James E. McGhee. Guide to Missouri Confederate Units, 1861-1865. Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press. (April 14, 2008). 240 pages., notes, index. ISBN: 978-1557288707 $34.95 (Hardcover w/DJ).
I recently received a copy of James McGhee’s Guide to Missouri Confederate Units, 1861-1865, part of the University of Arkansas Press’ Civil War in the West book series. With a title like that, you probably need no more explanation as to what is inside of this one! Those of you who read my old American Civil War Gaming & Reading blog no doubt have heard me to refer to an older set of guides to Confederate units written by Stewart Sifakis. The multi-volume Compendium of the Confederate Armies has long been out of print in hardcover and each volume now goes for ridiculous prices in the secondary market. Luckily, I have them all except for the index. Where am I going with this, you ask? Read on.
Guide to Missouri Confederate Units, 1861-1865 has already been ably reviewed by Drew Wagenhoffer at Civil War Books and Authors. Rather than do a traditional review, I figured it might be more fun to compare the amount of data available in this book versus Stewart Sifakis’ Missouri (et al) volume of Compendium of the Confederate Armies, now reprinted in a still pricey but much more reasonable paperback version. The two books generally attempt to do the same thing, namely to give the reader and researcher the basic data on each regiment, battalion, battery, etc. which fought on the side of the Confederacy and which came from the state of Missouri. There are obviously similarities, including unit organization dates, leaders and higher ranking officers for each unit, battles fought, and a bibliography for further reading on each unit. Both books are organized with artillery units first, followed by cavalry, and ended with the infantry. Each also orders units by number and then follows with units who only had names and no numbers.
Now that I’ve briefly covered the similarities, I want to go over the differences. We will do this by first looking at the entries for the 1st Missouri infantry. The 1st Missouri was formed and accepted into Confederate service in June 1861, fought at Shiloh, and consolidated with the 4th Missouri on November 7, 1862 near Wyatt, Mississippi. The regiment fought at Corinth, in the Vicksburg Campaign, in the Trans-Mississippi, in the Atlanta Campaign, and in Hood’s disastrous 1864 Tennessee Campaign before being captured at Fort Blakely in Mobile, Alabama.
I deliberately chose a unit that consolidated to see how each book handled this. As it turned out, both had separate entries for the 1st Missouri, the 4th Missouri, and the 1st & 4th Missouri Consolidated, so there were no real differences there.
Let’s look at the length and detail of entries in each book. The combined entries for the 1st and the 1st & 4th (Consolidated) take up about 2 1/2 pages in Sifakis. McGhee’s book uses 8 pages to cover the history of these two units during the war. As in all Sifakis volumes, this version uses tables and lists rather than lengthy text paragraphs.
Sifakis uses the following set of bolded sections for each regiment:
- Organization: This section covers the exact date when the unit entered into Confederate service and any reorganizations throughout the war.
- First Commander: This is exactly what it says, the first person to command a unit during the war.
- Field Officers: Presumably all known Colonels, Lt. Colonels, and Majors who served with the unit. This list often seems incomplete for many units in the Compendium of the Confederate Armies series.
- Assignments: This list breaks down which higher organizations each unit belonged to along with non-specific dates (these dates are typically by month and do not go down to a lower level) throughout the war. This is one of the two areas where I like the Sifakis volumes a little better than McGhee’s book. McGhee does mention which higher organizations each unit belonged to during the war, but he doesn’t mention the quieter times and you have to read through the text to get the information. During the course of my “Petersburg Campaign Project”, I’ve found errors and inconsistencies in the Sifakis volumes, however.
- Battles: This area lists battles the unit participated in and the dates on which they occurred. It is the second area where I preferred Sifakis.
- Further Reading: Sifakis includes a bibliography for some units. McGhee does a better job on his bibliography section.
McGhee relies much more on pages of text to weave together a history of each unit. Let’s take a closer look at his unit template:
The first three sections basically approximate the “Field Commanders” section in Sifakis.
- Colonel: This area lists all colonels the regiment had, including promotions, resignations, wounds, and deaths.
- Lt. Colonel: This area lists all lieutenant colonels the regiment had, including promotions, resignations, wounds, and deaths.
- Major: This area lists all majors the regiment had, including promotions, resignations, wounds, and deaths.
The next section, “Companies and Commanders”, doesn’t really have any comparable section in Sifakis.
- Companies and Commanders: All companies which served in the unit during the war are listed along with each company’s commanders. Counties in which each company primarily formed are included when known.
A lengthy history of the unit follows, something which is also entirely missing from Sifakis. This is where each of McGhee’s entries acquires most of their length.
- History of the Unit: A long textual history of each unit. It is not specifically named “History of the Unit”. This term was added by me for comparative purposes.
- Bibliography: McGhee’s bibliography entries for each unit blows Sifakis away. McGhee not only finds sources unique to each unit, he includes MORE sources than Sifakis.
I’ve given you the generic look, but let’s take a more in-depth look by going over excerpts from each work. First, let’s look at the officers and organization, with Sifakis in red and McGhee in blue:
First Commander: John S. Bowen (Colonel)
Field Officers: Martin Burke (Major, Lieutenant Colonel)
Charles C. Campbell (Major)
Robert J. Duffy (Major)
Hugh A. Garland (Colonel)
Bradford Keith (Major)
Lucius L. Rich (Lieutenant Colonel)
Amos C. Riley (Lieutenant Colonel)
Colonel: John Stevens Bowen, promoted brigadier general March 14 , 1862; Lucius L. Rich, mortally wounded April 6, 1862, died August 9, 1862; Amos Camden Riley
Lieutenant Colonel: Lucius L. Rich, promoted colonel April 1, 1862; Amos Camden Riley, promoted colonel August 2, 1862
Major: Charles C. Campabell, resigned April 23, 1862; Hugh A. Garland
Companies and Commanders:
Company A: (New Orleans, St. Louis) J. Kemp Sprague, killed April 6, 1862; William C. P. Carrington
Company B: (St. Louis) Robert J. Duffy
Company C: (Memphis, St. Louis) David Hirsch, resigned October 27, 1861; John M. Muse, sent on recruiting service November 26, 1862 (Consolidated with Company F at date not on record.)
Company D: (St. Louis) Martin Burke, promoted major March 6, 1862, and transferred; Lewis H. Kennerly, transferred to Company F July 7, 1862
Company E: (Mississippi, New Madrid, St. Louis) Olin F. Rice, resigned May 1, 1862
Company F: (St. Louis) Hugh A. Garland, promoted major May 16, 1862; Lewis H. Kennerly
Company G: (Pemiscot) John A. Gordon, resigned November 16, 1861; James H. McFarland
Company H: (New Madrid, Pemiscot) Tilford Hogan, resigned November 29, 1861; Bradford Keith
Company I: (New Madrid) Thomas J. Phillips, resigned October 13, 1861; Amos Camden Riley, promoted lieutenant colonel April 3, 1862; George W. Dawson, dies of disease June 13, 1862
Company K: (Pemiscot) John E. Averill, resigned November 16, 1861; Charles L. Edmondson
As you can see, McGhee goes further than just the field officers, breaking down the company commanders as well. In addition, McGhee also adds date wherever and whenever possible. Lastly, the main counties in which each company was raised are listed in parentheses. Clearly McGhee goes into greater detail here.
The second area where I feel it would be beneficial to do a direct comparison is the discussion of battles. In this case, we will look at the 1st Missouri’s participation at Shiloh on April 6 and 7, 1862. Since there are so few entries for Sifakis, I’ll show all of the battles listed. For McGhee, I’ll just do an excerpt for the Shiloh portion of McGhee’s text. Again, Sifakis is in red and McGhee in blue.
Battles: Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862)
Corinth Campaign (April-June 1862)
Vicksburg Bombardments (May 18-July 27, 1862)
Corinth (October 3-4, 1862)
The regiment then joined the Army of Mississippi, commanded by General Albert Sidney Johnston, at Corinth, Mississippi. After performing routine duty around Corinth for several weeks, the 1st Missouri advanced with the army to Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, where it experienced its first fighting at the battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862. The regiment, led by Colonel Lucius Rich, because of Bowen’s promotion to brigade command, constituted part of Bowen’s brigade in Major General John C. Breckinridge’s Reserve Division; it was the only Missouri Confederate unit on the field. Closely engaged for two days, the 1st Infantry initially fought near and in the Peach Orchard and helped drive the Union defenders to Pittsburg Landing. The fighting in the Peach Orchard materially assisted in forcing the surrender of the Hornet’s Nest, the strongpoint on the Federal left, along with 2,300 enemy soldiers. The 1st Missouri also fought hard on the second day of the battle, playing a major role in recapturing the abandoned guns of the 5th Company, Washington Artillery, a New Orleans battery. One of the last regiments on the field, and part of the army’s rear guard as it retreated to Corinth, the 1st Infantry Regiment lost 48 killed, 130 wounded, and 29 missing of about 850 men engaged.
Several things jump out at me here. First, the text obviously gives you a much better idea of just how involved the 1st Missouri Infantry was at Shiloh. You are left to guess with Sifakis. Second, I noticed McGhee does his best to list casualties and men engaged in each battle throughout the book. This is an excellent idea and helps both researchers and wargamers. The textual history is where McGhee’s work really outshines Sifakis’ volumes.
The last area I’d like to look at is the bibliography section for each author, with Sifakis in red and McGhee in blue, as usual.
Further Reading: Bevier, R. S., History of the First and Second Missouri Confederate Brigades 1861-1865. Anderson, Ephraim McD., Memoirs: Historical and Personal; Including the Campaigns of the First Missouri Confederate Brigade.
Bock, H. Riley. “Confederate Col. A. C. Riley, His Reports and Letters, Part I.” Missouri Historical Review 85 (January 1991): 158-81.
—–. “Confederate Col. A. C. Riley, His Reports and Letters, Part II.” Missouri Historical Review 85 (April 1991): 254-87.
—–. “One Year at War: Letters of Capt. Geo. W. Dawson, C.S.A.” Missouri Historical Review 73 (January 1979): 165-97.
Boyce, Joseph. “Battles of Corinth and Grand Gulf.” Daily Missouri Republican, St. Louis, Missouri, September 6, 1884.
—–. “First Day at Shiloh.” Daily Missouri Republican, St. Louis, Missouri, January 7, 1884.
—–. “The First Missouri.” Daily Missouri Republican, St. Louis, Missouri, November 10, 1883.
—–. “The First Missouri: Shiloh, The Second Day.” Daily Missouri Republican, St. Louis, Missouri, May 3, 1884.
—–. “The First Missouri Boys.” Daily Missouri Republican, St. Louis, Missouri, August 29, 1885.
Rather than giving sources which only point to the brigade this regiment belonged to as Sifakis has done, McGhee uses primary sources and includes more entries specific to this regiment. This example is typical if you compare units throughout both books. McGhee’s book is a GREAT place to start if you are researching a given unit.
Now that we have looked at perhaps the most well-known Missouri unit and the differences in a typical entry in each book, let’s take a look at a much more obscure regiment, the 1st Northeast Cavalry. I want to thank Drew for suggesting this unit to me in an email. I think it nicely highlights the depth of research which can be found in McGhee’s new book. The Sifakis entry for the 1st Northeast Missouri Cavalry contains only 12 lines, 8 of which are the list of 8 battles the regiment participated in throughout the war. McGhee, by contrast, is able to provide 3 1/2 pages of information for this little known unit. Sifakis says the unit organized in “mid-1862”. McGhee gives an exact date of August 4, 1862 and names Williamstown, Missouri as the place of organization. The Sifakis entry says the unit “apparently disbanded in late 1862” and leaves it at that. Again, McGhee provides more detail. He says the colonel of the regiment disbanded it on August 11 so that the men could singularly and in small groups make their way to Arkansas. McGhee mentions the plan was to create a new infantry regiment out of the men from the 1st and 2nd Northeast Cavalry regiments who made it to Arkansas, but that this never happened. He also refers the reader to the entry on the 7th Infantry Regiment (Franklin’s) for more detail on this planned reorganization. Sifakis includes no bibliography for the 1st Northeast Cavalry. McGhee includes for sources, including two newspaper articles.
So how are the two books different? The short answer lies in the depth of detail and the way each unit’s information is organized. Sifakis tends to be more of a “tables” type of book, while McGhee actually uses written paragraphs for the majority of each unit capsule. Although Sifakis does have somewhat more detail in terms of unit organization and battles fought, McGhee’s entries simply contain more useful information, and they are backed up by a much more extensive bibliography for further research. The Sifakis volumes seem to suffer from some factual errors as well. One last BIG difference I have failed to mention is the inclusion of photos in Guide to Missouri Confederates. None of the Sifakis volumes contain photos of any kind. I highly recommend James McGhee’s Guide to Missouri Confederate Regiments to researchers, wargamers, and especially to fans of the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi. If you already have the Sifakis volume on Missouri, you will absolutely want James McGhee’s book as well.
Material reprinted with permission of the University of Arkansas Press. Special thanks also goes to Tom Lavoie at the University of Arkansas Press.
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