Monday, September 26, 2016

Question and Answer Session

Drew Wagenhoffer asked me recently to participate in a question and answer session with him about my new book. Today, he posted the session on his blog, Civil War Books and Authors, which is an excellent source of information on the world of Civil War publishing. I've always been appreciative of his emphasis on trans-Mississippi scholarship and am honored to be featured on his blog.

Monday, September 19, 2016

New Book!

My book, Albert C. Ellithorpe, the First Indian Home Guards, and the Civil War on the Trans-Mississippi Frontier, will be published by Louisiana State University Press in November! The book is an edited edition of Ellithorpe's personal wartime journal, his correspondence, and the twenty-three wartime articles that he penned for the Chicago Evening Journal. Here is the description of the book from the LSU Press's website:

"The Civil War experiences of Albert C. Ellithorpe, a Caucasian Union Army officer commanding the tri-racial First Indian Home Guards, illuminate remarkable and understudied facets of campaigning west of the Mississippi River. Major Ellithorpe's unit--comprised primarily of Creek and Seminole Indians and African Americans who served as interpreters--fought principally in Arkansas and Indian Territory, isolated from the larger currents of the Civil War. Using Ellithorpe's journal and his series of Chicago Evening Journal articles as her main sources, M. Jane Johansson unravels this exceptional account, providing one of the fullest examinations available on a mixed-race Union regiment serving in the border region of the West.

Ellithorpe's insightful observations on Indians and civilians as well as the war in the trans-Mississippi theater provide a rare glimpse into a largely forgotten aspect of the conflict. He wrote extensively about the role of Indian troops, who served primarily as scouts and skirmishers, and on the nature of guerrilla warfare in the West. Ellithorpe also exposed internal problems in his regiment; some of his most dramatic entries concern his own charges against Caucasian officers, one of whom allegedly stole money from the unit's African American interpreters. Compiled here for the first time, Ellithorpe's commentary on the war adds a new chapter to our understanding of America's most complicated and tragic conflict."

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


It's been quite a year! On a personal note, after nine years of widowhood I remarried this summer. My husband is an assistant professor of English, and, happily, he has a strong interest in the Civil War era. Now that things have settled down a bit, I hope to try, once again, to post regularly to this blog.

My next book will be published in November, but more about time!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

"I was left for dead...": Captain Michael Ackerman at the Battle of Pleasant Hill

Heavily engaged at Pleasant Hill, the 32nd Iowa Infantry’s regimental history has many eyewitness accounts of the fighting there. In 2015, I promised to occasionally feature these, and today excerpts are presented from a commissioned officer’s testimony:

“Captain Michael Ackerman, of Company A, now Clerk of Courts at Howard, South Dakota, and who was left on the field, terribly wounded, and without other notice for more than twenty-eight hours than that of the rebels who robbed the dead and wounded says:--

‘Late in the evening of April 8, in the camp among the old graves, some of us were discussing the defeat of our troops in the advance, and their demoralized condition as they came into our lines. In this party were Lieutenant Col. Mix, Captains Miller and Peebles, Lieutenant Howard, myself and others. Colonel Mix, looking up, said: ‘There I see the moon over my right shoulder. It is a good omen for me. I need not fret.’ Within twenty-four hours Colonel Mix lay dead on the field of the hard-fought battle; Miller, Peebles, and Howard, were mortally wounded; and I was left for dead, with my left knee and right hip crushed by the bullets that fell among us like hail upon the house top. My Company went into line of battle with thirty-four men, only five of whom answered the next roll-call; and half the Regiment was wiped out!

I fell near the close of the engagement, and soon after the Regiment left the field it had so gallantly and desperately held. I was stripped of my outer clothing. One of these vultures thrust his hand into my pocket, but drew it out covered with my blood, and with an oath left $85.00 there, which no doubt subsequently saved my life.

I rolled into a ditch near me to escape the still fast falling bullets, and about mid-night was helped out by a rebel chaplain, who was trying to care for the wounded. I crawled to a fire, was soon asleep, and did not wake until the sun was high in the heavens. Some one had thrown a dog-tent over me to shield me from the sun….the ground was all strewn with dead and wounded that it seemed that one could step from one to another as far as I could see, without touching the ground. Here and there a group of wounded were gathered about little fires that had been kindled by those able to partly help themselves….

About 9 o’clock that evening Captain Miller and myself were taken in an ambulance to a log house, and placed on the floor with a single blanket under us. Robert Mack, of my company, and eight or ten others were with us. We were in this house four days before we were discovered by the Surgeons who had been left to care for us,--they having two hospitals that required their continuous attention, and we were over-looked…. [After removing to a hospital] the wife of a rebel officer who lived in the neighborhood, a Mrs. Cole…came every week with such supplies as her home afforded, the tears running down her cheeks as she looked upon the starving men she could not feed!... [He was thankful for] the two army wagons loaded with sanitary stores, that came under a flag of truce, and for which the women at home have our blessings as long as we may live. And of things which my bloody money bought at the rate of one dollar for a chicken, one dollar per dozen for eggs, and four dollars per pound for tobacco. And of our parole, about June 17th, and a trip of seventeen miles in carts and jolting wagons to the boat on Red River, and of the opium and Louisiana rum the doctor gave me on the road, and how the entire fifty-two who started from Pleasant Hill that June morning, all reached New Orleans!”

Quote from: John Scott, Story of the Thirty Second Iowa Infantry Volunteers (1896), pages 149-153.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Thomas W. Knox: War Correspondent

Several weeks ago, while visiting the Dickson Street Bookshop I noticed an older book bound in green. Attracted by it, I pulled it off the shelf and noticed that it was written by Thomas W. Knox and published in 1894. The novel is about Harry and Jack who enlist in the First Iowa Infantry and go on to have adventures aplenty at Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge, and as prisoners. I’m not really sure how well the book works as a novel. The most interesting aspect to me concerns the author. Thomas W. Knox worked as a war correspondent for the New York Herald and in that capacity covered the Wilson’s Creek and Pea Ridge campaigns. Following that, his professional career took him to Shiloh and then the Vicksburg campaign. Knox was a controversial figure that ended up angering William T. Sherman so much that he was court-martialed and then expelled. Knox’s most famous book is Camp-fire and Cotton-field: Southern Adventure In Time of War (1865) that documents many incidents including his management of a confiscated plantation in Louisiana. The Internet Archive has a digitized copy of Camp-fire and Cotton-field, and it’s apparent that Knox made use of it when writing The Lost Army for his juvenile audience.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Book Update

Filled out Louisiana State University’s Author Questionnaire earlier this month which means that in only a few more months my book will be published! The title has been changed to make it more descriptive so it is now Albert C. Ellithorpe, the First Indian Home Guards, and the Civil War on the Trans-Mississippi Frontier.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Notable Books About the Trans-Mississippi

It can be difficult to return to a project after a long absence, but continuing this blog is one of my goals. Unfortunately, events in 2015 left me with little time to read, so I’m woefully behind on the stack of books by my reading chair. Several months ago, though, I did read Kyle S. Sinisi’s, The Last Hurrah: Sterling Price’s Missouri Expedition of 1864. Drew
Wagenhoffer gave it an honorable mention in the “Best Civil War Books of 2015” article in The Civil War Monitor’s winter issue. I agree with his assessment that the book is “a first rate operational history. The author persuasively rejects or revises a large number of traditional campaign interpretations while advancing fresh ones of his own.” If you haven’t seen it yet, do check out Drew’s September 28, 2015 interview with Kyle Sinisi.

On my 2016 reading list is Jerry D. Thompson’s, A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers & Militia (University of New Mexico Press). This is a mammoth book totaling 935 pages! Dr. Thompson is an authority on the war in the southwest, and the initial 431 double-columned pages feature a discussion of the men and officers of the New Mexico regiments and the campaigns that they served in. The remaining few hundred pages consist of ten appendices with the lengthiest being a roster of the New Mexico soldiers. These regiments have long been a mystery to me, so I’m looking forward to learning more about them.