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).