Art professor delves into Civil War battle with new book




January 17, 2013

CONTACT: Donna Lampkin Stephens, (501) 450-3406;


CONWAY — Ken Burchett, University of Central Arkansas professor of art, has recently had his book, The Battle of Carthage, Missouri: First Trans-Mississippi Conflict of the Civil War, published by McFarland.

It is the first Civil War topic published by Burchett, who came to UCA as chair of the Department of Art. His previous book, A Bibliographical History of the Study and Use of Color from Aristotle to Kandinsky, was published in 2005 by Mellen.

The new book was named to the Civil War Books and Authors blog list of Standout Books of 2012.

“The Civil War Books and Authors blog is considered the premier online information source for matters pertaining to the Civil War,” Burchett said. “Andrew Wagenhoffer, who authors it, has the reputation among Civil War enthusiasts of being one of the leaders in appraising new releases in the field.

“He sees hundreds of books on the Civil War every year, so I was pleased that he included my work on his year-end review of 16 ‘Standout Books of 2012’.”

According to, the July 5, 1861 Battle of Carthage was the first full-scale land battle of the Civil War. Gov. Claiborne Jackson’s rebel Missouri State Guard made its way toward southwest Missouri near where Confederate volunteers collected in Arkansas, while Col. Franz Sigel’s Union force occupied Springfield with orders to intercept and block the rebels from reaching the Confederates. After they met near Carthage, the battle lasted 10 hours, spread over several miles and included six separate engagements before the Union army withdrew under the cover of darkness. The New York Times called it “the first serious conflict between the United States troops and the rebels.”

Burchett’s book describes the events leading up to the battle, the battle itself and the aftermath. The Battle of Carthage occurred not very far from where he grew up.

His work goes beyond David Hinze and Karen Farnham’s 1997 title, The Battle of Carthage: Border War in Southwest Missouri, July 5, 1861.

I like to think it’s more character-oriented,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in the Civil War because of the kind of human drama that plays out. I had this idea early on, for a different way to tell the story. Just about everybody now trying to take on that subject is working more from letters and diaries and the people involved.

“This little town in southwest Missouri was literally wiped off the map, and I was able to pull out a lot of those characters and quote things from those people and get their reaction. I’m not a Civil War enthusiast and I don’t want to mention I’m trying to compete as a historian, but I’m having fun with it.”

In an online interview with Wagenhoffer at, Burchett answered the question of why an art person would be interested in the Civil War:

“(A)rt is not about art; it is about life and the events that shape it and give it feeling,” he said.

He said he hoped the book could wind up in schools, colleges and libraries.

“I want it to be available for people to read, especially young people,” he said. “It’s a young adult book as well as an adult book.”

The book is available at Barnes & Noble, including the UCA Bookstore, and as well as Torreyson Library at UCA.

Burchett, who came to UCA in 1985, spent five years on the project. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Southwest Missouri State, master’s from Tulsa and Ph.D. from North Texas.

For more information, contact Burchett at (501) 450-5777 or