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.

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