Saturday, January 24, 2015

Is The Trans-Mississippi Becoming Trendy?

At least for this week the trans-Mississippi is trendy! Earlier in the week, I received the complimentary copy of the March-April issue of Strategy & Tactics that features the Indian Territory during the Civil War. Two days later, the latest issue of Blue & Gray magazine arrived; “The General’s Tour” is about the Civil War in the Indian Territory between September 1863 and June 1865. I was pleased to see that the issue is dedicated to the State of Oklahoma.

One day later the newsletter of the Society for Military Historians was delivered. Included is an announcement that New Forums Press, based in Stillwater, Oklahoma, is “seeking chapter and book-length submissions examining the American Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi…The Forgotten War is a brand new series devoted to the study of military history throughout the Trans-Mississippi with an emphasis on scholars employing historical analysis through innovative approaches, comparative approaches, comparative perspectives, and original research methodology utilizing primary and secondary source material.” They are specifically interested in the guerrilla war in Missouri, “occupation policies of the Union army,” battle books, biographies, “ethnic or minority experiences,” and “struggles and conflicts in the command structures of the opposing armies.” New Forums is primarily known for books about higher education so this series is quite a departure for them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


The start of classes at my university last Monday and my work on my manuscript has eaten into the time that I spend on my blog. I vowed to post today even if it was just a bit of miscellany.

Today, I received a complimentary copy of the March-April issue of Strategy & Tactics in my work mailbox. Much to my surprise the cover story is “Warpath: Indian Territory In the American Civil War.” How odd that the one complimentary copy that I’ve ever received of the magazine features the trans-Mississippi. Readers can purchase the “Warpath” game for $35.

Next month, State House Press will publish Blood on the Bayou: Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and the Trans-Mississippi. The book is the third part of the “Louisiana Quadrille”; the previous two volumes have been highlighted by interviews with Dr. Frazier on this blog.

In June, Savas Beatie will be publishing John Schmutz’s history of one of the most renowned regiments of trans-Mississippians: the 5th Texas Infantry. My reading year is shaping up nicely!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Albert Castel: 1928-2014

Dr. Albert Castel, one of my favorite historians, passed away on November 14, 2014 at age eighty-six. A prolific writer, he penned several books and articles relating to the trans-Mississippi. This is certainly fitting since he was from Wichita, Kansas. His trans-Mississippi titles include his first book, A Frontier State at War: Kansas, 1861-1865 (1958), William Clark Quantrill: His Life and Times (1962), General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West (1968), and, co-authored with Thomas Goodrich, Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla (2006).

His first book, a revision of his dissertation, was retitled Civil War Kansas: Reaping the Whirlwind when it was reprinted in 1997. His preface to this edition is autobiographical, and those of you who have done historical research will appreciate the following excerpt:

“I did most of the research…at the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka during the autumn of 1954. Every morning, Monday through Saturday, I left my room at the YMCA, ate breakfast at a nearby restaurant, and then walked the short distance to the Historical Society where I waited for the front door to open at 8 A. M. Once inside, I worked without pause…until the society closed at 5 P. M…. Usually I spent evenings sorting notes before going to bed where I would fall asleep while listening to a portable radio….Because photocopying machines had not yet come into being, I had to write hundreds of notes and transcribe long passages from sources with pen or pencil….Sometimes, after a day of reading the small print of old newspapers on microfilm, I literally was half-blind while groping my way back to the YMCA” (pages ix-x).

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Pen Picture: Colonel John Scott

Captain A. A. Stuart, a veteran of the 17th Iowa Infantry, wrote Iowa Colonels and Regiments that was published at the close of the war. Judging from the book he made an effort to solicit information from each surviving Iowa colonel although some were not too cooperative. One of these was Colonel John Scott, the commander of the 32nd Iowa Infantry, a regiment that has been featured in previous postings. This regiment made a remarkable stand during the battle of Pleasant Hill, losing many casualties in the process. One of the enjoyable features of Stuart’s book are the many pen pictures of the colonels plus attractive engravings of some of the commanders. Captain Stuart saw Colonel Scott at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and described him in this way:

“On walking up into the St. Charles, I saw, perched in a chair in the north-east corner of the bar-room, a man that attracted my notice. His chair was tipped against the wall, one foot stuck on the front stretcher, and the other thrown across the leg thus supported. His elbows were resting upon the arms of the chair, his head thrown forward, and his hat drawn over his eyes. In the small space between his lap and his face was a newspaper, which he was reading. I thought I never saw a man doubled up so before, and walked round to take a better look at him; when, my impudence attracting his attention, he looked up to me as much to say: ‘Who are you?’ A prominent trait in his character I read in that glance.

Colonel Scott is a man of middle size, and compactly built. His hair and whiskers are more red than sandy, and his eyes gray and sharp. His round, florid features are set off by a pair of gold-mounted spectacles.

I believe him to be among the ablest and best informed men of Iowa; and yet he has that sort of something about him which has kept him back. It may be the trait to which I have alluded; for he is incorrigibly suspicious, and never gives his confidence to a stranger. When I wrote to him for information relative to his biography, he replied: ‘If I can be convinced that the book is not to be a catch-penny affair, I will furnish data;’ but I could never convince him of that, and for what I have I am indebted to one of his friends. One thing is certain, Colonel Scott was never intended for a politician; and why, I believe, we heard no more of him in the army, is, he always stayed at his quarters, and minded his own business. I venture the assertion that he never asked to be made a brigadier-general. Had he less of the negative about him, it would be well; for, with the same honesty, he would be a much more popular and useful man in society.

Colonel Scott’s military record is without blemish. He was brave, a fair tactician, and a good disciplinarian” (pages 485-486). One wonders what Colonel Scott thought of this assessment…

Monday, December 29, 2014

Leadership in the First Iowa Infantry

The First Iowa Infantry was a three months regiment that fought at the battle of Wilson’s Creek. According to A. A. Stuart’s, Iowa Colonels and Regiments (1865), an unusually high number of its soldiers went on to high-ranking positions in other regiments. Probably many of these men had innate military gifts, but the fact that they experienced combat early in the war probably gave them an advantage in obtaining higher rank. Stuart listed four men who were promoted to major, six went on to become lieutenant-colonels, one became a colonel, one (Charles L. Matthies) became a brigadier-general, and one (Francis J. Herron) became a major general. Pretty impressive!