Monday, October 10, 2011

Banasik (ed.): "CONFEDERATE 'TALES OF THE WAR' IN THE TRANS-MISSISSIPPI PART TWO 1862"

Confederate Tales of the War Part  2

[Confederate "Tales of the War" Part 2 edited by Michael E. Banasik (Camp Pope Publishing). Softcover, 5 maps, illustrations, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. 244 Pp. ISBN:978-1-929919-36-9 $17.95]

Between 1885 and 1887, the St. Louis newspaper Missouri Republican published a series of 94 wartime reminiscences, both Union and Confederate. Michael Banasik has collected these pieces for a sub-series of books comprising Volume VII of Camp Pope Publishing's Unwritten Chapters of the Civil War West of the River series. Part 1, released in 2010, dealt with Missouri's war in 1861. This new volume, Confederate "Tales of the War" in the Trans-Mississippi, Part 2 covers 1862, focusing on participant accounts of the battles of Pea Ridge, Lone Jack, and Prairie Grove (with others covering events such as the Horse Creek fight in Missouri and the Palmyra Massacre). Future volumes will cover the 1863-65 period, as well as contributions to the newspaper series from Union soldiers.

The reminiscences collected by Banasik vary greatly in length and detail.  One of the best pieces contained in Part 2 is artilleryman Hunt P. Wilson's Pea Ridge narrative. He provides useful information about the positions and movements of the guns on the Confederate army's left flank during both days.  The most entertaining piece, delightful in its sarcastic charm, is Dewitt C. Hunter's point by point refutation of Sidney D. Jackman's account of the Battle of Lone Jack. Marveling at how many times Jackman used the pronoun "I" in his narrative, Hunter thereafter refers to Jackman only as "I Did."  Jackman's self-serving critique was also not appreciated by other participants, with Henry Luttrell, Col. John C. Tracy, and Granville C. Bowen directing a similar amount of dismay toward the apparent untruths of many of Jackman's assertions.

In his role as editor, Michael Banasik puts all of the Missouri Republican contributions under the microscope. In addition to providing source information and further insights into the background of persons, places, and events mentioned in the text, his notes examine the merits of participant claims based on the available body of evidence.  The research material amassed by Bansik for this process is satisfyingly deep, composed of a well balanced mix of manuscripts, government documents, books, articles, pamphlets, and newspapers.

Given how poorly regarded General Sterling Price is by modern scholars, it is noteworthy that essentially no serious criticism of the famous Missourian is entertained by the sometimes contentious "Tales of the War" writers. Perhaps like R.E. Lee, the popular "Old Pap" was a bit of a hands off figure among ex-Confederates in the late 19th century period.  On the other hand, Price's military reputation suffered greatest during the second half of the war, the subject of future volumes.

One of the greatest assets of Part 2 is Banasik's extensively documented Confederate order of battle for Pea Ridge. Unlike previous efforts, this one makes a solid attempt to provide accurate numbers of effectives for each unit. Banasik also seeks to correct the record on the numbers and types of guns attached to each battery.  The footnotes offer source information and methodological data. They also note where the editor's research and conclusions frequently conflict with those of William Shea and Earl Hess, whose OB from their definitive study Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West is widely regarded as the best to date. Other appendices offer mini-biographies of figures mentioned in the text (a staple of the series), a small collection of correspondence and orders from 1862, a list of executions from Kirksville and Palmyra, and an index of Confederate "Tales of the War" pieces focused beyond the Trans-Mississippi theater (and thus not used). Finally, Sidney Jackman's 1885 Missouri Republican Lone Jack battle account (referenced above) is reproduced in its entirety as an appendix.

Michael Banasik's collection and editing of Confederate newspaper reminiscences, as well as his thoughtful selection of enormously useful supplemental material, in Confederate "Tales of the War" Part 2 comprise yet another important contribution to the historiography of the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi theater. One greatly looks forward to future volumes from this highly recommended series.

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