- The Collapse of Price's Raid: The Beginning of the End in Civil War Missouriby Mark A. Lause
In The Collapse of Price's Raid: The Beginning of the End in Civil War Missouri, Mark A. Lause continues the story he began in Price's Lost Campaign: The 1864 Invasion of Missouri(Columbia, Mo., 2011). That volume examined Confederate general Sterling Price's 1864 attempt to "liberate" the state of Missouri and influence that year's presidential election. This new volume picks up in October 1864, after Price abandoned the idea of taking St. Louis or Jefferson City and turned his army toward Boonville, an area known for its secessionist sympathies. Lause argues that by this point, Price's invasion had essentially become a large raid. Unable to take the capital or the major industrial center of the state, Price's army had little hope of occupying Missouri. Instead, gathering supplies became the army's main goal. As Price's army traveled across the state, to Boonville and then toward Kansas City, his soldiers acquired large amounts of supplies—horses, cattle, food, and clothing—from the local communities they passed through. These supply wagons and animals became the measure of the raid's success.
Lause describes the Federal pursuit of Price across the state in great detail, relying in particular on the documents in the Official Recordsand on newspaper [End Page 435]accounts of the raid and memoirs of the men involved. Lause's detailed reading of the Official Recordsallows him to provide a good sense of the complex nature of the combatants involved in Missouri at the time. There were not only units of Federal and Confederate volunteers, but also irregular bushwhackers joining the Confederate side and various groups of state militia on the Union side, including the Missouri State Militia, the Kansas State Militia, and the Enrolled Missouri Militia. These various groups had very different levels of training and even different weapons, making coordination among them difficult.
Neither William Starke Rosecrans nor Alfred Pleasonton, two of the principal Union generals in Missouri, appear in a good light in Lause's account. He details how they were consistently slow in their pursuit of Price's army and failed to coordinate their efforts well with General Samuel Ryan Curtis's Kansas militia. At times, Rosecrans did not even give Curtis accurate information about his troops' location, as when he informed Curtis that some of his troops would be occupying Sedalia, even though those troops were far from there and in fact the Confederates occupied that town.
I found myself wishing the book included some maps. Lause provides minute detail about the movements of troops, including both their movements across the state and their movements during battle. Having state and local maps would make this information easier to visualize. Finally, Lause raises an interesting point in his conclusion that I wish had been developed a little more. He mentions that Federal policy toward Native Americans in Kansas hampered the ability of Union forces to stop Price's army, but Lause leaves this argument underdeveloped. Lause does make it very clear how local politics and incompetent Union commanders influenced military decision making, but explaining in more detail how those politics were related to Native American policy would have strengthened that interesting part of Lause's argument. That said, this book is the second half of a well-researched and very detailed reexamination of Price's invasion. Both general readers and scholars interested in Civil War military operations in the West should find this study useful.