Sunday, July 20, 2014

Book Review-The Siege of Lexington, Missouri

 The Seige of Lexington published
by The History Press.
Wood, Larry. The Siege of Lexington, Missouri: The Battle of the Hemp Bales (Civil War Sesquicentennial) . Charleston: The History Press. 2014. B/W photos, index, bibliography, notes, maps. 158 pages, 132 pages of text. ISBN 9781626195363, $19.99.

With a population of approximately 4,000 the town of Lexington, Missouri was in the 1860's the states fifth largest. The city was an important trading post, allowing planters to sell hemp, tobacco, and other products. The town also had a strong sympathy toward the Confederacy.

Wood provides adequate background into the area. Colonel Charles Stifel and the 5th US Reserve Corps were looked upon with suspicion. Their killing of banker James Lightner helped lead to the formation of a Missouri Home Guard unit.
By September 12, 1861 skirmishes were already taking places at Lexington with the Confederates , led by Sterling Price, getting the better of the Union forces led by Colonel James Mulligan. Price however does not immediately follow up on his advantage and from the 13-16 Union forces build fortifications and trenches. Mulligan was not being reinforced however while the Confederates received around 3,000 more men.                                                                                                              
September 18 saw a massive artillery battle between the two sides. The Anderson House, a disputed hospital or hideout for sharpshooters depending on your view, was taken and retaken several times. Day two saw the battle shift toward a small arms fight. Confederate forces turned back Samuel Sturgis and his attempt to help reinforce the Union troops. By this point things were beginning to turn desperate for the Union fighters. They did not have food or water and there was little chance for reinforcements to penetrate the Confederate line. September 20 saw the surrender of Union forces with enlisted men being freed on an oath and officers held as prisoners. The aftermath of the battle was a gruesome mess for locals. Dead men and animals had to be dealt with as did the damage done to the city. The Siege of Lexington became the high point of the war for the Missouri State Guard. When the state seceded later in the year the State Guards were disbanded and Price was named a General in the Confederate army.                                                                                                               
As for the subtitle of the book: I don't want to spoil it for those not familiar with the battle, as I was not. There is a good, and interesting, story that will clear this up.                                                                     
This is a pretty easy to read book and it seems to cover the battle well. The photos are a nice addition. As has been stated elsewhere what this book needed were professionally drawn maps. Better maps would have turned this 4 star review into 5. Still, well worth a look!

Mr. Wood is the author of the blog Ozarks History.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

St. Johns County Confederate Burial #1

Noah Preslar 20th Battalion, Georgia Cavalry Co. A & F

Noah Preslar was born May 8, 1838 to parents Alvin and Esther Preslar of Union County, North Carolina. The 1850 census shows Alvin working as a farmer and having $150 worth of real estate. It does not appear that the Preslar family were slave-holders. Noah was the second oldest of six children in 1850. He had an older sister Theresa, a younger sister Rachael, and three younger brothers; Joseph, Hosea and Caswell.

By 1860 young Noah was living in Georgia Militia District 1211, Echols, Georgia working as a farm overseer. His wife Barbara was two years his senior and also in the home were daughter Esther and sons Hasletine and Levi. Big changes took place in Noah's life and by 1870 he was living in Orange County, FL with his second wife Emma working as a farm laborer. Emma was nine years his senior. Noah's first wife Barbara was living in Brooks County, GA with daughters Esther and Nora and sons Haseltine, Abraham and Hiram. Levi was working as a farm laborer in Echols County, GA before becoming a Valdosta, GA police officer.

Noah continued the life of a farmer living in Brevard County, FL as a widower in 1880. Noah had continued his itinerant ways and by 1900 was living in Precinct 4 of St. Johns County, FL along with third wife Martha and sons James and Ovie. Despite being over age 70 Noah was still working as a farmer in 1910 while living in St. John's County.

Noah passed away on April 18, 1911 and was buried in Sanksville Cemetery. Sanksville was founded some time after the Civil War to serve the Bakersville community. The cemetery, originally named Bakersville Cemetery, was used by both white and black residents and the name Sanksville comes from the Sanks family who are descended from Peter Sanks. Peter was originally a slave and after emancipation began buying land in the area.

Preslar had a mixed service record. He originally enlisted in Co. A, 20th Battalion Georgia Cavalry. He was enlisted by Captain S. B. Spencer at Thomasville, Georgia. The 20th also went by the names Millen's Partisan Rangers or the 1st Battalion Georgia Partisan Rangers. The unit served on the Georgia coast until spring 864 when it became part of P. M. B. Young's brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia. Here they would participate in the Wilderness Campaign, Cold Harbor and other battles. Preslar was not with the brigade long enough to see it disbanded and companies merged into other regiments.

By September 1863 Preslar had transferred to Co. A where he worked as an ambulance driver in early 1864. During the Battle of Haw's Shop (or Battle of Enon Church as it is sometimes known), in Hanover County, VA,  Preslar said he was shot in the right hip with the ball exiting his left leg. He was admitted to Wayside Hospital No. 9 on May 29th and was on a June muster roll at the 4th Division Jackson Hospital in Richmond in June, 1864. On June 23, 1864 he was granted a 30 day furlough but was listed a being a deserter on August 26, 1864.

Courtesy: Florida Memory Project

Preslar tells a different story in his 1907 Florida Confederate Pension application. He claims to have been taken prisoner at Darien, Georgia and was sent to a prison in Hilton Head, South Carolina where we was until the end of the war. On his application a physician vouches for his claim of a gun wound to the left thigh and he was ultimately awarded a yearly pension of $120. This amount was renewed in 1909. After Preslar's death in 1911 his wife Martha was denied the widow's pension by the state because she was not married to Noah prior to 1895 as required by law. By 1913 however Martha was awarded the same $120 per year that Noah was receiving. Martha died in 1925.

The coordinates for Noah's burial location are 29. 54.972N 081 .31621W. From I-95 use exit 318.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Book Review-Grandfather Mountain: Images of America

Hardy, Michael C. Grandfather Mountain (Images of America). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2014. 128 pages. ISBN 9781467121040, $21.99.

If you have ever been to a historic location or been in a new bookstore you are most likely familiar with the Images of America series. These price friendly books can provide a quality reminder of a vacation while possibly adding to the visitor's knowledge of an area. They are a standard in many cities and unfortunately sometimes serve as the only book available.

It would seem possible that at some point the well would run dry on opportunities for this series. It hasn't yet though and veteran North Carolina writer Michael C. Hardy has recently published a volume on Grandfather Mountain, the nearly 6,000 feet high North Carolina mountain that is the highest peak in the eastern Blue Ridge Mountains.

Depending on your point of view Grandfather Mountain is a mountain, a state park, or a non-profit organization. Mr. Hardy does a good job covering these aspects in the limited amount of text he is given. Books in the Images series rely almost exclusively on photos and have limited text other than brief photo captions. Good captions are what can turn a plain book of photos into a worthwhile purchase. In Grandfather Mountain Mr. Hardy delivers the goods.

Chapters include: first photographs, famous faces, Grandfather Mountain from Afar, Grandfather Mountain's Winding Roads, Singing on the Mountain, Highland Games, State Park, Flora and Fauna and Visitors From Near and Far. Chapters are usually around 10-12 pages long and have many photos with in-depth captions.

Annual events such as Singing on the Mountain and the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games are looked forward to by many people each year. Singing on the Mountain has attracted some of the biggest names in music and religion including Johnny Cash and three generations of the Graham family. The highland games has grown from a single day event to one that now spans over four days of competition. Both events receive their own chapter and have plenty of interesting photos.

The story of the completion of the Blue Ridge Parkway through the property of Grandfather Mountain is well told photographically. Grandfather Mountain is home to an incredible and diverse variety of plants and wildlife. Come face to face with the famous bear, Mildred, in the pages of this book.

Far from telling the whole history of the Grandfather Mountain property and the men who have owned it this book is not trying to do that. It succeeds admirably in what it sets out to do which is to showcase, in photos, the beauty and history that is Grandfather Mountain. For those wanting more reading material on what appears to be a fascinating history there is a small bibliography included.

Highly recommended!

Please consider visiting Michael C. Hardy's website and ordering a signed copy direct from the author. Visit by clicking here.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Book Review--Remembering North Carolina's Confederates

Hardy, Michael C. Remembering North Carolina's Confederates (NC) (Images of America) . Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2006. 128 pages. 9780738542970, $21.99.

Books in the Images of America series follow a fairly standard formula. 128 pages, they are jammed with b/w photos and have little text other than the photo captions. The quality of the photo captions is what sets the excellent apart from the just interesting. In Michael Hardy's book Remembering North Carolina's Confederates we have what can be called an excellent book. Captions don't just tell what the photo is but instead there is real and solid research behind them. It is obvious that service records, local histories, official records and more were consulted for the writing process.

Mr. Hardy has mined an impressive 19 sources for the photos used in this book. OK, one of the sources were his personally taken or owned photos but that is to be expected. The sources used vary tremendously and do not include the Library of Congress. If you want to see rare North Carolina Confederate photos from libraries and historical societies from across the state in addition to some from personal collections this is the place.

The book is broken up geographically which can be a help if you are looking for an ancestor. There is no index (not due to Mr. Hardy but rather the publisher's format) so this breakdown can save the casual reader time. Chapters include: the Mountains, Southern Piedmont and Foothills, Northern Piedmont, Coastal Plain, North Carolina's Tribute to Jefferson Davis and Out of State.

I could list many favorites but will let it go with just a chosen few that are special in my mind. First is the headstone for Josh Waggoner of Ashe County that proudly announces his Confederate service. The problem is his service record lists him as a deserter. Next is the headstone of Egbert Ross, buried in Charlotte. He died during the Battle of Gettysburg. His headstone reads like a standard definition of "good death": "Thus the soldier died calmly and bravely amid the storm of battle that raged around him. One of the purest patriots of the war." The story of Colonel John Randolph Lane is one of bravery and medical marvel. He was shot in the back of the head while rallying troops at Gettysburg. He lived until 1908 despite this potentially fatal wound. Finally, upon his death in 1930 Charles Stedman was the last remaining Congressman to have served in the Civil War. There is a wonderful photo of Major Stedman shaking hands with Isaac Sherwood. General Sherwood was the last member of the Union forces to serve in Congress.  You will no doubt find many others that will be your favorites!

With quality photo choices, excellent research and writing and a reasonable cover price this is a book that anybody with an interest in North Carolina Civil War history should own. If you are interested in little known Confederate photos this is also for you. While there are large number of modern photos they are of excellent quality and fit right in with the theme.  Genealogists working on North Carolina relatives who served in the Civil War should also give this a close look. Highly recommended.

I have posted the link to Amazon through the bibliographical information and the photo above. You might also consider contacting Mr. Hardy directly and buying a signed copy direct from the author. Please visit his website here.

Monday, June 30, 2014

New Release: The Homefront in Civil War Missouri

Today's mail brought a copy of The Homefront in Civil War Missouri written by James W. Erwin. James W. Erwin is a Missouri native. He graduated from Missouri State University with a BA in mathematics. After service in the United States Army, he obtained an MA in history from the University of Missouri and a JD from the University of Missouri Law School. He practiced law in St. Louis for more than thirty-seven years.

From the publisher:  Over one thousand Civil War engagements were fought in Missouri, and the conflict could not be quarantined from civilian life. In the countryside, the wives and mothers of absent soldiers had to cope with marauders from both sides. Children saw their fathers and brothers beaten, hanged or shot. In the cities, a cheer for Jeff Davis could land a young boy in jail, and a letter to a sweetheart in the Confederate army could get a girl banished from the state. Women volunteered to care for the flood of wounded and sick soldiers. Slavery crumbled and created new opportunities for black men to serve in the Union army but left their families vulnerable to retaliation at home. The turbulence and bitterness of guerrilla war was everywhere.

The book is 124 pages with bibliography and index. There are no notes and during a quick look through I did not notice any maps. As with all History Press titles there are plenty of illustrations. This looks like it will be an interesting look at what it was like to live in a state with divided loyalties.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Book Review--Lincoln's Campaign Biographies

Horrocks, Thomas A. Lincoln's Campaign Biographies (Concise Lincoln Library) Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 2014. 148 pages 106 pages of text, index, notes, selected bibliography, b/w illustrations. ISBN 9780809333318, $24.95.

The more things change the more they stay the same. In many ways this is a truism in political campaigns. While modern technology has dramatically changed the campaign trail, often times making image more important than substance, many things are still the same.

Modern Americans demand that their politicians be polished, rehearsed, and personally available. In Abraham Lincoln's time this was not the case. Lincoln could hardly be called polished and most active campaigning was done by supporters rather than the candidates themselves.
In four quick reading chapters and a conclusion author Thomas A. Horrocks outlines the history of politics and print and how the Lincoln campaigns played into this. Chapter one discusses the relationship between 19th century political campaigns and print sources. Newspapers and pamphlets were the leading way to get a message out about a candidate. Later came the growth of the campaign biography. Abraham Lincoln understood the value and importance of the press in getting elected.

Chapters two outlines the growth of the campaign biography and discusses the symbols and themes often associated with these biographies. The goal of a positive campaign biography was to combine the candidates life story and image with the purpose of introducing, promoting and convincing readers to vote. Some of the attributes covered in a campaign biography would be establishing a noble lineage, what was the role of parents, a discussion of the education and military experience the man had and finally a discussion about their civilian life and political career.

The campaign biographies of 1860 and 1864 are discussed in chapters three and four. Here Horrocks covers the major campaign biographies of the years and gives readers insight into how they worked to influence readers. In addition to covering pro-Lincoln works Horrocks discusses the anti-Lincoln works as well. 1864 biographies that were anti-Lincoln used the fear of racial equality as their major theme.

The book concludes with a discussion as to whether campaign biographies were truly a help to Abraham Lincoln. Horrocks believes they were most likely a help but that Lincoln was also helped tremendously by the split in the conservative Democrat party and also the inclusion of third party candidate John Bell.

Overall, I found this an enjoyable and easy read. All the books in the Concise Lincoln Library are worthy of a look especially considering the price. If you are looking to learn about Lincoln and a particular topic these are a great place to start. Low price, competent scholarship and solid documentation make this series a winner!                        

Friday, May 23, 2014

Controversial Savas Beatie Book Wins Award

Savas Beatie Title Wins 2014 Albert Castel Book Award
El Dorado Hills, CA May 23, 2014 - John Bell Hood:  The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General by Stephen M. Hood was selected as the 2014 winner of the Albert Castel Book Award.
The award is given biennially by the Kalamazoo Civil War Round Table to authors writing on the subject of the Civil War in the Western Theater.
According to reviewing members of the Kalamazoo CWRT: 
"The voluminous inclusion of citations to historical documents and other primary source material challenge previous interpretations of Hood's military actions. A look back at past author's interpretations of John Bell Hood's record reveals the biases, inventions, and myths that have darkly colored his Civil War reputation. This book refutes the aspersions of 'historians' to name Hood the sole cause of the loss of Atlanta, and failure at Spring Hill, Franklin and Nashville." -Margean Gladysz
"Anyone who wants the true story of the fall of Atlanta and the Tennessee campaign needs to study this book."
-Graham Hollis
"Sam Hood makes a compelling case that Hood's reputation has been unjustifiably tarnished over the years by authors who have repeated half-truths and myths that are not supported by primary sources. Even people with little or no interest in Hood should read it as a cautionary tale that the things that 'everybody knows' are not always true." -Dave Jordan
"I knew we had a very special book from the moment I first read the manuscript, but all of us at Savas Beatie are thrilled and humbled that John Bell Hood won such a prestigious award," said Theodore P. Savas, the managing director for Savas Beatie. "We were always confident that anyone who actually took the time to read Stephen Hood's book, whether in reviewing it or for pleasure, would find it original, well-researched, and truly ground-breaking in what it exposes about the state of this slice of Civil War historiography. It surprises people, I think, when they find out Sam's work is not an argument that Hood was the overlooked Jackson or Lee," continued Savas. "It is about intellectual honesty and rigorous scholarship, and a cautionary tale about both. Anyone writing about General Hood or his tenure with the Army of Tennessee in the future who ignores this book and/or his recently discovered personal papers will do so at his peril."
John Bell Hood was one of the Confederacy's most enigmatic generals. He died at 48 after a brief illness in August of 1879, leaving behind the first draft of his memoirs Advance and Retreat: Personal Experiences in the United States and Confederate States Armies. Published posthumously the following year, the memoirs immediately became as controversial as their author. A careful and balanced examination of these "controversies," however, coupled with the recent discovery of Hood's personal papers (which were long considered lost) finally sets the record straight in John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General.
About Stephen M "Sam" Hood.: Stephen M. "Sam" Hood graduated from Kentucky Military Institute, Marshall University (BBA, 1976), and is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. A collateral descendant of General Hood, Sam is a retired industrial construction company owner, past member of the Board of Directors of the Blue Gray Education Society, and a past president of the Board of Directors of Confederate Memorial Hall Museum in New Orleans.  He lives in his hometown of Huntington, West Virginia, with his wife of 37 years, Martha, and is the proud father of two sons: Derek Hood of Lexington, Kentucky, and Taylor Hood of Huntington, West Virginia.
About Savas Beatie LLC: Savas Beatie LLC is a leading military and general history publishing company. Read more about John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of a Confederate General, including excerpts and an interview with the author.