Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Simons: "In Their Words: A Chronology of the Civil War in Chicot County, Arkansas and Adjacent Waters of the Mississippi River"

[In Their Words: A Chronology of the Civil War in Chicot County, Arkansas and Adjacent Waters of the Mississippi River by Don Simons (Wise Publications, 2000). Softcover, maps, notes, bibliography, Pp. 202 $20.00]

In Their Words is a valuable collection of primary source materials dealing with the lesser known Civil War in southeastern Arkansas. Sprinkled with plentiful maps, photos, and drawings, the book provides a chronology of events as written in the diaries, letters, and reports of the participants—male, female, civilian and military alike. The main focus is military, though, and much of the text recalls repeated interdiction attacks by Confederate regular and guerrilla forces on both sides of the Mississippi River, and the Federal naval and land response to those attacks.

The book is organized by date with chapters on major events like the Vicksburg Campaign, Cypress Bend and Deer Creek Expeditions, Red River Campaign, Battle of Ditch Bayou, and the Bayou Bartholomew Expedition. Author Don Simons wields a very restrained [probably too much so] editorial hand, preferring to include many reports verbatim with only a few words of introduction. This is both a positive and negative depending on the reader’s expectations. While researchers will appreciate the multitude of complete primary reports from both sides covering the same action, some readers may tire of the frequent repetition and lack of narrative flow.

In sum, In Their Words is a useful assemblage of materials detailing the Civil War battles and skirmishes from a backwater front that nonetheless had a noticeable impact on the major campaigns further south. With the Civil War Arkansas literature centered in the northern sections of the state, such attention paid to the neglected southeast in much welcomed. Simons' work is impressive in the level of detail provided and is also an admirable example of local history.

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