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Posted August 20, 2006
Civil War St. Louis Reviews...
Edited by Kirby Ross
Edited by Kirby Ross
available from Amazon.com
Autobiography of Samuel S. Hildebrand
Edited by Kirby Ross
Hardcover: 290 pages
Publisher: University of Arkansas Press (December 15, 2005)
Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.0 inches
“I make no apology to mankind for my acts of retaliation; I make no
whining appeal to the world for sympathy. I sought revenge and I found it;
the key of hell was not suffered to rust in the lock while I was on the
“I pity the poor miserable, sniveling creature who would tamely have submitted to it all.”
Also by Kirby Ross:
Reviewed by D. H. Rule
“Hooray for Hildebrand,” the bandits at the Ste. Genevieve robbery (presumably the ultimately famous James-Younger gang) shouted as they rode out of town. That piece of history as much as anything secured Sam Hildebrand’s place in memory. If an outlaw would say “Hooray for Hildebrand” in 1873, I would say “Hooray for Kirby Ross” today for bringing the Autobiography of Samuel S. Hildebrand back from obscurity, and working it into a splendid new, and eminently useful, form.
Sam Hildebrand came to fame—or infamy—during the bloody struggle for Missouri during the Civil War. He went from being a farmer raising a large family in south-eastern Missouri to becoming one of the most renowned of the Confederate bushwhackers. Hildebrand was sometimes compared to Rob Roy, sometimes vilified as a bloody murderer. He is a rare figure for many reasons, not the least of which is Hildebrand published an autobiography of his exploits.
Written in 1870, the illiterate Hildebrand dictated his story to two journalists. Shortly after its publication, Hildebrand was shot and killed, dying as violently as he had lived. His autobiography went from a brief surge of interest to fade into almost complete obscurity. For myself, I know how rare and difficult to obtain the Hildebrand account was. The nearest copy I could find was in a special collections over one hundred miles away. At that, even once acquired the 1870 edition of Sam Hildebrand's autobiography would be at best an interesting historical novelty.
Here lies the great virtue of this edition of the Autobiography of Samuel S. Hildebrand as edited by Kirby Ross—over one-third of this volume consists of Kirby Ross’s notations about the historical truth of Hildebrand’s words. The research and notes are nothing short of excellent. Far from being an historical novelty, the Autobiography of Samuel S. Hildebrand is now a valuable addition to the history of the war in Missouri, in particular of the convoluted guerilla warfare. No library of the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi can now be considered complete without this volume.
Kirby Ross—with whom we, the editors of Civil War St. Louis website, have had the pleasure of working with for many years, hosting many of his fine articles—is a thorough, exacting researcher and historian. His work on the Autobiography of Samuel S. Hildebrand shows this same high quality of work we’ve come to expect.
The Autobiography of Samuel S. Hildebrand as edited by Kirby Ross consists of two reading experiences. The first is the unchanged narrative as told by Sam Hildebrand loaded with adventures, violence, rationalizations, excuses, myths and reality. It’s good reading. The second, equally enjoyable reading experience, is the extensive narrative notes written by Kirby Ross breaking down the tale into reality, confirming or denying Hildebrand’s claims. Thank you, Kirby Ross, for this superb research and writing!
This review of the Autobiography of Samuel S. Hildebrand is long overdue, but this book will be a timeless addition to the history of the Civil War in Missouri.
Articles by Kirby Ross on Civil War St. Louis:
James O. Broadhead: Ardent Unionist, Unrepentant Slaveholder
The St. Louis Mutiny of the Provisionals
Federal Militia in Missouri by Kirby Ross
1. Home Guard 1861
2. Six-Month Militia 1861
3. Missouri State Militia 1861-1865
4. Enrolled Missouri Militia 1862-1865
5. Provisional Enrolled Missouri Militia 1863-1865
6. Provisional Enrolled Militia (G.O. #107) 1864-1865
7. Missouri Militia (G.O. #3) 1865
8. Missouri Militia (State Convention) 1865-late 19th century
©2006 D. H. Rule
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