Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Great Cast Of Characters

Recently, I read Albert Castel’s book, Civil War Kansas: Reaping The Whirlwind and found it to be a well-rounded account of that troubled place. My copy of the book is a reprint edition published by the University Press of Kansas in 1997, and it is notable for its new preface penned by the author. Castel explains that he did most of the research for his dissertation (the basis for the book) in the fall of 1954. He lived at the YMCA in Topeka while doing most of his research, and he discusses his long days reading documents and taking notes. Researchers of that era certainly had many challenges due to the absence of photocopiers and personal computers.

If you have never read Civil War Kansas then I heartily recommend that you pick up a copy sometime. It is of reasonable length (232 pages of text), is well written, and presents a colorful cast of characters and events. In those 232 pages of text, I do not believe that Castel once described a person of integrity. James G. Blunt, D. R. Anthony, Thomas Carney, Marshall Cleveland, Charles R. Jennison, James H. Lane, Samuel C. Pomeroy, Sterling Price, William C. Quantrill, Charles Robinson, John M. Schofield—all were men of sometimes startling character flaws. Castel does not shy away from discussing corruption, jayhawking, and unseemly political fights. Military events are featured as well with chapters devoted to Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence and Price’s Missouri Raid.

Civil War Kansas does a good job of reminding readers that the Civil War era was an incredibly tumultuous period.

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