Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recent Reading

For the last few years I have researched the history of the Adams-Gibson Louisiana brigade that served in the Army of Tennessee. Another scholar is preparing to submit a manuscript on the history of the Adams-Gibson brigade, and it was at that point that I calculated that I have been continuously working on research projects since about 1990. This led to a decision to take a much needed break and catch up on my long neglected reading about the Trans-Mississippi.

A few weeks ago I read Wiley Britton’s Memoirs of the Rebellion on the Border, 1863. First published in 1882, Britton writes of his experiences serving in the 6th Kansas Cavalry. I enjoyed reading his comments about the countryside, particularly since he campaigned in areas close to where I live. In addition, his comments about campaigning and civilians in the Indian Territory, southwestern Missouri, and northwestern Arkansas are interesting. Britton's book is considered one of the better primary sources about the border war, but it should be read with some caution because he had a tendency to depict Union soldiers as a little too perfect. These soldiers seem to have done no looting; instead it was all “foraging,” and the enemy committed virtually all the heinous crimes in the area. I am skeptical...

I also read The Civil War In The American West by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. in recent weeks. Published in 1991, this is a look at the big picture. Josephy made no attempt to write a complete or definitive history of the war in the West, instead he focused on five different episodes of the western war. The New Mexico campaign of 1862, the Sioux Indian uprising in Minnesota, the Red River campaign, the “war on the western trails,” and the Indian Territory/Arkansas/Missouri border war are highlighted in the book. One gets a good sense of the tremendous diversity and scope of the war in the Trans-Mississippi in this well-written book. Before I read this book I had almost no knowledge of the Sioux Indian uprising, events in wartime California, or the war along the western trails. Josephy’s book is a good introduction to these topics, and I am looking forward to now reading more detailed books about these events.

A closing thought from The Civil War In The American West:

“Throughout the Civil War, the military campaigns in the West were generally viewed by both Washington and Richmond as if through the reducing end of a telescope” (p. 157).

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