REVIEW: Bleeding Kansas: The Real Start of the Civil War (2013)

A Book by Robert C. Jones

Sometime this summer, I plan to go over into Kansas and visit some sites related to the “Bleeding Kansas” border wars timeframe ( of the 1850’s). For those unaware, an argument can be made that the American Civil War actually started in the 1850’s along the Kansas – Missouri border with such names as William Quantrill, Frank and Jesse James, and even John Brown stirring the pot so bad that the fighting had no other way to go other than to spill out into full-blown warfare. To prep for this, I grabbed a couple of books on the subject for my Kindle, and started out with this one. Due to its short length and narrow focus, I figured this would be a great starting point, but unfortunately this was a mediocre book at best.

The Civil War started in Kansas in 1856. It was initially fought in towns like Lecompton, Lawrence and Osawatomie. It was fought on battlefields like Black Jack. It was fought along creeks such as the Pottawatomie and the Marias des Cygnes. This book will discuss the background of Bleeding Kansas, and examine the various battles and massacres that were part of it. It will then view the aftermath of the conflict and its effect on the United States. It will use both contemporary photographs and maps (mostly from the Library of Congress), as well as modern photos of the sites described herein. There are 19 color photos and maps, and 17 black and white.

This book is alright as a general overview of this time period and not much else unfortunately. A further examination would have been better, but this at least gives you broad topics that you can branch off from. I, at least, used the battle descriptions to consider future museum trips I plan to make as the author gives information of modern day monuments and such. I was unfamiliar with the specific battle sites such as Marias des Cygnes or Lecompton Kansas, so this information was very helpful.

Sadly the book goes on tangents such as talking about John Brown’s non-Kansas exploits for entire chapters, things that would be cool if the book wasn’t 40 pages long and supposedly about Kansas rather than The Raid of Harper’s Ferry. This fluff holds far too much real-estate here. In many ways, this is more of a book about John Brown than The border wars themselves. To show my confusion with this book, I recently read another book about the Battle of Mine Creek that has WAAAY more actual information about what led up to “Bleeding Kansas” as a whole, and that was merely the introduction to set the scene of how Missouri was prior to that battle. If I am completely honest, Bleeding Kansas: The Real Start of the Civil War has the same problem that a series of books called “Hourly History” has – they all remind me of a reformatted online encyclopedia entry or a high school paper.

If you would like a copy of this book, please check HERE, It is currently free for Kindle Unlimited users. This review is part of my 2021 series History Boy Summer, which you can read more of following this LINK.


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