A Book by Jeffrey D. Stalnaker
Continuing on with my quest to learn as much as I can about historical sites in the general vicinity of where I live, I decided that I will visit the Battle of Mine Creek State Historical Site sometime in the future, and figured that reading another one of these Civil War books from around a decade ago would help me out a lot. So far, I have really enjoyed these as they are well-written, well-researched, and are generally quick reads, a fact that is a BIG plus for me considering my work schedule. Sometimes Civil War books end up being huge monotonous tomes that, while good sources of information, are not meant for general consumption – so something like this series is greatly appreciated.
“In 1864, Union troops controlled much of the South, Sherman’s men marched with impunity through Georgia and defeat at Gettysburg was a painful and distant memory. The Confederacy needed to stem the tide. Confederate major general Sterling Price led an army of twelve thousand troops on a desperate charge through Missouri to deliver the state to the Confederacy and dash President Lincoln’s hopes for reelection. This daring campaign culminated with the Battle of Mine Creek. A severely outnumbered Union army crushed the Confederate forces in one of the war’s largest and most audacious cavalry charges. Historian Jeff Stalnaker puts the reader in the saddle with the Union troopers as they destroy all hope for Rebel victory in the Trans-Mississippi.”Book description
In many ways, this book somewhat summarizes the ill-fated Missouri Campaign of Major-General Sterling Price, at least for the first 40 or so pages. Having this background information for battles such as Independence. Lexington II, Kansas City, Westport, Bryam’s Ford and more really gets you prepared for the detailed description of the battle that would ultimately shoot down any dreams of a Confederate Missouri for Price and his superiors alike. I actually though this introductory section was well-done and did not seem tacked on like some other books that deviate down a path that has no bearing on the topic at hand. In many ways, the Battle of Mine Creek was the last shot that Price had to hold onto his “Goldenboy” status gained much earlier in the war, and with that seeming to be more and more in jeopardy due to the string of defeats across the state, it was the only thing keeping him from obscurity as well.
“St. Louis and Jefferson City had been abandoned. The Pro-Union government still reigned in Jefferson City, and Leavenworth became impossible as a target because of the crushing defeat at Westport. This wagon train represented, at this late stage of the campaign, the only tangible evidence that the march through Missouri had experienced any modicum of success. Despite please from many of his subordinates, Price was determined to keep moving with this wagon if for no other reason but to justify his existence. “Excerpt, page 55
Once we get to the battle itself, it’s a textbook case of allowing the weakest links in your leadership bring everything crashing down, as just about every mistake imaginable was made. Not only did the troops cross the river putting themselves in a spot where they could not escape easily, but they stood in place and just took a full-on cavalry assault until everyone freaked out and started running away. This battle was a decisive win for the Union to such a degree that Price had to leave most of his wagon train there and run away to rebel held territory. Missouri would quietly fade away as a hotspot for the war and everything moved East.
Stalnaker does a great job of telling the tale of this battle in a narrative way that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. There’s a fine line between “just the facts” and embellishing so much that it becomes historical fiction, and he has found a way to keep the story action-packed and exciting without losing site of the information he needs to convey. Out of all of these I’ve read so far, this is probably the best one both from a writing standpoint, and for the amount of information in the book.
I can’t wait to drive back to my homelands (I’m actually from Kansas originally) and visit the State Historical Site for this battle. I feel that this book has armed me with plenty of information that I will need to really be able to appreciate the various things I will see. As with many of these books, I plan to seek additional publications by this author, as he did an excellent job on this and I hope he has written more – whether Missouri/Kansas related or not. Definitely a recommendation from me.
If you would like a copy of this book, please check HERE. This review is part of my 2021 series History Boy Summer, which you can read more of following this LINK. Stay tuned for a future installment where I visit the very sites that this book was talking about!