In The Review Queue: Jayhawkers: The Civil War Brigade of James Henry Lane

The “In the Review Queue” series provides TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog readers with a brief look at books Brett Schulte is planning to review here on the blog.  These will be very similar to Drew Wagenhoffer’s “Booknotes” series at Civil War Books and Authors.

jayhawkersthecivilwarbrigadeofjameshenrylanebrycebenedictJayhawkers, a new book by Bryce Benedict which focuses on James Henry Lane’s Kansas Brigade during the Civil War, was released in April 2009 by the University of Oklahoma Press.  Lane’s Brigade, consisting of the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th Kansas, marched through Missouri i 1861-1862 freeing slaves, fighting skirmishes with Confederate forces and committing alleged atrocities.  Lane’s men were so notorious even Harry Truman’s grandmother claimed they visited her farm, killed 400 of her hogs, took the hams and left everything else to rot.  The dust jacket informs prospective readers that Benedict argues Lane’s actions in Missouri foresaw the “Hard War” men such as Sheridan and Sherman would use much later in the conflict.  Unfortunately, the book has only one map, showing the western Missouri and eastern Kansas counties Lane’s men operated in.  I look forward to checking this one out!

Information on Jayhawkers: The Civil War Brigade of James Henry Lane from thepublisher’s web site is as follows:

University of Oklahoma Press


$32.95 HARDCOVER 978-0-8061-3999-9

352 pages, 6 x 9

12 b&w illus., 1 map

Military History/Biography

Challenges long-held assumptions about the man known as the terror of Missouri

No person excited greater emotion in Kansas than James Henry Lane, the U.S. senator who led a volunteer brigade in 1861–62. In fighting numerous skirmishes, liberating hundreds of slaves, burning portions of four towns, and murdering half a  dozen men, Lane and his brigade garnered national attention as the saviors of Kansas and the terror of Missouri.

This first book-length study of the “jayhawkers,” as the men of Lane’s brigade were known, takes a fresh look at their exploits and notoriety. Bryce Benedict draws on a wealth of previously unexploited sources, including letters by brigade members, to dramatically re-create the violence along the Kansas-Missouri border and challenge some of the time-honored depictions of Lane’s unit as bloodthirsty and indiscriminately violent.

Bringing to life an era of guerillas, bushwhackers, and slave stealers, Jayhawkers also describes how Lane’s brigade was organized and equipped and provides details regarding staff and casualties. Assessing the extent to which the jayhawkers followed accepted rules of warfare, Benedict argues that Lane set a precedent for the Union Army’s eventual adoption of “hard” tactics toward civilians.

An entertaining story rich in detail, Jayhawkers will captivate scholars and history enthusiasts as it sheds new light on the unfettered violence on this western fringe of the Civil War.

Bryce Benedict served for twenty-one years in the U.S. Army and the Kansas National Guard and is now lead defense counsel for the Kansas State Self Insurance Fund. His historical articles have appeared in the Plains Guardian, the newspaper of the Kansas National Guard.

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