theater I often find myself trying to trace the history of Missouri Confederate regiments, which often times quite difficult. The information on National Park Service’s Soldiers and Sailors system is often skimpy. James McGhee has solved this issue with his new book, Guide to Missouri Confederate Units.

For each Missouri Confederate unit McGhee lists its official name plus whatever other designations it may have had, a list of its field officers, a list of company commanders plus where the company was recruited, a bibliography for further research and a narrative of the unit’s service that lists casualty numbers when known.

Generally the information is quite extensive, infantry regiments averaging about five pages of text while artillery batteries garner about two pages. For cavalry regiments there is much more diversity, some units being short lived and only having a page or two of information available while others are as long as the infantry sections. The narratives themselves are well detailed. Instead of saying the regiment fought at Franklin there are details about where in the line they were, what they attacked, how long they fought and the toll the unit suffered in the battle.

I wish the book had a few maps. I would have liked a map of Missouri showing principal towns and county names. Another useful map would have been a theater map so one could find the smaller actions Missouri troops were involved in. The photograph section is very good because the pictures don’t just focus on the generals from Missouri but include men of nearly every rank, from generals down to privates.

The only drawback on the information level is that there is not a section on the Missouri State Guard units. The index does lead you to the various units that came out of each Missouri State Guard Division. McGhee explains in the introduction that he did not include the state guard because it was a state force and not officially mustered into the Confederate service. That is the only drawback I had.

Despite the absence of maps and a section on the Missouri State Guard I would recommend this book. There is no other resource on Missouri’s Confederate units that compares. If you need a reference book for these units there is nothing else that beats it.

This review appeared in the August issue of Civil War News. It only appears online as there are now so many books being reviewed for Civil War News that there is not enough space in the print version for all of them.

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