Michael Bushnell

My Own Commander, The Civil War Journal of J. J. Sitton, tells the story in a first person,  diary format that describes events exactly how they happened on any given day, often within minutes or hours of the actual occurrence.

J. J. Sitton was born in 1842 and served as a Recruiting Scout for General Sterling Price in the Confederate Army between 1863 and 1865. This 354-page work published by the State Historical Society of Missouri puts into print Sitton’s daily journal that was donated to the State Historical Society by two of Sitton’s direct descendants.

Through Sitton’s lens, we live his life through his daily journal entries. Sometimes his days are lackluster, other days, such as the day he was wounded and captured at Byram’s Ford in October of 1864 during the early days of the Battle of Westport are extremely captivating. Sitton describes in great detail of his being struck by a musket ball, then carted off to a field hospital where Union doctors repeatedly denied Sitton treatment, saying he was too severely wounded to treat and would be dead within a matter of hours anyway. Sitton of course lives through this experience, recounting daily the anguish and agony that existed in the hospital before he was transferred to quarters more befitting of an Officer.

William Garret Piston, Professor Emeritus of History at Missouri State University does an excellent job of “setting the table” for the book in terms of times, places and events and the late John F. Bradbury, a noted Missouri Historian and Civil War expert, offers his acknowledgements on the importance of Sitton’s diary to the bigger role Missouri and Arkansas played during the last two years of the Civil War.

My Own Commander is a real life, as it happened, accounting of Sitton’s two-year assignment in southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas and his ride with Sterling Price on his last ditch attempt to make Missouri fall for the Confederacy in 1864.

My Own Commander is probably one of the most compelling books covering the Civil War on the Western Border that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. While most of the historical accounts are told from a third person standpoint with the author telling the reader their version of how events unfolded, complete with implied bias and flourish, in this work, we get real time, first person accounts of the events as they unfolded.   

The book is available through the State Historical Society of Missouri’s web site at https://shsmo.org/