Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Haimerl: "Clarkson's Battalion C.S.A.: A Brief History and Roster"

The recent publication of a well researched history of Clarkson's Battalion is a pleasant surprise, one most welcome to Trans-Mississippi theater enthusiasts for sure. What makes the appearance of this history all the more unusual is the relative obscurity of the unit and scarcity of source material; the brief period of its existence (approximately 8 months); and the unremarkability of its battlefield record. One may ask 'why bother then?', but what author David Haimerl provides us in addition to the unit history is a lens through which we can examine the broader conflict in the region where Missouri, Arkansas, and the Indian Territory meet.

Clarkson's Battalion C.S.A.: A Brief History and Roster (Independence, MO: Two Trails Publishing, 2005. Illustrated, maps, notes, rosters, appendices, bibliography, paperback, pp. 228) has a dual focus. Researchers and geneologists will find the highly detailed rosters and appendices--which constitute the second half the book--very useful. The organizational and military history of the battalion itself, along with short bios and other pertinent information about its officers and men, comprise the book's first half. All of this is incorporated into a larger account of the Civil War (from 1861 through 1862) in the area mentioned above, which also includes a discussion of the roles of the various Indian groups in the military organizations and planning of each side.

The first Union Indian expedition, which resulted in the surprise and scattering of Clarkson's Battalion (and the capture of Col. J.J. Clarkson himself) at Locust Grove, is covered in detail. The peripheral role of the battalion remnants (now under Michael Buster) during the Battle of Newtonia is also mentioned. Finally, Haimerl constructs a very nice capsule history of the Battle of Old Fort Wayne, a Confederate defeat with important consequences for the later Prairie Grove campaign. (see Michael Banasik's Embattled Arkansas for additional information for this period)

The book's maps are numerous and, for the most part, very helpful. The author places all relevant units (ranging in size from companies to brigades) on operational maps covering wide swaths of the Indian Territory and SW Missouri/NW Arkansas. Although of interest in and of themselves, these visual aids supplement the text very well and the map of the battlefield at Old Fort Wayne is the best I've come across. I also have a deep appreciation for Mr. Haimerl's emphasis on providing the reader with accurate and detailed orders of battle. The thoughtful inclusion of unit strengths in the text and appendices is an added bonus.

Examination of the notes and bibliography reveals the author has consulted an array of primary and secondary materials and has uncovered a number of unpublished sources. Considering how often it was cited, one of the most significant appears to be the Peter W. Alexander papers from the Rare Book and Manuscript division at Columbia University in NY.

Trans-Mississippi theater enthusiasts of all stripes will benefit from reading this book. Beyond a number of typos and similar editing flaws, the only significant complaint I have with Clarkson's Battalion is the same problem I have with all of the Two Trails publications I've encountered, namely a somewhat substandard production quality. However, I wouldn't recommend that this deter any interested reader from purchasing this well-researched and and very informative book.

1 comment:

  1. Drew,

    I can't thank you enough for recommending this one. I would have never bought this on my own, and it definitely will add to my understanding of the Trans-Mississippi in 1862. The maps are excellent, and the author seems to share my love of unit strengths as well. This is a good one for those interested in the Trans-Mississippi Theater, especially wargamers.

    Brett

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