Donald Gilmore earned bachelor's and master's degrees in English from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He taught English at the college level then worked as an editor for seventeen years at the U.S. Army's Combat Studies Institute, retiring in 2001. In addition to serving as technical consultant for the Civil War movie Ride With the Devil , Mr. Gilmore has also written articles about the Border War for Journal of the West, History Today, and Wild West.
Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Borderby Donald Gilmore
During the Civil War, the western front was the scene of some of that conflict's bloodiest and most barbaric encounters as Union raiders and Confederate guerrillas pursued each other from farm to farm with equal disregard for civilian casualties. Historical accounts of these events overwhelmingly favor the victorious Union standpoint, characterizing the Southern… See more details below
During the Civil War, the western front was the scene of some of that conflict's bloodiest and most barbaric encounters as Union raiders and Confederate guerrillas pursued each other from farm to farm with equal disregard for civilian casualties. Historical accounts of these events overwhelmingly favor the victorious Union standpoint, characterizing the Southern fighters as wanton, unprincipled savages. But in fact, as the author, himself a descendant of Union soldiers, discovered, the bushwhackers' violent reactions were understandable, given the reign of terror they endured as a result of Lincoln's total war in the West.
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Meticulously researched and cogently written, Gilmore's bombshell book breaks new ground in describing what really happened during the brutal guerrilla war fought in America's heartland from 1854 to 1865. Finally, a dedicated historian of the fraticidal conflict in Missouri and Kansas steps forward with the courage to tell the unvarnished truth and with the scholarship to back it up. For generations, the depredations of Confederate guerrillas such as William Clarke Quantrill, Frank and Jesse James, Cole Younger and 'Bloody Bill' Anderson have been touted as the epitome of heartlessly cruel barbarians masquerading as soldiers. But what about the Union men whose equally barbaric brutality from the war's outset sparked the guerrillas' savage response? Gilmore documents the war crimes on both sides. He reveals the murderous actions of Union men such as Crazy Jim Lane, a US Senator from the new state of Kansas who led an army of thieves and killers on a bloody rampage of looting and killing in western Missouri in 1861, then furnished his Lawrence, Kansas, home with the stolen property Colonel Charles Jennison, a psychopathic dwarf whose Kansas 'Red Legs' periodically left the safety of their Lawrence refuge to indiscriminately murder and rob both pro- and anti-slavery Missourians and, perhaps the conflict's most successful war criminal, Union Gen. Thomas Ewing, promulgator of the infamous General Orders Number 11, an atrocity that dispossed 20,000 civilians, left five Missouri counties in desolate ruin and probably killed hundreds of innocents (Ewing let the brutal 'Red Legs' enforce the order's execution). Ewing practiced 'Ethinic Cleansing' 130 years before it made world headlines in the 1990's Balkan conflict. Moreove, Gilmore's book documents Ewing's illegal imprisoning of civilians, murdering of prisoners and summary executions. Gilmore shows that neither side had a monopoly on terror. Undoubtedly, those who have not yet heard the uncomfortable truth about Union atrocities during the bloody guerrilla war in Missouri and Kansas will be troubled to learn in Gilmore's book that Union men could be just as ruthless as the Confederate guerrillas. Predictably, some will 'shoot the messenger', unfairly pilloring Gilmore for telling the harsh truth. Yet, Gilmore is certainly no 'neo-Confederate' apologist, nor is this descendant of Union soldiers attempting to justify the ruthless actions of the Confederate guerrillas. Gilmore is a historian who is performing a valuable service by putting that brutal conflict within the framework of the era in which it occurred and very properly documenting the depredations committed by the Union side as well as the guerrilla side. It is a story that needs to be told and has for too long been merely a 'dirty little secret,' conveniently swept under the historical carpet. Instead of being condemned, Gilmore should be applauded for having the courage to step forward with the true story. Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border is an important new book and is highly recommended.
In this absolutely superb book, the manuscript of which I was fortunate enough to preview for the author, Don Gilmore shatters the old stereotypes that the victor's histories of the Border War between Kansas and Missouri (1854-1865) have established over the past 140 years. Gilmore, the descendent of Union soldiers and an Army veteran himself, provides an analysis of the Border War that is intensively and accurately researched replete with fresh, primary source documentation and incorporates his own extensive knowledge gleaned from his years of living in the middle of the Border War area of operations. Gilmore bucks the traditional representation of the contestants by clearly demonstrating that the war between the Missourians and Kansans was much more complex than the 'Kansans were good', the 'Missourians were bad' stereotypes that have been carefully cultivated by pro-Northern-biased historians. So many of the atrocities committed by the Red Legs and Jayhawkers have been conveniently over-looked throughout the years. At the same time, the reaction by the Missourians who fought back against these cruel depredations have somehow been rationalized away by historians who have sought to make the Missourians the villains, thereby justifying the illegal actions of the US Army against our own American citizens. The author, a technical advisor for the Ang Lee film, 'Ride With The Devil,' provides a thorough, in-depth analysis of the Border War that explains the war¿s political and ideological context, something virtually never attempted with success by other historians of the war. Too often in the past, the historical facts have been twisted to satisfy the political and ideological biases of individual historians or commentators. For example, the portrayal of a black Confederate guerilla in the film 'Ride With The Devil,' was enough to cause the NAACP to censor the dust jacket of the book version of the movie to prevent the black guerrilla 'Holt' (based on the real Border War character, John Noland, a black Confederate guerilla) from being shown on the book¿s front. This was just too accurate a version of real history for them to handle and did not conveniently fit their preferred stereotype. The fact that there were many pro-Confederate blacks, thousands serving with the Confederate Army, as Gilmore cites in his book, is a politically incorrect insight, even though it is backed by extensive research by a black historian, Dr. Edward C. Smith, American University. Those with closed minds may automatically dismiss Gilmore¿s book out-of-hand without consideration of the evidence because of his failure to be politically correct. These people¿s minds are made up, the facts be damned. But those interested in a real Border War history will be enlightened by Gilmore¿s comprehensive study. For military scholars and diplomats, Gilmore¿s book is an excellent study on how not to behave in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the Army of today forbids the conduct it expressly sanctioned 145 years ago. Our conduct today is intended to prevent the alienation of the population it fights to protect. At the Army¿s Command and General Staff College, we now emphasize the application of power in a completely different manner so as not to turn the civilian populace over to the insurgents¿ sides. In 1860, this doctrine didn¿t exist even though the civil laws, military regulations and codes did. The U.S. Lieber Codes of 1863 expressly forbade the actions taken by the U.S. Army that successfully turned thousands of Missourians against the government. The incorporation of Red Leg and Jayhawkers into Kansas cavalry units in 1861 and onward did not mitigate against their crimes and behavior while they were under the official auspices of the U.S. gove
This is an exciting and truthful book from cover to cover. It is not a rewrite of history, its new, well researched history about the war on the Kansas/Missouri border. Will Mr. Gilmore's book change the way we will now look at the history of the Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border? You bet. His writing is excellent, and his facts are firm. I would highly recommend a copy of this book be placed in every school, and personal library.
Donald Gilmore explains that he has set out to set the record straight on the Kansas-Missouri conflict before and during the Civil War. Obviously unimpressed with popular notions of Missouri guerillas, he undertakes a crusade to revise the history of this brutal era. The result is on one hand an interesting, and even refreshing, look at the border conflict and the infamous people involved. On the other hand, the book suffers from an all-too-common problem among many revisionist histories ¿ obvious bias, only directed the other way. Gilmore criticizes previous historians, and rightfully so, for misrepresenting or simplifying the lives, interests, and actions of Missouri guerillas. The author provides some excellent descriptions of guerilla tactical and psychological development. Perhaps the books strongest section is in the chapter entitled ¿The Guerillas¿ Identity, Extermination & Trauma.¿ The last few pages of this chapter provide a brief but excellent analysis of psychological trauma in warfare. But the author too often shows himself guilty of the same faults mentioned above when discussing Kansas militiamen and soldiers. Subtle, snide comments about important Kansas figures, precisely the kind of comments Gilmore chastises previous historians for making about Missouri leaders, are sprinkled throughout the work. Much of his bias is flagrant. For instance, Quantrill¿s raid on Lawrence, Kansas¿which resulted in the killing of around 150 men and boys, mostly unarmed¿is portrayed as an understandable (almost justifiable) action given the looting and raiding of Missouri towns and homes by Kansas Jayhawkers. Gilmore goes on to shame the civilians in Lawrence for not being better prepared for this bloody attack: ¿In retrospect, it appears that Lawrence¿s military leaders had been criminally negligent: the leaders of Lawrence had posted no guards no workable contingency plan existed in case of a surprise attack and the townsmen responded slowly and sluggishly to the threat. Quantrill had simply outgeneraled Lawrence during the raid.¿(p. 239) The author explains that this humiliation has led to further demonization of Quantrill. Many readers may have a hard time seeing the civilian town of Lawrence, as Gilmore does, as some sort of legitimate military opponent qualified to repulse a coordinated attack by irregular forces well behind Union lines. This position further seems to legitimize Kansas Jayhawk attacks upon certain Missouri towns, especially considering their location within heavily contested counties. Gilmore¿s subjectivity, however, is not the greatest problem with the book. Instead, a number of irritating errors and inaccuracies weaken the overall strength of the work. For one, Gilmore uses the terms ¿Free Staters¿ and ¿abolitionists¿ interchangeably. While abolitionists were all Free Staters, the reverse was not always true. In fact, there was a considerable division between New England emigrants and mid-western emigrants in Kansas, particularly in regards to the issue of slavery. Considering this book was written thirty-five years after Eric Foner¿s outstanding ¿Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men,¿ (which Gilmore surprisingly does not have in his bibliography) and a series of other excellent books and articles which emphasize the anti-slavery and anti-black position of many Kansas settlers within Free State ranks, such disregard for this important detail is inexcusable. Other mistakes include portraying the Wakarusa War as the conflict between Free State and pro-slavery forces in the summer of 1856, when it was limited to the standoff outside of Lawerence in December 1855, listing Andrew Jackson¿s presidential election two years earlier than it was, and misrepresenting James H. Lane¿s defense of the Topeka Constitution in the Senate in the spring of 1856. Blatant errors such as these are seemingly minor, but chip away at the overall strength of the book and the author¿s resear