Thursday, June 27, 2013

New---Arkansas Late In The Civil War: The 8th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry, April 1864-1865

Arkansas Late In The Civil War: The 8th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry, April 1864-1865, David E. Casto, History Press, 128 pages, bibliographic notes, maps, photographs and sketches, $19.99.

Arkansas Late In The Civil War: The 8th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry, April 1864-1865 is another blessing of the sesquicentennial; a well researched regional history of a topic that needs spotlighted. Mark K. Christ's Civil War Arkansas, 1863: The Battle for a State clearly offered the major issues and personalities of the war; David Castro's study of the 8th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry offers a micro-study one cavalry regiment during one year.  

In 1864 U. S. Grant ordered department commandeer Major General Frederick Steele to send 12,000 Federal troops from Arkansas to Louisiana to participate in the Red River Campaign and its Arkansas segment, the Camden Expedition.  The remainder of the infantry was to stay in stockades while the cavalry were ordered to patrol central Arkansas protect the state from raiding rebels. The 8th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry, along with others cavalry regiments spent nine battling CSA general Jo Shelby's raids on the fertile river valleys Arkansas' borders communities. 

Throughout the summer of 1864, Confederate strength in northeast Arkansas steadily grew.  Many men who had either deserted from their previous commands or become separated were returning to the Confederate army and cavalry. New Confederate units such as the 45th through the 48th Arkansas Mounted Infantry Units were created in the spring and summer of 1864. The Federal unit, 8th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry was organized in August and September 1862. It fought in the Battle of Prairie Grove [December 7, 1862] and may have engaged in a massacre of nine Confederate sympathizers at Huntsville [January 10, 1863].  The 8th Regiment took part in the capture of Little Rock in September, 1863.

Casto's history begins in April 1864 with declarations from primary sources that describe the 8th Missouri as being a 'hell roaring' regiment that is 'without fear.'  The White River and the Arkansas River were crossed frequently by the regiment and it became adept at tracking Rebels in pelting rainstorms and on sun baked plateaus.  Throughout the year, the 8th Missouri Cavalry gave better than they usually got.  The remained in Little Rock until March, 1864 and then were ordered to Duvall's Bluff, Arkansas. They spent the remainder of the war securing Arkansas, during which time they engaged Confederate forces and guerrillas bands in several skirmishes but without any major battles. They mustered out of service on July 20th, 1865.

Casto relies on both the Official Records of the Civil War and numerous letters, diaries and newspapers and offers a narrative that covers the major issues and the local history of Arkansas. With a clear and concise style, he presents the 8th Missouri Cavalry as conscientious soldiers who are mindful that there are enemies in uniform and enemies without uniforms, which is much like American wars from Viet Nam to the present.

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