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[Confederate "Tales of the War" in the Trans-Mississippi, Part One: 1861 edited by Michael E. Banasik (Camp Pope Publishing, 2010). Softcover, 5 maps, photos, illustrations, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. 230 Pages. ISBN: 978-1-929919-22-2 $17.95]
Confederate "Tales of the War" in the Trans-Mississippi is the seventh volume in Camp Pope Publishing's1 landmark Unwritten Chapters of the Civil War West of the River series (edited by Michael Banasik). Volume VII also serves as the beginning of a sub-series comprised of Civil War reminiscences published by the newspaper Missouri Republican (St. Louis) between 1885 and 18872. It compiles Trans-Mississippi theater writings dealing only with 1861 events penned by Confederates and members of the pro-Confederate Missouri State Guard.
The focus of the articles is on military and political persons and events (with heavy emphasis on battles). Some are defensive in tone and others are corrective, and there's a good combination of personal perspective along with the desire to engage other accounts in order to promote a more accurate (in their view) overall picture of events.
Multiple perspectives on the Dug Springs, Wilson's Creek (Oak Hills), "Zagyoni's Charge", Belmont, Salem, and Mt. Zion Church battles are offered by men of all ranks, and many of the writings are quite detailed. Belmont is heavily represented, but the Wilson's Creek material occupies the greatest amount of space, and the compilation will be especially helpful for those readers interested in the actions and whereabouts of units and individuals during the hard fought battle's opening moments. Also, many of the pieces are from Missouri State Guard officers, making them important source material for those researching the military history of that understudied militia organization.
Editor Michael Banasik's explanatory footnotes are drawn from multiple sources, and are noteworthy for their depth in background, context, and analysis. The small scale tactical overviews and the biographical sketches (of both famous and obscure figures) that are contained in these notes are immensely useful products of deep research. By piecing together the former, one can gain an excellent overall understanding of the historical course of the battle. Having this all laid out promotes a much deeper appreciation by the reader of the strengths and deficiencies of the original writer's understanding of events. The illuminating synergy of notes and text is perhaps best exemplified in the sections on Zagyoni's Charge, Salem, and Mt. Zion Church, all of which present obscure and/or controversial events in a readily comprehensible fashion.
The maps are a mixture of previously published and author-created line drawings. Although not quite as extensive as those found in previous volumes, the appendices provide additional material in the way of biographies, some official correspondence, a casualty list, and a listing of 1861 "Tales of the War" pieces either not used or previously published elsewhere. A bibliography and index complete the work.
Volume VII is yet another groundbreaking addition to a mature series of great value to the historiography of the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi theater. Michael Banasik has outdone himself yet again with his skillful and generous editorial handiwork. Highly recommended.
1 - This volume was still printed under the Press of the Camp Pope Bookshop label.
2 - Originally published in the Missouri Republican on Saturdays, there are 94 newspaper pieces in all. II and III will cover Confederate writings from 1862-1865, and later volumes will include those from Union participants.