The Civil War in Missouri

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Explore some of the many books about the Civil War in Missouri, including warfare along the Kansas/Missouri border, or pick up a few fictional accounts of the Civil War experience in this area.

Nonfiction | Fiction & drama | More resources

Nonfiction

The Civil War's First Blood: Missouri, 1854-1861
By James Denny and John Bradbury
The disagreements over states' rights and slavery gradually sharpened across the nation before the Civil War. In Missouri, due in part to the famous "compromise" that bore the state's name, those issues reached the boiling point during the 1850s. As a border state and a slave state surrounded by free neighbors, Missouri became one of the most hotly contested regions in the country. Missourians had strong loyalties to both the North and the South. When the conflict began, families, friends, and neighbors frequently found themselves on opposite sides.

The Civil War in Missouri, Day by Day, 1861 to 1865
By Carolyn M. Bartels
Using the Official Records of the Rebellion, county histories, material from the Confederate Archives, the "Missouri Amnesty" files, and illustrations from the National Archives, the author provides a sense of what the Civil War was like for the people who lived and fought in Missouri.

Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Missouri, 1862 book jacket

Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Missouri, 1862
By Bruce Nichols
The author utilizes both well-known and obscure sources (including military and government records, private accounts, county and other local histories, period and later newspapers, and secondary sources published after the war) to identify which Southern partisan leaders and groups were active in which areas of Missouri, and describe how they operated and how their kinds of warfare evolved. The actions of Southern guerrilla forces and Confederate behind-enemy-lines recruiters are presented chronologically by region so that readers may see the relationship of seemingly isolated events to other events over a period of time in a given area. The counteractions of an array of different types of Union troops fighting guerrillas in Missouri are also covered to show how differences in training, leadership, and experiences affected behaviors and actions in the field.

Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Missouri, Volume II, 1863
By Bruce Nichols
This book is a thorough study of all known guerrilla operations in Civil War Missouri during 1863, the middle year of the war. The author utilizes both well-known and obscure sources (including military and government records, private accounts, county and other local histories, period and later newspapers, and secondary sources published after the war) to identify which Southern partisan leaders and groups operated in which areas of Missouri, and describe how they operated and how their kinds of warfare evolved. The actions of Southern guerrilla forces and Confederate behind-enemy-lines recruiters are presented chronologically by region so that readers may see the relationship of seemingly isolated events to other events over a period of time in a given area.

Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri During the American Civil War
By Michael Fellman
During the Civil War, the state of Missouri witnessed the most wide spread, prolonged, and destructive guerrilla fighting in American history. With its horrific combination of robbery, arson, torture, murder, and swift and bloody raids on farms and settlements, the conflict approached total war, engulfing the whole populace and challenging any notion of civility.

The Border between Them book jacket

The Border between Them: Violence and Reconciliation on the Kansas-Missouri Line
By Jeremy Neely
Jeremy Neely examines the significance of the border war on both sides of the Kansas-Missouri line and offers a comparative, cross-border analysis of its origins, meanings, and consequences. A narrative history of the border war and its impact on citizens of both states, The Border between Them recounts the exploits of John Brown, William Quantrill, and other notorious guerrillas, but it also uncovers the stories of everyday people who lived through that conflict.

Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border
By Donald L. Gilmore
During the Civil War, the western front was the scene of some of that conflict's bloodiest and most barbaric encounters as Union raiders and Confederate guerrillas pursued each other from farm to farm with equal disregard for civilian casualties. Historical accounts of these events overwhelmingly favor the victorious Union standpoint, characterizing the Southern fighters as wanton, unprincipled savages. But in fact, the bushwhackers' violent reactions were understandable, given the reign of terror they endured as a result of Lincoln's total war in the West.

Civil War on the Western Border, 1854-1865
By Jay Monaghan
The first phase of the Civil War was fought west of the Mississippi River at least six years before the attack on Fort Sumter. Starting with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, Jay Monaghan traces the development of the conflict between the pro-slavery elements from Missouri and the New England abolitionists who migrated to Kansas.

 Last Rebel of the Civil War book jacket

Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War
By T.J. Stiles
In this biography T. J. Stiles offers a new understanding of the legendary outlaw Jesse James. Although he has often been portrayed as a Robin Hood of the old west, in this ground-breaking work Stiles places James within the context of the bloody conflicts of the Civil War to reveal a much more complicated and significant figure.

General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West
By Albert Castel
The story of General Price – as this account by Albert Castel shows – is the story, in large part, of the Confederacy's struggle in the West. The author draws a fascinating portrait of Price the man – vain, courageous, addicted to secrecy – and produces insightful interpretations and much pertinent information about the Civil War in the West.

William Clarke Quantrill: His Life and Times
By Albert Castel
The Quantrill legend is rooted in acts of savage violence throughout Kansas and Missouri during the Civil War – deeds both romanticized and vilified. In William Clarke Quantrill, Albert Castel's classic biography, the story of Quantrill and his men comes alive through facts verified from firsthand, original sources. Castel traces Quantrill's rise to power, from Kansas border ruffian and Confederate Army captain to lawless leader of “the most formidable band of revolver fighters the West ever knew.”

The Devil Knows How to Ride book jacket

The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and his Confederate Raiders
By Edward E. Leslie
This biography depicts the most famous--and infamous--soldier, rogue, raider, and terrorist to emerge from the Civil War: William Clarke Quantrill. The Devil Knows How to Ride is based on memoirs, letters, diaries, and newspapers--all of which the author has skillfully converted in a biography that is almost sure to provoke controversy among Civil War historians and buffs alike.

Quantrill's War: The Life and Times of William Clarke Quantrill, 1837-1865
By Duane Schultz
For career criminal William Clarke Quantrill, the American Civil War was an opportunity to practice legitimately what he loved most: theft, destruction, and murder. He rampaged freely as a military hero, slaughtering hundreds, fighting under the flag of the Confederate Army. This biography presents a richly drawn study of this most unlikely "hero".

Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla
By Albert Castel and Thomas Goodrich
From two of the foremost historians of the Civil War in the West comes an account of Bill Anderson and the Centralia Massacre. They trace how a seemingly pleasant young man from Missouri was turned into a psychopathic murderer by a combination of personality, circumstance, accidents of war, and opportunity.

M. Jeff Thompson: Missouri's Swamp Fox of the Confederacy
By Doris Land Mueller
Meriwether Jeff Thompson was one of the most intriguing but least-known Missouri participants in the Civil War. He and his troops traveled fast and light to harass Union forces, materializing out of the countryside to surprise the enemy and evading the traps set for them by Northern commanders. Early in the war, the Union's General Ulysses S. Grant gave Thompson the name "Swamp Fox" for his exploits in the Bootheel region. This book now tells his story--an adventure that will be appreciated by readers of all ages. Doris Mueller has produced a meticulously researched account of Thompson's life, from his Virginia boyhood and early successes to his wartime exploits and postwar life.

Fiction & drama

Enemy Women book jacket

Enemy Women
By Paulette Jiles
The Colleys are farmers in the Missouri Ozarks. Although Southerners, the family tries to remain neutral, a fact ignored by the Union militia who confiscate their livestock and arrest their daughter, Adair, on charges of "enemy collaboration." Yet as Adair soon discovers, fate can be a double-edged sword.

Ride with the Devil (1999)
This feature film set during the American Civil War along the Missouri/Kansas border depicts a staunch loyalist, an immigrant's son, a free slave and a young widow struggling for survival against a setting of turmoil, bloodshed, and conflicting loyalties. Starring Tobey Maguire and Skeet Ulrich. Directed by Ang Lee.

Woe to Live On
By Daniel Woodrell
In 1861, sixteen-year-old Jake joins the secessionist group known as the First Kansas Irregulars, and partakes in brutality excused in the name of retribution.

Wildwood Boys: A Novel
By James Carlos Blake
The author of The Pistoleer has sculpted a historical novel of both a man and an America at war with themselves, set amid the Civil War's guerrilla conflict along the Kansas-Missouri borderlands.

The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton: A Novel
By Jane Smiley
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres comes the fictional memoirs of Lidie Harkness of Quincy, Illinois, who marries an abolitionist from New England and settles in Kansas in 1855. When her husband is murdered, Lidie cuts off her hair and vanishes into Missouri to find his killers--a spy in slave territory, a woman in a brutally male world, a witness to the conflict from the other side, stripped of her illusions, relinquishing the high-minded certainties of her century for the dark ambiguities of our own time.

By Robert Frizzell

Independent Immigrants: A Settlement of Hanoverian Germans in Western Missouri
By Robert W. Frizzell
Between 1838 and the early 1890s, German peasant farmers from the Kingdom of Hanover made their way to Lafayette County, Missouri, to form a new community centered on the town of Concordia. Their story has much to tell us about the American immigrant experience--and about how newcomers were caught up in the violence that swept through their adoptive home. Robert Frizzell grew up near Concordia, and in this first book-length history of the German settlement, he chronicles its life and times during those formative years.

More resources

The Missouri Valley Special Collections contains many materials on the Kansas/Missouri border warfare and the Civil War in this area.

Book descriptions provided by BookLetters.

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