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A History of the Ozarks, Volume 2

The Conflicted Ozarks

Slavery, civil war, and the birth of the modern Ozarks

The Ozarks of the mid-1800s was a land of divisions. The uplands and its people inhabited a geographic and cultural borderland straddling Midwest and West, North and South, frontier and civilization, and secessionist and Unionist. As civil war raged across the region, neighbor turned against neighbor, unleashing a generation of animus and violence that lasted long after 1865.

The second volume of Brooks Blevins's history of the Ozarks begins with the region's distinctive relationship to slavery. Because the Ozarks were largely unsuitable for plantation farming, residents used enslaved persons on a smaller scale or, in some places, not at all. Blevins moves on to the devastating Civil War years where the dehumanizing, personal nature of Ozark conflict was made uglier by the predations of marching armies and criminal gangs. Blending personal stories with a wide narrative scope, he examines how civilians and soldiers alike experienced the war, from brutal partisan warfare to ill-advised refugee policies to women's struggles to safeguard farms and stay alive in an atmosphere of constant danger. The war stunted the region's growth, delaying the development of Ozarks society and the processes of physical, economic, and social reconstruction. More and more, striving uplanders dedicated to modernization fought an image of the Ozarks as a land of mountaineers and hillbillies hostile to the idea of progress. Yet the dawn of the twentieth century saw the uplands emerge as an increasingly uniform culture forged, for better and worse, in the tumult of a conflicted era.

"No states suffered the Uncivil War more than Missouri and Arkansas, and no region of these states witnessed the fullest measure of incivility more than the Ozarks. Brooks Blevins's masterful second volume offers a fine-grain narrative of people who might be unfamiliar to many—Silas Turnbo, William Monks, Sempronius H. Boyd, Alf Bolin, William T. Leeper, Lina Hermann, and the "Bald Knobbers"—but whose powerful stories relocate this former periphery of the war and its aftermath firmly at the center of the long Civil War and Reconstruction."--Christopher Phillips, author of The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border

"Brooks Blevins’s second volume of A History of the Ozarks is the work of a premier historian and a master storyteller. Whether the topic is Civil War guerrillas or postwar Bald Knobbers, Blevins peels away the layers of myth and legend to reveal the region’s heritage and history in all its complexity. Highly recommended for both the scholar and the general reader."--William Garrett Piston, coauthor of Wilson’s Creek: The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It


Brooks Blevins is the Noel Boyd Professor of Ozarks Studies at Missouri State University. He is the author or editor of nine books, including A History of the Ozarks, Volume 1: The Old Ozarks; Ghost of the Ozarks: Murder and Memory in the Upland South; and Arkansas, Arkansaw: How Bear Hunters, Hillbillies, and Good Ol' Boys Defined a State.

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