Author to give talk on Missouri Civil War's impact

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 | 7:59 p.m. CDT; updated 10:50 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 12, 2011
An educational panel is placed outside the Walnut Grove Cemetery in Boonville. The Missouri's Civil War Heritage Foundation has installed such panels along the Gray Ghosts Trail it has developed in Missouri, to present the state's Civil War history to tourists and Civil War enthusiasts.

COLUMBIA — Columbia residents will get to hear about a unique aspect of Missouri's Civil War on Thursday.

Greg Wolk, president of Missouri's Civil War Heritage Foundation, will deliver a lecture on the “Impact of Missouri’s Civil War on National Literature” at 7 p.m. at the Columbia Public Library.

Wolk said one of the interesting yet lesser-known aspects of Missouri's Civil War is its effect on the literature produced in that era.

“There are some amazing things that have come out of our experience, not the least of which is Mark Twain’s relationship with General Ulysses Grant that has led to works of art and literature, which are extremely important to our national culture,” Wolk said.

Details about how Twain helped Grant produce his memoirs and other interesting historical nuggets will be revealed during the lecture, Wolk said.

The talk will be followed by a signing ceremony of Wolk’s book “A Tour Guide to Missouri’s Civil War.” The book, which was published in September, provides a comprehensive look at the Civil War battles fought in the state and gives information to help Civil War enthusiasts and tourists visit the historical sites.

Wolk said the book describes five tours of Civil War locations in Missouri, each about 350 to 400 miles long. The book also includes information on 235 Civil War sites in Missouri.

Wolk said he spent eight years researching Missouri’s Civil War history, and the fascinating stories he heard on the road inspired him to verify and write about it. He said he hoped the effort will attract people's attention to Missouri's historical past.

“Missouri has a huge inventory of Civil War sites,” he said. “Part of my effort is to get people interested in touring them.”

Wolk’s publicist Vanessa Irby said the event would also serve as the official launch of the Gray Ghosts Trail, a driving route developed by the foundation that runs across the state from Danville to Marshall and marks Civil War battle sites, museums and cemeteries along the way.

The Gray Ghosts Trail is available online as an interactive map, and users can click on the markers to read the history of Civil War sites and battles. On the ground, the trail is marked with educational panels and direction signs. 

The trail derives its name from a 1958 book by Richard S. Brownlee, which presented a historical account of Confederate guerrillas, such as “Bloody Bill” Anderson, who fought the Union troops in Missouri during the Civil War, according to the foundation's website.

Irby said the heritage foundation has also started a partnership with one of the most visited Civil War travel websites in the nation,, to promote the Gray Ghosts Trail and other historic Civil War sites in Central Missouri. Users can order maps and information brochures of the trail through the website, Wolk said.

Wolk said reading and talking about the Civil War, which affected not only localities in the state, but also people in other places, will serve to reduce mutual hard feelings and promote unity in the state.

“It’s to get people talking about the Missouri Civil War,” he said. “It’s a way of bringing us together.”

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