The Civil War’s First Blood—Missouri 1854-1861
by James Denny and John Bradbury, Missouri Life, 2007, 138 pages, $29.95.
When Rebel forces led by P.G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter in 1861, the Civil War began. Right? Wrong. Try 1854 in Missouri.
As James Denny and John Bradbury point out in The Civil War’s First Blood—Missouri 1854-1861, the turmoil and drastic action that precipitated the nation’s epic four-year struggle had become commonplace in the Show-Me State before the war’s start. In 1838, for instance, the government of Missouri declared war on the Mormons. Ten years later, as Missourians by the score joined in the war with Mexico, thousands of antislavery Germans fleeing the failed democratic revolution in their native lands arrived in the state, sparking more terror. (Missouri was a slave state, with laws that specified life imprisonment for anyone advocating abolition.) The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which repealed the Missouri Compromise, would trigger seven more years of devastating bloodshed leading up to Fort Sumter.
This tangled tale is ably told by two polished historians with a combined 50 years’ experience in the Missouri archives. The book includes 102 excellent illustrations—many in color—in addition to 12 first-rate maps.
Originally published in the June 2008 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.