Monday, December 17, 2012

Banasik, ed.: "CONFEDERATE "TALES OF THE WAR" IN THE TRANS-MISSISSIPPI, Part Three: 1863"

[Confederate "Tales of the War" in the Trans-Mississippi, Part Three: 1863 edited by Michael Banasik (Camp Pope Publishing, 2012). Softcover, illustrations, maps, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. 244 pp. ISBN: 978-1-929919-45-1 $17.95]

Tales of the War, Part 3
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For those unfamiliar with it, Confederate "Tales of the War" in the Trans-Mississippi, Part Three is the latest release from a sub-series of titles together comprising Volume VII of Camp Pope's Unwritten Chapters of the Civil War West of the River series. "Tales of the War" were 94 St. Louis Missouri Republican newspaper articles written by participants of both sides, appearing in the paper over a two year period. Writings cover both the Trans-Mississippi and western theaters, and editor Michael Banasik has assembled the T-M related pieces in yearly volumes [Confederate articles are compiled for Parts 1 (1861), 2 (1862), and 3 (1863), with 4 combining the last two years of the war. From there, the Union volumes will appear].

Part Three: 1863 actually starts out in late 1862 with the December Raid on Van Buren, Arkansas. Several pieces cover the retreat to Little Rock and garrison life in the capital, as well as the Battle of Arkansas Post in January. Summer operations by Walker's Texas Division against Grant's lines of communication in NE Louisiana, with skirmishes at places like Delphi and Richmond, are also touched upon. Several articles reminisce about the Battle of Helena (July 4), the Little Rock Campaign, and the Marmaduke-Walker duel that resulted in the death of the latter. The tales end with the Battle of Pine Bluff (October 25). Of added value is the consideration that most of these events are only lightly covered in the secondary literature.

As with any collection, the writings vary in length, detail, and accuracy. Some individuals (e.g. Henry Luttrell, Silas Turnbo, James Grubbs, and James McNamara) were multiple contributors, with Turnbo (the oft cited chronicler of the 27th Arkansas) among those featuring particularly useful content. The passages are extensively footnoted from a variety of sources. Especially for the "tales" describing skirmishes and battles, these notes often comprise something of a parallel narrative, cobbled together from the best available material. Differences in interpretation and factual errors in the original texts are duly noted. The sheer amount of information contained in the notes is immense. In contrast to the famous Battles and Leaders collection, "Tales of the War" contributors were typically of much lower military rank, with a corresponding difference in perspective.

Similar to previous volumes in the series, the appendices in Part Three comprise a delightful range of biographical information, official correspondence, numbers data, and ephemera. In this section, there's a fine organizational and command history of the infantry, artillery, and mounted units that made up Parsons's Missouri brigade. The unit composition of Walker's Texas Division is listed, but much more detailed (in terms of numerical effectives, casualties, etc.) are orders of battle for Confederate forces that fought at Helena and Pine Bluff. In addition to far surpassing the typical Civil War OB in terms of information provided, sources and methodology are also documented. The only complaints I have with the volume are the frequency of typos and the wish for a more robust index.

Confederate "Tales of the War" in the Trans-Mississippi, Part Three is yet another important contribution to the Civil War scholarship of this theater. Whichever role one occupies -- scholar, researcher, dedicated enthusiast, or even casual reader -- there is a great deal of substantive material of all kinds available in the book. At the conclusion of each and every volume of this wonderful series, one's thoughts immediate turn in anticipation toward the next.


Also See:
Confederate "Tales of the War" in the Trans-Mississippi, Part One: 1861
Confederate "Tales of the War" in the Trans-Mississippi, Part Two: 1862


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