Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Book's Descendants

It’s interesting to observe a book’s influence on other scholars. A good example relates to Texas unit histories in recent years. We’ll start with the “granddaddy,” Douglas Hale’s The Third Texas Cavalry in the Civil War (1993). Dr. Hale wrote only one Civil War book, but so far it has directly influenced the writing of at least five other books—quite a record! His approach wedded a traditional narrative with a demographic and socioeconomic profile of the unit’s soldiers. His approach yielded some fascinating information about the men of the 3rd Texas so it is no wonder that other historians also used the technique.
As I looked for a dissertation topic while a student at the University of North Texas, my advisor, Dr. Richard Lowe, suggested doing a unit history. He also showed me two earlier articles about the 3rd Texas Cavalry written by Dr. Hale. Hale’s quantitative research fascinated me, and I also realized that I could take my research findings and compare them not only to Hale’s work but also to studies of the Texas population as a whole done by Dr. Lowe and Dr. Randolph B. Campbell. For those who are interested these studies are Wealth and Power in Antebellum Texas (1977) and Planters & Plain Folk: Agriculture in Antebellum Texas (1987). My search for a unit led me to the 28th Texas Cavalry, like the 3rd Texas a primarily east Texas regiment. Unlike the 3rd, the 28th Texas served throughout its career in the trans-Mississippi as part of Walker’s Texas Division. My dissertation was completed in 1993, with the revision published as Peculiar Honor: A History of the 28th Texas Cavalry, 1862-1865 (1998). 
In the mid-1990s, Dr. Lowe served as an advisor to John D. Perkins who followed the Hale model in his study of a Texas artillery battery that served in Walker’s Texas Division. Perkins’ thesis was published as Daniel’s Battery: The Ninth Texas Field Battery (1998).

Dr. Lowe used the Hale model to study a much larger military unit: an entire division. Walker’s Texas Division, C. S. A.: Greyhounds Of The Trans-Mississippi (2004) used quantitative sampling that in part derived from data from my study and Perkins’ history.

Thomas Reid, a graduate of Lamar University, used a similar approach in his Spartan Band: Burnett’s 13th Texas Cavalry in the Civil War (2005); the 13th also served in Walker’s Texas Division. In his acknowledgements, Reid mentioned that Dr. Lowe allowed him “to review a draft of his now published Walker’s Texas Division: Greyhound of he Trans-Mississippi during the time I was completing my final revisions” (p. vii). His book was also then much influenced by Dr. Hale’s approach.

Most recently, John R. Lundberg in Granbury’s Texas Brigade: Diehard Western Confederates (2012) continues on by creating a narrative coupled with a socioeconomic and demographic sampling. By now, there is quite of bit of quantitative data concerning Texas soldiers, and Lundberg includes a socioeconomic profile table comparing Granbury’s brigade with the 3rd Texas Cavalry, the 13th Texas Cavalry, the 28th Texas Cavalry, and Walker’s Texas Division.
Thanks to Douglas Hale and his scholar disciples, several Texas units have been thoroughly analyzed yielding a wealth of important data. Each of us have collected similar data and yet each of us have presented the data in their own style. What book will be next in the family tree?


  1. Excellent post. Clearly, unit histories are still contributing to our scholarly knowledge of the Civil War, despite what some historians believe.

  2. Well, I certainly am a believer in the value of regimental histories! I first became interested in regimental histories while reading Bruce Catton's Army of the Potomac trilogy. It interested me that he relied so much on that genre to present the soldier point of view. There are still so many regiments (and batteries) that are deserving of a history--my hope is that someday each of those will have a worthy chronicler.