James Erwin

St. Louis
About the Speaker

James Erwin is a retired attorney who practiced law in St. Louis for 38 years. He was an adjunct professor at Washington University in St. Louis for 10 years. Erwin is the author of four books, three on the Civil War in Missouri and one on the history of St. Charles. He is a frequent speaker on the Civil War and local history topics. He is currently vice chair of the Kirkwood (Missouri) Arts Commission, president of the St. Louis Civil War Roundtable, and treasurer of the Unbound Book Festival.

Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Missouri

Most of the 1,100 military engagements in Missouri during the Civil War were between Union troops and guerrillas. Historian and author James Erwin traces the history of the guerrilla war from sporadic attacks on railroads to sustained assaults on soldiers, wagon trains, steamboats, civilians, and entire towns. Its history is told through the experiences of the guerrillas, the soldiers who fought them, and the civilians who suffered from depredations by both sides.

Jesse James: The Man, The Myth, The Movie

Jesse James is an iconic figure in Missouri history. In this presentation, historian and author James Erwin describes how a farm boy, guerrilla, bank and train robber, and murderer became a political hero and nineteenth-century media star. In the twentieth century, Jesse James’s criminal past was excused or ignored in dozens of movies, serials, television shows, and songs, and he was transformed into a typical western hero. But as movies became more realistic, the portrayals of James became more nuanced and historically accurate. Erwin describes James’s life, legend, and movie “career” using photographs, movie posters, song and film clips.