–by Michael Pierce
A HISTORY OF THE OZARKS, VOLUME 2: THE CONFLICTED OZARKS by Brooks Blevins. Published September 16 2019 by University of Illinois Press.
Readers of this page will remember I reviewed Volume 1 of what will be a three volume history of the Ozarks around this time last year. I was very impressed with Brooks Blevins’ ability to pack a lot of information into a brilliant narrative of the region and its people, and I was definitely looking forward to his second volume. To say the least, I was not disappointed.
Blevins picks up the story just before the beginning of the Civil War and carries it into the 1880s. He gives us a narrative of the political, economic, social and military situation in the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks, and he combines the stories of well-known figures in the region with the compelling stories of regular folks, and how they endured four years of conflict that really did not end in 1865.
In Blevins’ account we see large armies on the march, devastating the landscape through which they passed. We also see Union and Confederate irregular forces carrying out a war of vengeance, a war that was continued after the surrender with the rise of organizations like the Bald Knobbers and the Anti-Bald Knobbers.
Blevins also, in my opinion, gives the best single chapter analysis of the situation in the region, prior to the war, in Chapter 2 of the book. His writing and research is impeccable and concise, while at the same time being quite thorough.
In the final chapters of volume two Blevins details how political, business, and religious leaders embraced the concept of the New South, minutely detailing how people began harvesting the natural resources of the region, with encouragement of the aforementioned leaders. He just begins to tell the story of tourism in the Ozarks, and how it has played a huge part in how the residents of the region are, to this day, perceived by a large part of the outside.
If you’ve not yet read volume one of this trilogy. I encourage you to do so. Then read volume two. Then wait anxiously, as I am, for the third and final volume of what will become the definitive history of the Ozarks and its people.