By Collin Reischman
Since January 2, 2011, Keller has written daily articles for the Tribune about what happened throughout Missouri during that calendar date 150 years ago. More specifically, Keller writes the articles in the present tense, letting the reader feel what it was like to live during those chaotic times. “Life During Wartime,” is the book, and it’s not your typical Civil War writing.
“It brings the readers into it in a way that makes them feel like they were living it themselves,” Keller told The Missouri Times. “So right now, 150 years ago, we were trying to elect a new U.S. Senator in the Capitol and it took 30 ballots and they eventually gave up and put it off until November.”
Keller described himself as an “avid history buff,” not a Civil War buff. The idea to write the book came to Keller shortly after the 2010 elections, as he considered his next project, another election came to mind.
“I was thinking about what to write, sitting around idly, when I thought to myself that there was another really important election 150 years ago,” Keller said. “I wondered how many votes Abraham Lincoln got in Boone County, so I looked it up, and that kind of got me started.”
Keller’s book focuses on central Missouri. Specifically, he is focusing on Boone county and the eight surrounding counties. Keller’s interest peaked when he found Lincoln’s vote total in Boone. It was 12 out of more than 2,000 votes. Keller said the second highest vote getter was a “radical” secessionist.
“I started wondering what was available and possible, and I found that there is a lot of Missouri-specific material available online,” Keller said. “And there is a lot of individual records. There are service records of individual soldiers, which makes it much easier to do this kind of work than in the past.”
Keller’s book will also include essays written on more broad issues during the war. In one, he interviews a preacher from Glasgow, Mo., who is the grandson of a slave. Keller said he used the interview with the preacher to tell the progress from slavery to freedom.
“It makes people aware that these generations are not so far away,” Keller said. “It’s not five or six or seven generations ago. There are people alive today who are only two generations removed from slavery and those stories are part of our heritage.”
Keller’s Volume One covers the entirety 1861, all of which was published during the 2011 calendar year, when the series began. Along with material featured throughout the Tribune, the book will feature exclusive illustrations and photographs, as well as updated information on the subjects of the work.
Keller said he would begin working on the next volumes as soon as it became clear there would be demand for it. Hard copies of the book are currently available for pre-order at a discounted price of $29.95 through March 15. Copies can be ordered either by using the order form in the Tribune or by calling (573) 815-1600 or (800) 333-6799.
Reach Collin Reischman at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @CReischman.