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“The Homefront in Civil War Missouri,” by James W. Erwin, The History Press, Charleston, SC, 2014. This 125-page paperback provides a detailed look at the Civil War in Missouri.

Working from secondary sources listed in a six page bibliography, Erwin describes much of the turmoil in a state where guerrilla warfare was the norm. The South won the battle at Wilson Creek south of Springfield on August 10, 1861, but troops moved south into Arkansas leaving Missouri under martial law for the war years. Union troops occupied key positions, but Missouri was a slave state and many supported the southern cause. Attacks came from both sides against those with opposing views.

Southern sympathies are illustrated by the churches which split on the subject of slavery in the 1840s. The Methodists divided into North and South. In 1859 in Missouri the count was 44,000 South and 6000 North. Missouri Baptists joined the Southern Baptist Association.

Railroads played an important role in the war in Missouri. They allowed the Union to move troops rapidly. Missouri’s network of railroads was built mostly in the 1850s and not yet complete at wartime. The Hannibal and St. Joseph was the first railroad across the state completed in 1859. The North Missouri Railroad, (Wabash now Norfolk Southern) chartered to follow the Missouri-Mississippi ridge from St. Louis to Iowa was completed to a junction with the H&SJ at Macon. The Pacific Railroad (Missouri Pacific now Union Pacific) was completed to Warrensburg. The Southwest branch of the Pacific Railroad (Frisco, now BNSF) was finished to Rolla; the Iron Mountain line to Ironton.

Burning railroad bridges was a common strategy for guerrilla fighters. Block houses were erected to protect major bridges. Erwin describes two of them. One at Peruque Creek in O’Fallon, St. Charles County was considered essential to the North Missouri Railroad. Another was on the Lamine River near Otterville, east of Sedalia, on the Pacific Railroad.

James Eads is best known for construction of Eads Bridge, the first across the Mississippi River at St. Louis. During the Civil War he built iron clad gunboats at Carondelet south of St. Louis. Erwin provides details. The boats were designed by John Rogers and Samuel Pook. They were known as Pook’s Turtles. They were rectangular steamboats that featured heavy oak planks covered with iron plates.

During the war, those who spoke against the Union could be prosecuted. Women were often banished to live in the South. Some fled to Canada.

A chapter describes the Western Sanitary Commission. Founded in September, 1861, it ran hospitals and provided medical care for the wounded. By May 1862, it had 15 hospitals. The commission pioneered steamboats equipped as hospitals to follow the troops down the rivers. They were funded by voluntary contributions. The Sanitary Fair of 1864 was a major fund raiser. It ran from May 17 to June 18 in downtown St. Louis and raised $618,782. The commission was the brainchild of William Greenleaf Eliot, founder of Washington University in St. Louis.

This books adds perspective and detail to the story of the Civil War in Missouri. It contains numerous photos. It is indexed, but coverage is sparse.
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