Confederate Generals in the Trans-Mississippi: Essays on America's Civil War. Vol. 1. Edited by Lawrence Lee Hewitt with Arthur W. Bergeron Jr. and Thomas E. Schott. Illustrated, photos, maps, notes, bibliography, index, 328 pp., 2013, Tennessee, www.utpress.org, $54.95.
General students of the Civil War think of the Trans-Mississippi theater as the dumping ground for failed generals from the other theaters.This series of essays though attempts to show that there were quite a few really good Trans-Mississippi generals.It follows in the steps of the three volumes previously done on Western theater Confederate generals which helped illuminate some of the lesser known characters of the war.
The Confederate generals covered in this volume are a mixture of the well known, such as Thomas C Hindman, Theophilus H Holmes, Edmund Kirby Smith, Joseph Orville Shelby, and John S Marmaduke. And then covers others that are only familiar to more serious students of this far flung theater, commanders like Mosby Monroe Parsons, Thomas James Churchill, and Tom Green.
One of my favorite essays was the one on Parsons, a general I knew little about beforehand.Parsons comes off as one of the better combat brigadier generals in the entire Trans-Mississippi.My only complaint with the essay is that it is only the first half of the story. Parsons’ career as a division commander in 1864 is promised to be one of the essays whenever volume two comes out. I enjoyed this essay so much that I will probably go straight to the second half of the story when the next volume comes out, no matter if its chapter one or eight.
Another essay I enjoyed was Churchill’s, primarily because he is another general I was not well acquainted with.His generalship comes off as a mixed bag.He had some bright moments but also made his share of mistakes.He also had the bad luck of being in command at Arkansas Post when a much larger Union force attacked him.There was little he could have done to win the battle but the surrender was still a stain on his reputation.
I personally would have enjoyed more essays on the lesser known generals but also appreciate that having a mixture of spectrum makes the overall book a more balanced contribution to the theater’s literature.
One strength of the collection is that all the essays are recent contributions to the field.None of the essays are reprints of something done 40 years ago. This does not always mean its 100% original as some of these authors have covered similar ground in other books and articles but its at least recent scholarship.For the price I’m glad that none of the essays is from a book I could have read decades ago.
I think this would be a very worthy addition to anyone’s Trans-Mississippi bookshelf or could be the starting point for someone to begin their journey into this previously neglected theater.