Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Yes, Virginia there was a war west of the Mississippi."

Last week, I returned from a vacation with my mom to Antietam, Harpers Ferry, and Manassas. It had been about twenty years since I had visited these places, and I met up with a friend who had never seen them. While on the trip, though, my mom reported that a National Park Service volunteer informed her that not much had happened west of the Mississippi. Grrr. If I had heard the volunteer say that, I would have had a few things to say in response! It’s sad that myths still abound about the trans-Mississippi, but as Dr. Norman D. Brown wrote in his introduction in the 1994 reprint of The Campaigns of Walker’s Texas Division, “Yes, Virginia there was a war west of the Mississippi" (p. xxiv).

In his introduction, Brown also wrote that Confederate “Trans-Mississippi veterans actually begged for recognition” (p. vii). No doubt that was the case for Union veterans as well. Brown quotes Texas veteran W. L. Morrison who wrote the following to the Confederate Veteran magazine in 1895:

“’From reading the Veteran, one would almost conclude we had no war west of the Mississippi, while, in proportion to our numbers, we held as many Federals in check, when protecting Texas and western Louisiana, as any portion of the Confederate forces had to contend with. We also had as brave men, as noble women as ever lived on earth’” (p. viii).

Although historians have increasingly turned their attention to the trans-Mississippi, there is still much work to do. Sadly, I think if veteran Morrison were here today, he would write about the same sentiment concerning most of our contemporary Civil War magazines. 


  1. Professor: I heartily agree with you regarding the state of contemporary civil war magazines. At one time not too long ago, I subscribed to them all. Now, I am down to merely one, and when that subscription expires, I expect to let it go without renewal.

    There is simply no good reason for the editors to ignore the Trans-Mississippi theater.

    1. It's been 16 issues since B&G had a T-M feature article. I will remain as a subscriber as long as they keep it going, but it is really disappointing. That's almost 3 years.

  2. Hi Jim: Your comments are quite telling. I, too, have become increasingly disappointed by the emphasis of contemporary Civil War magazines. In the last few years, I've given several talks relating to the trans-Mississippi, and I've been impressed by how interested audiences are in the war west of Mississippi, an interest that does indeed seem to be ignored for the most part by magazine publishers. I certainly agree with you that there is no valid reason to overlook the trans-Mississippi.