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!


  1. Savas-Beatie recently mentioned some plans to include T-M battles in future atlas volumes.

    Also, a few years back one of the reviewer bios in an issue of Blue & Grey mentioned the writer was working on a history of the Army of the Pacific. Unfortunately, I've heard nothing since.

  2. Here is my list:

    1. A study of Price's Missouri Raid from the planning stages to the Court of Inquiry.
    2. A biography of Gen. Samuel Curtis.
    3. A full account of the Seige of Lexington.
    4. A discourse on soldiering in the TM Dept.

    I could go one and on.

  3. Just consider this a *first* reply... ;-)

    1. A book length study of the effect of the war on the women in Texas, and the effect of women on the war. A month or so ago I was approached about writing the Civil War chapter on a new book on Texas women. After some consideration I turned it down. First, my history degree is just a B.A., but second, I didn't see how I could do justice to all of the different experiences of Texas women in 40 pages double-spaced including endnotes. Just think--black/white, free/slave, rich/poor, refugees in/out, urban/rural/frontier, Anglo/German/Hispanic, pro-Union/pro-Confederate, actively supporting the cause/begging husbands to come home. Everyone from Kate Stone to Sally Scull to Lottie Effnor to Eva Lancaster to Mary Maverick to the Choctaw women refugees in Rusk County to Britt Johnson's wife captured during the Elm Creek Raid. When I turned down the proposal I suggested Angela Boswell (Her Act and Deed) and Paul Mitchell Marks (Hands to the Spindle and When Will the Weary War Be Over). Both were committed to other chapters, and the last I heard they were discussing splitting up the CW chapter between them. Who else would do it? Whenever Alwyn Barr does a CW historiography he says more needs to be done with the women of Texas.

    2. Shorter perhaps but in-depth community studies similar to Campbell's Southern Community in Crisis for Marshall, Texas. Just working through the Citizens and Business File and the Confederate Officers File in looking for Texas paperwork, I can see possibilities for more work on San Antonio, Houston/Galveston, Hempstead, Huntsville, Jefferson, El Paso, and Bonham. I can definitely see a new edition of my now dated book on Tyler. I've seen an old masters thesis on San Antonio in the war, but it barely touched the surface. Once we have representative micro-histories it should be easier to get an accurate feel for the war years (include Reconstruction as the "long war" if you like) for the wider geographic area. Texas is too large to make broad conclusions based on one or two locales.

    3. Camp Ford. Okay, a local friend of mine keeps promising to put together the definitive (so far) work on Camp Ford, but I suspect that at some point that filing cabinet will appear on my doorstep. One recent idea was taking three short overlapping prisoner journals, putting them into one book to show the entire life of the prison camp, and editing them well.

    4. I agree with taking a look at the supply situation in the Trans-Mississippi. I just ran across a late 1864-Jan 1865 listing of all of the clothing issued to most of the troops stationed in Texas. How many of the uniforms were made in either Huntsville or Houston with penitentiary cloth? It doesn't say. What was the state of the "military industrial complex" in the Trans-Miss at various dates through the war? Any way to get at the impact of impressment of animals, wagons, tools, raw materials?

    5. The impact of the Red River Campaign on the area from Mansfield on down, short term and long term. You don't get called a burned district for nothing.

    I'll start with those. Yes, none of these are directly battle related, but I figure others will have that area covered.

    Thanks for picking this up as a topic! Now if faculty members, grad students, independent researchers, and publishers will just take notice.

    Vicki Betts

  4. Of course I forgot one of my main topics, or rather formats. More, more, more Trans-Miss diaries, journals, reminiscences, and letter sets, well edited. Men or women, civilian or military, but with a primary emphasis on what's happening in the Trans-Miss states and territories.

    Vicki Betts

  5. You're going to get tired of hearing from me....but speaking of atlases, yesterday I was looking at the file of the quartermaster at Rusk, Texas, and he included a map of SE Texas, spring 1864, in which he shows the courier lines he established using Border's Battalion which was stationed along the Sabine River. He marks the ferries, the towns, the routes, and the distances. He was concerned that the federals retreating from Mansfield and Pleasant Hill would take a stand at Natchitoches or Alexandria and use those towns as bases from which to launch raids. He wanted to get any news of a westward movement as soon as possible.

    Vicki Betts

  6. I think that all of the research ideas mentioned by Jim and Vicki sound like wonderful topics. Now, we just need to round up some historians to work on these! I do hope that some graduate students see these ideas as some of them sound like potential thesis or even dissertation topics. And that's great news, Drew, that Savas-Beatie is considering some Trans-Mississippi topics for their atlas series.

  7. I was interested in your comment, "The Confederates established an indirect connection through Louisiana via the Ouachita River, but the route was longer, slower, and less reliable." That brings me to my wishlist request, Northeast Louisiana. Although not a hotbed of battle by any means, with Kirby Smith in Shreveport to the west and Vicksburg nearby to the east, the Teche and Red River capaigns to the South and the Arkansas campaigns on the North, Monroe and Camp Trenton on the west side of the Ouachita became a transportation and training hub. I have been searching for a while for sources on the area almost without success. Monroe came under bombardment, at least twice, from Union gunboats on the Ouachita and Federal infantry out of Mississippi at least once, yet there are no markers or historical preservation sites that I've been able to find. Maybe another suggestion for a grad student looking for something different?

  8. I agree with you that not much has been written on the war in northeastern Louisiana. Dr. Donald Frazier's next book (due out in 2010) will deal with the war along the west bank of the Mississippi in the spring of 1863 so that will focus some attention on the conflict in northeastern Louisiana. Thanks for bringing up another potential research topic!