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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Missouri 1862


I am about half way through the first volume (the year of 1862) of the four volume set of Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Missouri by Bruce Nichols.  (That is before my Kindle Fire started to go down hill - see my previous blog entry.)  By now, I feel I can reasonably give an opinion on the book, as well as give a couple of examples of some actions that are covered in the book, but first is a quick review of the book itself.
9th Missouri State Militia Cavalry on parade in St. Joseph, Missouri (1862)
The book sort of has a Southern slant to it, but it is fairly neutral.  The author admits in the preface that he was going to be focusing more on the guerrillas and southern recruitment missions and their leadership than on the Union forces.  I think he covered a fair bit on the various Union forces too, but I wish that he did spend some more time covering them.  The first book is broken down into four main parts, covering the four seasons of 1862: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall.  Between the four seasons, the author has a couple of chapters on various subjects, like why the guerrilla bands started to be created, or the raising of the pro-Union Enrolled Missouri Militia (a part-time militia force.)  Each seasonal part is then broken down into four regional sections of Missouri, Northwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest.  This way the author discusses a events in the northwest part of Missouri during the winter before moving on to discuss the next region, until everything is covered for that season and proceeding on to the next season in the same fashion.  I actually like this method as if you were only using the book to research the events in the southwest region of Missouri, you can easily found the various regional sections in each seasonal parts.  Finally, each regional section is broken down again into sub-sections that covers specific events, leaders, actions, or counties which would help to speed up research.   Unfortunately, a lot of actions are not very detailed as there is not much information on them other than causalities listed.
Best name ever for an ACW commander - Odon Guitar, commander of the 9th Missouri State Militia Cavalry and later a Brigadier General.
One of the few things I started to noticed while reading the various accounts is that Union forces, in general, came off better in any engagement with the guerrillas or southern recruitment parties, even when outnumbered, except when the guerrillas conducted an ambush and immediately ran away or when small group of individuals, generally less than six, where encountered.  This is even true when some of the poorly armed Union cavalry companies get into a fight, like some of those from the 1st Iowa Cavalry and 6th Kansas Cavalry that only had pistols and sabers.  But that is not to say that there were not some big problems for the Union forces at times.  In one encounter, a patrol of cavalry with poor carbines had almost all of them fail in firefight with guerrillas and had to promptly retreat. 

Most of the engagements were Union patrols or escorts of 20 to 40 men against larger numbers of guerrillas or southern recruits.  But in some of the larger Union sweeps with a small battalion sized force, they would sometimes even have a battery of light guns with them too.  Two examples of a typical engagement are the following:

June 15, ’62:  A patrol from the 7th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry (no size given) ran up against William Quantrill and about 30 men near Pink Hill in east Jackson County.  After the battle, the guerrilla losses were 2 dead, 2 wounded, and 3 captured.   The Federals suffered no losses.  While there is no more detail than that, I included this engagement as it had the feared Quantrill’s guerrillas in it. 
The ACW era Johnson County Courthouse in Warrensburg, MO - this was a vital building as it was one of the few brick building in the county during the war
June 17, ’62:  Prior to this engagement, a guerrilla force of 80 to 90 men under the leadership of John Brinker (from Warrensburg, MO) and Benjamin Snelling (from southwestern Johnson County) went on a three day terror campaign.  During that time, they murdered a civilian farmer plowing his field and another man in front of his family, in addition to wounding another man and his 13 year old daughter who got in the way.  They also robbed four homes and burned another one or two homes as well.  So on June 17, a patrol from the 7th Missouri State Militia Cavalry (whom by this time were a veteran guerrilla hunter force) with Lt Sandy Lowe and 18 men left out of Warrensburg to go looking for the Brinker-Snelling guerrilla band.  They discovered several of the guerrillas sitting down for dinner at the home of Mrs. Davenport about 9 miles west of Warrensburg.  Lt. Lowe’s patrol charged and scattered the guerrillas and chased them about a half of a mile through the brush until they ran into the rest of the Brinker-Snelling band.  Lt Lowe sent a messenger back to Warrensburg to get reinforcements, while he was conducting a fighting withdraw.  Lt Lowe’s patrol fought it out for about thirty minutes and covered 6 to 7 miles back to Warrensburg before a relief column under Major Emory Foster of the 7th Missouri State Militia Cavalry arrived on the scene.  With the relief column showed up, the guerrillas fled.  So the only real fighting was between the 80 or so guerrillas and the 18 man patrol.  The results of that fight was 11 guerrillas dead and the Union only lost 2 dead and 2 more wounded.  After the fight, the Davenport’s home was burnt by the Union for supporting the guerrillas and Benjamin Snelling’s sister and younger brother were arrested on allegedly carrying messages for the guerrillas.  (Warrensburg was my old stomping grounds in college, so I had to include this engagement.)
Company D's Missouri Guerrilla Band 1
Company D's Missouri State Militia pack 1
As a gaming note, there is a fairly new miniature company that now making 28mm figures specifically for the Guerrilla in Missouri, called ‘Company D’ out of the UK.  I have not seen the figures in the flesh, but as you can see from the pictures below of their figures from their website, they are quite nice.  They might fit in the Foundry’s ‘dead’ Border War line, which is now in their Old West line.   Hopefully Company D will continue down this road and release some Enrolled Missouri Militia and Kansas Redlegs too.  I am very tempted to order a set of each, but I am waiting for the Missouri State Militia & Guerrilla command sets to be released first.  

Column of twos, March!



Pete. said...

Fascinating stuff- really need to pick up a copy for myself.

Thanks for the heads up on the figures too- gives me something to consider for a future project. I was going to go for 20mm plastics but doing it in 28mm would look very nice though....



FlyXwire said...

Joe, are there any useful maps in the book if one were trying to make board setups for these engagements as wargaming actions?

Sapper Joe said...


There is very few maps in the book and they are regional with not much details. The author stated that he purposely didn't put a lot of maps in the book as the there was no way of knowing actual routes or locations for many of the engagements.

However, somewhere, I have maps of the all of the railroad routes, the main roads, and listing of all of the main telegraph lines in Missouri during the ACW. I will have to dig around for them in a few weeks.


BaronVonJ said...

There are tons of good books out there that do have maps. Being a direct descendant of one of Quantrill's Raiders, I find most companies miniatures of the period get the guerillas completely wrong. Someone finally glad someone got the look right,although not a fan of the sculpts themselves.
Great little bookstore here in Independence (site of 2 battles) called Blue and Gray.Has lots of small run books on the Missouri-Kansas border War.

Sapper Joe said...

Thanks, BaronVonJ

I was without internet service for a while, so only got a chance to reply to this now. I will check out the link that you provided.



Jaye Wiley said...

The old lady that runs it can be cantankerous but you shouldn't have to deal with her via internet.