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.

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