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Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review - Civil War: Springfield by Larry Wood

Book Review - Civil War: Springfield by Larry Wood

This is my second review of a book from The History Press. I received the book at no charge in exchange for a fair and honest review, from my point of view. Each book I review for The History Press will be a local history book. This one focuses on Springfield, Missouri.

Civil War: Springfield by Larry Wood is a part of The History Press Civil War Sesquicentennial Series. As noted on the back cover of the book, "With this series of concise books by Civil War scholars, The History Press honors the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States.

I can summarize the book no better than to cite the description in the back cover of the book:

"During the Civil War, Springfield was a frontier community of about 1,500 people, but it was the largest and most important place in southwest Missouri. The Northern and Southern armies vied throughout the early part of the war to occupy its strategic position. The Federal defeat at Wilson's Creek in August 1861 gave the Southern forces possession, but Zagonyi's charge two and a half months later returned Springfield to the Union. The Confederacy came back near Christmas of 1861 before being ousted agin in February 1862. Marmaduke's defeat at the Battle of Springfield in January 1863 ended the contest, placing the Union firmly in control, but Springfield continued to pulse with activity throughout the war. Historian Larry Wood chronicles this epic story."

Wood presents an extremely well researched and easy to read, detailed account of the activities in and around the Springfield community from several years before the war, throughout the war years, and summarized commemorative activities following the war. The book is well researched using local and regional archives and well written in an easy-to-read narrative. Included are many maps, photos and illustrations to provide a 'real-life' texture to reading experience.

I found the early discussion of the pre-war years where "Border Ruffians" and free-soil advocates created "Bleeding Kansas" especially useful and even-handed. Probably my strongest feeling throughout the entire book was the true historian even-handedness applied. This was a period of high tensions between well-meaning and strong partisans on each side. Wood notes how many in southwest Missouri wanted to be neutral because of this strong dual pull from the competing sides. He skillfully describes the feelings of these competing interests and provides meaningful insights into how many of these individuals managed to get through the war years and continue to serve both Springfield and Missouri in future years, regardless of their particular partisan positions during the war years. I strongly recommend this book to readers with an interest in the Springfield community during the Civil War period 150 years ago.

You may also enjoy reading a related article I wrote, based on this book, at: "Civil War: Springfield tells of Christmas 1861 - 150 Years Ago."

Happy Reading!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

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