Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Proclamation

"By The President Of The United States Of America.

A Proclamation

The year that is drawing toward its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward, Secretary of State”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More Research Ideas and Some Thoughts on Primary Sources

Drew Wagenhoffer has posted a great interview with Dr. Daniel E. Sutherland on his blog, Civil War Books and Authors. The interview is about Dr. Sutherland’s recent book, A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War. In my last post, I suggested some ideas for future studies relating to the trans-Mississippi; additional comments were posted with great ideas for other research topics. In the interview, Dr. Sutherland suggested that more “micro-studies” of guerrilla groups are needed along with more studies of “local wars.” Those themes open up even more avenues for research and writing on events west of the Mississippi.

Occasionally, I hear scholars or members of the general public bemoan the lack of primary sources relating to the trans-Mississippi. I think that for the most part this is a research myth. It is true that it is difficult to find materials on certain topics. I uncovered few resources relating to the 28th Texas Cavalry, for example, but this is a problem not confined to the trans-Mississippi. For several years, I did much research on the Adams-Gibson Louisiana brigade that served in the Army of Tennessee and found a dearth of resources on the 13th Louisiana Infantry and the 30th Louisiana Infantry. My understanding is that primary sources are very limited for some of the units that served in the Army of Northern Virginia, and I suspect the same is true for a number of Union regiments. I think a rich array of primary sources awaits scholars on a variety of significant trans-Mississippi topics. Dr. Shea spoke to these themes in my interview with him, and he noted the incredible number of primary sources uncovered during his research on the Prairie Grove campaign. Hopefully scholars will take up the trans-Mississippi challenge; in the process I think they will find some fascinating, and virtually untapped, documents to examine.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Wish List

This may come as a shock to some of you, but I have been a long time subscriber of The Gettysburg Magazine. I rarely get behind reading this magazine since it only is published twice a year. In a recent issue, editor Andy Turner advertised a forthcoming publication titled the Gettysburg Campaign Atlas and done by the magazine’s cartographer, Philip Laino. Now, I am a sucker for atlases and decided that I could afford the $34.00 pre-publication price. The atlas arrived in the mail this week. It is a large spiral-bound tome that contains 421 maps depicting the entire campaign. My initial reaction is that it is an impressive accomplishment, but I admit to some irritation after looking at the book. Why don’t scholars devote more attention to the trans-Mississippi? And that leads neatly to the comment that Vicki Betts posted earlier this evening. She asked what works I would like to see published on the trans-Mississippi, and what follows is my wish list as of right now.

The following is in no particular order:

How about an atlas on the Red River Campaign? I think that seeing 421 well-done maps on that campaign, or even 221 maps would be quite a treat.

And speaking of atlases, how about an atlas devoted just to actions in the trans-Mississippi? Don’t you get tired of Civil War atlases whose western boundary is the eastern part of the Indian Territory or worse yet, Arkansas?

Logistics were of supreme importance in the trans-Mississippi. I want to know all about the movement of supplies to and from Fort Scott, Kansas. And how were Confederate forces sustained? In Dr. Shea’s recent book about the Prairie Grove campaign he states, “Contrary to myth, the trans-Mississippi Confederacy received few manufactured goods by way of blockade-running in the western Gulf of Mexico. Nearly all factory-made items, whether firearms from Britain or footwear from Georgia, reached Arkansas via the railhead and waterfront at Vicksburg. As the war progressed, however, the presence of Union gunboats on the Mississippi severed the direct connection between Vicksburg and Little Rock. The Confederates established an indirect connection through Louisiana via the Ouachita River, but the route was longer, slower, and less reliable. By the fall of 1862 the arrival of any shipment from the eastern Confederacy was cause for celebration in Arkansas and the Indian Territory” (p. 82). I’d like to see a scholarly study on logistics and the trans-Mississippi Confederacy; what supply routes were developed? How were they sustained? What supplies actually reached Confederate troops?

Have you noticed that almost every book on the trans-Mississippi highlights civilians in some way? Civilians provided supplies (whether willingly or unwillingly), and they often were caught up in guerrilla warfare as well as the struggle between the armies. Many became refugees. More scholarly studies on their plight as well as their importance would be useful.

I’m beginning to sense that I could go on and on… For now, I will just mention one more wish list item. I am waiting for a scholarly study of the war on the Pacific Coast. My impression is that some fascinating events occurred along the Pacific Coast during the war, particularly in California.

What would you like to see added to the list?

And thank you, Vicki, for suggesting the topic of this posting!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Supplies from Fort Scott

Trans-Mississippi soldiers, such as those in the 28th Texas, operated in a region that was, for the most part, still a frontier. Supplying armies west of the Mississippi was particularly challenging, and the diaries and letters kept by soldiers there reflect a deep and abiding interest in supplies. Union soldiers operating in the border region along the Kansas/Missouri and Indian Territory/Arkansas lines were quite dependent on supplies from Fort Scott in Kansas. Wiley Britton in Memoirs of the Rebellion on the Border: 1863 wrote from the northeastern part of the Indian Territory, “It takes from five to seven days for a train to come down from Fort Scott, the distance being about one hundred and twenty-five miles” (p. 92). In the spring of 1863, Confederate forces attempted to destroy one of the wagon trains from Fort Scott, and Britton noted “Had they succeeded in capturing or burning the train, we should have been obliged to abandon this post, as we could have issued full rations only for a day or so longer. Indeed, of some articles we have already been obliged to issue less than the full allowance. This country could afford no subsistence, except fresh beef; and all our other supplies would be exhausted before we reached the Kansas line” (p. 271).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Colonel Horace Randal

Horace Randal, a 1854 graduate of the United State Military Academy, was the first commander of the 28th Texas Cavalry, a unit that authorities dismounted after only a few months of service. Before commanding the 28th Texas, he served for a time in Virginia on General Gustavus Woodson Smith’s staff. A fellow staff officer, John Cheves Haskell, wrote in a postwar memoir: “He [Randal] was a classmate of Stuart at West Point, but had more physical dash than Stuart. His other classmates, Hood among them, always predicted that he would be the cavalry leader of the war if he got a chance.” Randal went on to command an infantry brigade in Walker’s Texas Division and fell mortally wounded at the battle of Jenkins’ Ferry on 30 April 1864. Randall County, Texas, is named for him.

This prewar photograph of Horace Randal and his wife [probably his first wife Julia Bassett] is from the Special Collections Division of the U.S.M.A. Library at West Point, New York.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Prairie Grove book available

This is a particularly difficult part of the fall semester--lots of papers to grade, meetings to attend, and other professorial duties. My morale was boosted yesterday when I received my copy of Dr. William Shea's new book, Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign, a recent selection of the History Book Club. The book looks just as great as I had anticipated, and I was able to start reading it yesterday. If you haven't done so yet, scroll down and read the interview with Professor Shea.