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James W Erwin Author and Speaker

James W Erwin Author and Speaker

James W Erwin Author and SpeakerJames W Erwin Author and SpeakerJames W Erwin Author and Speaker

Steamboat Disasters of the Lower Missouri River

New Book!

            EVENTS CANCELLED!!!

  

Yes, all of our events for the steamboat book  are cancelled. You can still buy it from the publisher or bookstores.


From the Introduction of Steamboat Disasters of the Lower Missouri River, whose co-author is my wife Vicki Berger Erwin: 


In the mid-1990s, Jim and I took a weekend trip to Hannibal, Missouri where we stumbled upon an exhibit of artifacts from an old steamboat that had been uncovered on a farm along the Missouri River that were to be displayed in a new museum in Kansas City. We were fascinated! Jim bought a map showing steamboat wrecks along one small section of the river and it was hard to believe there were so many. We discussed writing a book about steamboat wrecks, but it wasn’t the right time.

When the museum opened, we visited it and learned even more about what we now knew was the steamboat Arabia. We were still intrigued and filed it away under “books to write someday.”

The day has finally come! And it was every bit as interesting to research steamboats and their disasters as we hoped it would be. So, thank you Arabia for setting us on this path. You might be interested to know that the first thing people ask us when we talk about writing a book about steamboat disasters is, “Do you know about the Arabia?”

We did expand the definition of “disaster” beyond wrecks. We include disease, fire, explosions, crimes, war and even ice! Our definition of the Lower Missouri River is somewhat expansive, too. St. Louis, a major Mississippi port had to be included because it was the home for nearly all the steamboats plying the Missouri. We set the northern limit at DeSoto, Nebraska, because we wanted to bring in the Bertrand, the other Missouri River steamboat that was the subject of extensive excavation and archeological study.

There were more than 300 steamboat wrecks on the Missouri River in the period covered by this book. The stretch between the river’s mouth and Kansas City was considered a steamboat graveyard. Of course, we could not write about every wreck. We tried to pick the most interesting and important stories. 

One of the problems we encountered in writing this book is that the early steamboat era doesn’t have many photos of the boats. Today if a boat sank on the river, we would have professional news photos, amateur photos, photos on Facebook, on Twitter. We would be drowning in disaster photos. It wasn’t as easy to snap a picture in the mid-1800s and cameras were not nearly so prolific. We hope you do enjoy the photos we managed to find. 


And a brief description of the contents of the book – soon to be available from fine bookstores everywhere (or at least a lot of places):


During the nineteenth century, more than 300 boats met their end in the steamboat graveyard that was the Lower Missouri River – from Omaha to its mouth. Although derided as little more than an “orderly pile of kindling,” steamboats were in fact technological marvels superbly adapted to the river’s conditions. Their light superstructure and long, wide, flat hulls powered by high-pressure engines drew so little water that they could cruise on “a heavy dew” even when fully loaded. But these same characteristics made them susceptible to fires, explosions, and snags (tree trunks ripped from the banks, hiding under the water’s surface). And the river held other dangers – disease, crime and (in time of war) guerrillas. 

This is the story of the perils steamboats, their passengers and crews faced on every voyage. 




A new book about steamboat disasters on the Lower Missouri River

 Available now from www.arcadiapublishing.com and fine bookstores everywhere.

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GUERRILLAS IN CIVIL WAR MISSOURI

GUERRILLA HUNTERS IN CIVIL WAR MISSOURI

GUERRILLA HUNTERS IN CIVIL WAR MISSOURI

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  • During the Civil War, Missouri was in constant turmoil from raids by heavily armed bands of marauders loosely affiliated with the Confederate army. Federal troops fought more than 1,000 battles in Missouri – mostly with guerrillas. But these numbers mask the level of violence because they do not include attacks on civilians. Ordinary persons felt the dread of uncertainty when riders approached their homes. Were they Union soldiers or guerrillas in blue coats taken off soldiers they had ambushed? Sometimes it did not matter. Either side might kill the men, and burn their buildings if dissatisfied with the response to their demands for information, food or horses. Entire counties were reduced to ruins. Guerrilla war is perhaps the most brutal of wars. This was Missouri’s war: a war of revenge, retaliation, scalping and mutilation of the dead, and few prisoners.

GUERRILLA HUNTERS IN CIVIL WAR MISSOURI

GUERRILLA HUNTERS IN CIVIL WAR MISSOURI

GUERRILLA HUNTERS IN CIVIL WAR MISSOURI

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  • The guerrillas who terrorized Missouri during the Civil War were colorful men whose daring and vicious deeds brought them a celebrity never enjoyed by the Federal soldiers who hunted them. Many books have been written about William Quantrill, Bloody Bill Anderson, George Todd, Tom Livingston, and other “noted guerrillas.” 
  • You have not heard of George Wolz, Aaron Caton, John Durnell, Thomas Holston, or Ludwick St. John, They served in Union cavalry regiments in Missouri. It was a hard life, and over three years of the war these boys, for most were in their teens and early twenties, became hard men. Combat, when it came, was often short, sharp, brutal, and unforgiving. In Missouri neither side showed mercy for defeated foes.  
  • They are just five of the anonymous thousands who, in the end, defeated the guerrillas, and who have been forgotten with the passage of time. This is their story.

THE HOMEFRONT IN CIVIL WAR MISSOURI

ST CHARLES, MISSOURI: A BRIEF HISTORY

ST CHARLES, MISSOURI: A BRIEF HISTORY

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  • Missouri was a battleground – over 1,000 engagements were fought in the state (third most during the Civil War) – but it was also a home front where people lived. No one could feel safe there. In the countryside, women who had been left behind when their husbands and sons went to war had to cope with marauders from both sides. Children saw their fathers and brothers beaten, hanged or shot. In the cities a cheer for Jeff Davis could land a young boy in jail, and a letter to a sweetheart in the Confederate army could get a girl banished from the state. Women volunteered to care for the flood of wounded and sick soldiers. Slavery crumbled and created new opportunities for black men to serve in the Union army, but left their families vulnerable to retaliation at home. The turbulence and bitterness of guerrilla war was everywhere.

ST CHARLES, MISSOURI: A BRIEF HISTORY

ST CHARLES, MISSOURI: A BRIEF HISTORY

ST CHARLES, MISSOURI: A BRIEF HISTORY

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  • Louis Blanchette came to Les Petites Côtes – the Little Hills – in 1769. The little village, later dubbed San Carlos del Misury by the Spanish and St. Charles by the Americans, played a major role in the early history of Missouri. It was jumping off point for Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s exploration of the Louisiana Purchase, as well for settlers moving west beyond the Missouri River. St. Charles was the home of important politicians, judges, soldiers, businesspersons, educators and even a saint. It was the first capital of the new state. From a sleepy French village, St. Charles grew into a dynamic city in one of the fastest growing areas of the nation. But it never forgot its history. The heart of the city is its Historic District where one can still experience its heritage.
  • This is the story of St. Charles from Les Petite Côtes to today. 

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