William Garrett Piston and Richard W. Hatcher III’s book, Wilson’s Creek: The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It (
“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home;”
“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
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
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
“Throughout the Civil War, the military campaigns in the West were generally viewed by both
Last month I mentioned in a post that “The only Confederate division comprised entirely of units from one state was
This post marks the conclusion of my interview with Dr. Donald Frazier (pictured to the left) about his new book, Fire in the Cane Field: The Federal Invasion of
Next month I am planning to present another interview with a prominent historian of the Trans-Mississippi.
Your book features a number of your own maps. What advice do you have for aspiring mapmakers?
Learn Adobe Illustrator. It’s not a real mystery on how to make maps, you just have to be prepared for a bit of a learning curve. I have drawn more than 2,000 maps for various clients world-wide. I discovered it is easier to turn a historian into a map drawer than an artist into a historian.
Geography and landforms are the canvas upon which history is painted. You understand how humans interact with terrain, and you will have an instinct for what is important to show on a map.
Also, if the place appears in your index, try to make sure at least one map in your book has it located.
You might, if you are working for others, require at least half payment up front. I have really cut down on the number of customers I am working for because of non-payment, partial payment, or other customer-vendor related issues!
Your book also features an unusual number of illustrations such as photographs, period newspaper engravings, etc. Do you have a particular philosophy that you use to help you select illustrations?
Here is one reason I published with State House Press. Since I have a say in how that operation is run, I could have a much more liberal hand in how the book would physically look and feel. I am very proud of the "heft" and weight of the book, the paper quality, design, etc. Typical university presses don't like so many images because it adds to proofing and design costs. My philosophy is, pictures help create a mood and tone for your work, just like in magazine and other print media. You may write brilliantly, but so often you can convey a "feel" better visually, and often slide in additional ancillary information in a good caption that expands on the story without interrupting the narrative. My work will be on shelves (or on Kindles or Sony Book Readers) for a very long time. I want it to be a good representation of what people (sources) are saying about the topic in addition to what I am saying about the topic; illustrations can provide a visual survey of how people were portraying the time and place in question.
I am also happy with the price, which of course is a product of design and editing costs, among other factors. I have had a few retailers and individuals squawk about the $40 price tag. Take a look at Amazon.com. They are selling it for $26.00. So, if you are paying full price, you aren't looking very hard! The $40 price allows Amazon to deep discount the book. They look like heroes while protecting their margin. Local retailers could do likewise, they just can't take that leap of faith. In the end, with a typical local retailer only stocking two or three copies of the book, we are just quibbling over a few dollars difference.
The kiss of death is when a university press "short lists" your book. They only offer a 20% discount to retailers as opposed to the typical 43-50%. That means your book won't be on any shelves. State House Press will never do that. They'll pass on a manuscript before they do that.
A student comes to you and wants to know what Civil War Trans-Mississippi related research project they should tackle; what would you advise?
Well . . . I would focus on the nuts and bolts of how these armies are raised, provisioned, how local conditions evolve at the county level, issues relating to desertion and recruitment, etc., etc. I am very curious, for instance, how many beeves were driven from
Gary Gallagher once told me that the only thing worth studying in the Civil War pertains to
At any rate, I will let the
A few weeks ago, I purchased a copy of Dr. Donald S. Frazier’s new book, Fire in the Cane Field: The Federal Invasion of
Why did you decide to write a book about, and I'm quoting from the subtitle, “the Federal Invasion of
I wanted to write about a corner of the Civil War I thought was fascinating, poorly understood, and underrepresented in the literature. Plus, it is a darn fine story! It has all the elements of great human drama. Have been amazed when I have been out speaking—from
Too, it has been an ongoing quest of mine to discover why the Trans-Mississippi mattered in the war, what part
Were there any unique features to the campaigns featured in Fire in the Cane Field?
There were tons of interesting facets to these campaigns. In essence, both sides were trying to convince the citizens of both states to back their cause. The Union needed to prove that it would and could protect its citizens in the region, and that support for
Were there any soldiers that you wrote about who seemed to have a particular talent for adapting to the challenges presented by campaigning in the Trans-Mississippi? Were there any who seemed unable to adapt?
Richard Taylor emerges as a brilliant adapter, as does his staff. John Bankhead Magruder comes off as a pretty clever innovator as well. Of course, it’s easier for them—they had the biggest chore and if they succeeded, it looked brilliant! My other favorite, surprisingly, is Benjamin Butler. Here is a fellow who understood how to work the levers of politics as well as judicious application of military policy. He, I believe, is greatly underappreciated as an intellect. General Alfred Mouton seemed a little over his head to me, so I would put him in the “failed to adapt” category.
My understanding is that this is the first volume in a planned four volume set called the
This is book one of a four part series that will cover the war from secession to collapse in
Book one, Fire in the Cane Field, covers the secession drama in
Book two, Thunder Across the Swamps, covers the fight for control of the West Bank of the
And, by the way,
Book three will deal with
Book four will cover the Red River Campaign and its aftermath, and then the "rest of the story" in
IN THE MEANTIME, I am finishing up a collection of edited letters from a soldier in the 23rd Texas Cavalry, and later McMahan's
Several years ago I edited a collection of letters written between Theophilus Perry of the 28th Texas Cavalry (dismounted) and his wife, Harriet, who lived in the
Harriet then turned the cover and reused it in a letter to her husband.
She addresses him as “Captain,” a rank that he achieved in July 1863. So the cover was used sometime between then and the spring of 1864 when Theophilus died during the
Recently, I was told about the Community & Conflict: The Impact of the Civil War in the Ozarks website. Community & Conflict is an effort by several different Ozark organizations to digitize documents relating to the Civil War in the Ozarks so they will be readily available to researchers. The range of collections already available on the website is quite impressive, and I have spent a fair amount of time perusing them. The collections may be accessed either thematically, by county, or by battle. The collections are arranged around the following themes: agriculture, economics, guerrilla warfare, home front, refugees, medicine, military life, minorities, politics and government, reconstruction, slavery, and urbanization. Sometimes it is good to have surprises in life so rather than detail the collections for you here, I’ll just say go to the website and see for yourself. What was I most intrigued by? The papers relating to Sarah Jane Smith, a guerrilla who destroyed sections of telegraph line between Rolla and
In my previous post, I issued a challenge to readers. I would like to publish the results soon so send in your answers forthwith.