Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wood: "THE TWO CIVIL WAR BATTLES OF NEWTONIA"

[The Two Civil War Battles of Newtonia by Larry Wood (The History Press, 2010).  Softcover, photos, 20 maps, appendix, bibliography.  Pages main/total:148/157.  ISBN: 978-1-59629-857-6  $19.99]

Nexus of at least a half dozen roads, and with a location in close proximity to the lead mines at Granby, it is no surprise the southwest Missouri town of Newtonia was the site of a pair of sizable Civil War battles. The First Battle of Newtonia (September 29-30, 1862) has received some attention in the literature, from contemporary Wiley Britton to modern historians Ed Bearss and Michael Banasik. Compared with the earlier fight, the second battle, fought on October 28, 1864 near the conclusion of the Price Raid, has been largely ignored by writers. Both are covered in Larry Wood's new book The Two Civil War Battles of Newtonia, part of the History Press's Civil War Sesquicentennial Series.

The First Battle of Newtonia erupted on September 29, 1862, when a small Federal reconnaissance foray was turned back by superior numbers of Confederates. Both sides were reinforced before and during the larger clash on the 30th, leading to something of a see-saw action pitting division-sized forces against one other. Two chapters cover the morning and afternoon phases of the battle, the end result of which was a Confederate victory. Wood's tactical account of the fighting bores down to company and regimental level movements, and is sufficiently detailed. While experienced readers will find the narrative mostly familiar, there are fresh bits and pieces scattered about, especially those sections dealing with the civilian experience. The Second Battle of Newtonia was an all cavalry affair, fought when the rear guard of General Sterling Price's army under Jo Shelby turned to face their Union pursuers. The Confederates were eventually forced to withdraw in the face of federal reinforcements. Wood's description of this battle, while relatively brief, is the most detailed I have encountered in the published literature. Also provided is a chapter tracing the Union occupation of Newtonia during the period between the two major battles by a series of Missouri State Militia units.

A noteworthy aspect of the first battle was the employment of Indian regiments by both armies, and Wood discusses the roots of the factionalism present among tribes located in the Indian Territory (specifically the Upper and Lower Creeks and the treaty and non-treaty Cherokee parties) that eventually led them to opposing sides in the Civil War.  For readers unfamiliar with the subject, the author also briefly summarizes the 1861-62 campaigns fought in the Indian Territory and southwest Missouri. A final chapter highlights preservation efforts.

A strength of the book is the cartography, which is satisfactory in both number and level of detail. Though composed of simple line drawings, all relevant terrain features are present in the maps and troop movements and positions are traced at short intervals. Period and modern photographs are also sprinkled throughout the text.

However, there are issues of concern. Wood's writing does have some minor errors [e.g. the author continually refers to Lower Creek leader Chilly McIntosh as "Chitty" McIntosh, presumably a holdover from Britton] that escaped final editing and the text unfortunately lacks footnotes. Also, the limited bibliography references only a handful of unpublished materials, mostly from the University of Missouri's manuscript collections at Columbia and Rolla, with the rest published sources of all types.

Nevertheless, The Two Civil War Battles of Newtonia is a recommended volume for any reader interested in the battles and campaigns fought inside Missouri, and Wood's narrative comprises arguably the best work on the Newtonia battles to date. Those with a specific interest in the Indian as participant will also find the book to be of value.


See Also:
* South Carolina Military Organizations During the War Between the States (4 vols.)
* Louisville and the Civil War: A History & Guide
* The Battle of Port Royal
* The Battle of Okolona: Defending the Mississippi Prairie
* Elizabeth City, North Carolina and the Civil War: A History of Battle and Occupation
* Defending South Carolina's Coast: The Civil War from Georgetown to Little River
* Fort Wool: Star-Spangled Banner Rising
* Andover in the Civil War
* Lee in the Lowcountry: Defending Charleston & Savannah 1861-1862
* The Charleston & Hamburg: A South Carolina Railroad & an American Legacy

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