Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Civil War Seminar in Springfield, Missouri

Mark your calendars because the Civil War Round Table of the Ozarks is sponsoring a seminar on October 9 and 10 at the Clarion Hotel in Springfield, Missouri. The theme of the seminar is Beyond Campaigns and Commanders and almost all of the talks will relate to the Trans-Mississippi. I had the honor of being one of the speakers during the 2007 edition of this seminar. The event was well organized and well attended; an added bonus was the presence of a number of vendors. This year, the speakers include Bill Gurley, Richard W. Hatcher III, Kip Lindberg, Doug Scott, Blair Tarr, Matt M. Matthews, and LeeAnn Whites. Click on the link above for information about registration and other details. I hope to see you there!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Importance of Newspapers

Letters and diaries immediately spring to mind when one thinks about the primary sources that historians use. Have you considered using newspapers in your research project? Unfortunately, I could not find many letters or diaries that related to the 28th Texas Cavalry, the subject of my dissertation and then my first book. Newspapers, though, provided to be helpful. In newspapers I found casualty reports, lists of deserters, lists of men who had died of disease, and occasionally letters penned by soldiers to newspaper editors. Admittedly, newspapers are not the easiest resource to use. Researchers must often strain their eyes to read the print, and newspapers are distracting. When I read through newspapers I found myself poring over articles about sensational crimes in east Texas, perusing tidbits about other military units, and examining advertisements for various hair care products and miracle drugs.

Of course I am not the only Trans-Mississippi historian to note the importance of newspapers. William Garrett Piston and Richard W. Hatcher III commented in the preface of Wilson’s Creek: The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It, “By reading each issue between April and November 1861 of every newspaper in Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Iowa, and Kansas for which copies are now extant, we uncovered a substantial number of letters, most of which have never been used by historians. Because the war was new, these letters contain a wealth of detail on soldier life often absent from later writings. Combined with extant material located in archives, they paint a vivid portrait of the battle and the men who fought in it” (p. xv).

Oftentimes Civil War era newspapers may be found on microfilm; some have been digitized and placed on the internet. Archives, historical societies, public libraries, and university libraries are prime places to find newspapers on microfilm. As an example, the Thomas J. Harrison Public Library in my community has all available Mayes County newspapers on microfilm.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Will Rogers Would Have Liked You

Will Rogers is a friend of mine. Yes, I am writing of the Will Rogers who died in a plane crash with Wiley Post on 15 August 1935, and no, I did not know him personally! As a native Oklahoman, it was a great honor and privilege to serve as co-editor of the Papers of Will Rogers Project. Co-editor Steven K. Gragert and I edited the final two volumes of a five volume set published by the University of Oklahoma Press. These two volumes were The Papers of Will Rogers: From Broadway to the National Stage, September 1915-July 1928 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005) and The Papers of Will Rogers: The Final Years, August 1928-August 1935 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006). It was fascinating to learn more about the life and times of one of our 20th century greats, and eventually I felt like I was acquainted with Will.

If you ever visit northeastern Oklahoma (and I hope that you do!), make sure that you visit the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore as well as Will’s birthplace near Oologah. Steven Gragert is now the director of the Will Rogers Memorial Museums, and he works hard to preserve Will’s legacy.

Now, how does Will relate to the topic of this blog? Will’s father, Clement Vann Rogers, a mixed blood Cherokee, resided in the Cooweescoowee district of the Cherokee Nation when the war started. Clement Vann Rogers enlisted in Colonel Stand Watie’s 1st Cherokee Mounted Volunteers and fought at the battle of Pea Ridge, 2nd Cabin Creek, and in a number of skirmishes. He eventually served under the command of William Penn Adair; Clement Vann Rogers admired Colonel Adair and even named a son for him. For you see, Will Rogers’ full name is William Penn Adair Rogers, named in honor of a Confederate colonel who served in the Trans-Mississippi.

“I never met a man I didn’t like.” Will Rogers

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fayetteville's Confederate Cemetery

Fayetteville, Arkansas, is a town that I enjoy touring. Visiting the main library of the University of Arkansas is a treat as is a visit to the Dickson Street Bookstore; the bookstore has a nice selection of used Civil War books. On one of my visits, I took along Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge & Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide with a Section on Wire Road by Earl J. Hess, Richard W. Hatcher III, William Garrett Piston, and William L. Shea. Following their directions, I drove into a neighborhood in Fayetteville, up a steep hill, and to the Confederate Cemetery. According to the guidebook, “There are 622 Rebel soldiers buried here—only 121 are known. Several of them died as a result of the battle of Pea Ridge, but records are far too scanty to accurately estimate how many. William Y. Slack, who was mortally wounded on March 7 while leading his Missouri brigade into action near Elkhorn Tavern, is buried here. His remains were removed from their original resting place and reinterred here on May 27, 1880, with his widow, sister, and two sons in attendance. The youngest son had been born six months before Pea Ridge; Slack never saw him.” (p. 249)

Here is a photograph that I took of Slack’s headstone:

The cemetery is a quiet place tucked into a residential neighborhood, and I enjoyed visiting it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Books! Books! Books!

Among my favorite Bible verses is this one from Ecclesiastes 12: 12b

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” (NIV)

Don’t get me wrong, though, I love to read, and I anxiously await the publication of books by my favorite authors.

As for the Trans-Mississippi, some fine scholars have focused their attention on this part of the war. Occasionally, I will highlight favorite books on this far western theater. Here is one to start with:

Kerby, Robert L. Kirby Smith’s Confederacy: The Trans-Mississippi South, 1863-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972; reprint ed., Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1991.

After the fall of Vicksburg, the Trans-Mississippi Confederacy struggled to find ways to manage with minimal direction from authorities in Richmond, Virginia. General Edmund Kirby Smith took charge of the department; critics dubbed his rule “Kirby Smithdom,” but he somehow managed to hold the department together until the Confederacy started to collapse in April 1865. Wide in coverage, the book has much detail about the home front, relationships between civilians and military leaders, economic issues, transportation, and military campaigns. This book is a great starting point for any understanding of the war from the Confederate perspective.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why fuss with the Trans-Mississippi?

So, why have a blog on the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi? The bulk of Civil War historiography has focused on the war east of the Mississippi, but the war west of the big river has seen increasing attention in recent years. Particularly since the 1980s, historians have started to realize that even though armies and battles were of smaller size and scale in the West, it does not mean that these actions were unimportant or insignificant. There are also some interesting features to the war west of the Mississippi such as the role of Native Americans, guerrilla warfare, the role of African-American troops, refugees, the challenges of campaigning on the frontier, and operations along the Gulf Coast and the Pacific coast. Scholars have also delved into the challenges that the Trans-Mississippi Confederacy faced after the fall of Vicksburg as well as issues relating to leadership on both sides. And that is just a small sampling of topics relating to the Trans-Mississippi…

Monday, July 20, 2009


Welcome to my blog about the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi! By “Trans-Mississippi,” I mean the war west of the Mississippi River. Not only am I a native Trans-Mississippian, but I also reside here as well. My name is Jane Johansson, and I work as an associate professor of history at Rogers State University. The main campus is located in Claremore, Oklahoma, but I work seventeen miles east of there at a branch campus in Pryor. This part of northeastern Oklahoma saw quite a bit of campaigning during the war—most of the fighting in the Indian Territory occurred along or near the Military Road (also known as the Texas Road). This roughly parallels U. S. highway 69 today.

My graduate degrees were earned south of the Red River at the University of North Texas. I had the good fortune to have Dr. Richard Lowe as my advisor. He encouraged me to study a Texas unit for my dissertation, and this resulted in a study of the 28th Texas Cavalry. After graduating, I revised my dissertation into Peculiar Honor: A History of the 28th Texas Cavalry, 1862-1865 that was published by the University of Arkansas Press in 1998. I followed this up by editing the letters of Captain Theophilus Perry of the 28th Texas Cavalry and his wife, Harriet. In 2000, this was published as Widows by the Thousand: The Civil War Correspondence of Theophilus and Harriet Perry, 1862-1864. More about those books at another time!

This is my first experience at blogging so with some trepidation I am throwing my words out in cyberspace.