Confederate Girlhoods: New History of Springfield, Missouri from the Perspective of Women

Book Review
Confederate Girlhoods: A Women's History of Early Springfield, Missouri
Edited by Craig A. Meyer, with Casey D. White, Adam C. Veile, and Amber V. Luce
Moon City Press, 2010
Softcover, 396 pages with appendices and index

For the most part, history is written by men and about men. It was refreshing and enlightening for me to participate in a roundtable discussion at the Carnegie Midtown Library, Springfield, Missouri of a new book about a history of Springfield written from the perspective of women.

The book, Confederate Girlhoods: A Women’s History of Early Springfield, Missouri, was published by Moon City Press, part of the English Department at Missouri State University. It brings together in one volume many of the letters, memoirs, family histories, stories, journals, photographs, and newspaper clippings in the Campbell-McCammon Collection at The History Museum for Springfield-Greene County.

Springfield founder John Polk Campbell came to southwest Missouri from Tennessee in 1825 to expand his family’s mule and horse trading business. The Campbells were slave owners who were staunch supporters of the Confederacy during the Civil War. John Purdue McCammon came to Springfield from an Iowa farm family in 1879 and became a prominent attorney and founded an insurance company.

The correspondence and stories of the Campbell-McCammon women reveal their “struggles, disappointments, joys, courage, determination, and sorrow,” writes Greene County Associate Commissioner Roseann Bentley in her foreword to the book. At a time when about the only things available to women were teaching, marriage, and writing the women stood resolutely for temperance, preservation of historical places, education, business opportunities, dignity and honor for the dead, entrepreneurship, and improving the lives of women.

Among their achievements: They were founding members of the Ladies Saturday Club, which is still in existence and is the oldest federated women’s club west of the Mississippi River; led the effort for reburial of Confederate soldiers in National Cemetery; were leaders in establishing Hazelwood Cemetery; and they donated land for what is today Jarrett Middle School. Louisa Campbell sewed medicines into her petticoat and smuggled them to Confederate soldiers after the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. The Campbell homestead became a hospital where Campbell women and young girls cared for Confederate and Union wounded and dying. All of this and much more were separate from their daily heroism to just survive in frontier America.

Primary editor Craig A. Meyer, a graduate of the English Department of Missouri State University and a doctoral candidate at Ohio University, worked with twenty other editors, transcribers, and compilers over a period of four years to bring the Campbell-McCammon materials to publication. Although The History Museum for Springfield-Greene County has done its best to preserve the original materials since they were donated by Lucy McCammon in 1990, some deterioration has occurred. The materials are now in archival appropriate sleeves, folders, and boxes and many have been digitized.

It is a great service to researchers and to those with a casual interest in history—as well as a tribute to the legacy of the Campbell-McCammon families—that the materials have a new life and a new audience in this book. It is unfortunate that similar materials, by men or women, regarding Springfield in the Civil War era are not available from a Union perspective. There are Union materials in the library at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, but they originated elsewhere, many in St. Louis.

The release of the book this month puts Moon City Press squarely onto the playing field for observances in 2011 of the one hundred fiftieth year since the start of the Civil War.

Photo: Some participants in the roundtable discussion. Left to right: Joan Hampton-Porter, James Baumlin, Craig A. Meyer, Pat Pike. Photo by Wayne Groner.

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