Reiterating Ed Bearss's lament in the foreword of "A Rough Introduction to This Sunny Land", truly useful diary accounts written by Trans-Mississippi soldiers (especially private soldiers) are relatively few in number, and rarely published. Thus, editor Tom Wing and the Butler Center deserve praise for bringing Private Strong's journal to the printed page.
With one notable exception, most of Henry Strong's wartime service was confined to the Fort Smith environs. Formed in September 1862, the 12th Kansas would spend its entire term of volunteer infantry service in the Trans-Mississippi theater. Private Strong's diary begins in earnest in October of 1863. Soon after, he and his regiment would travel south through western Missouri before finally arriving at Fort Smith, Arkansas at the end of the year. In early 1864, Strong's unit participated in the Camden expedition wing of the Red River Campaign, returning to Fort Smith at its conclusion. The rest of the war was spent doing garrison duty and conducting various expeditions of brief duration in the NW Arkansas area.
Strong's journal entries are very regular and vary in length. These daily impressions can be several paragraphs in size, but most comprise only a handful of sentences. Individually specialized interests, such as thoughtful ruminations on nature, politics, or curious descriptions of local flora and fauna, often characterize the writing of Civil War diarists. In Strong's case, in addition to his general observations, he faithfully and precisely notes all distances covered. Reading the diary, one also gets a clear idea of just how rugged western Arkansas was for military campaigning, and the character of the fighting [lots of darting raids and bushwhacking].
Editor Tom Wing's footnotes provide useful background information about individuals, places, and events mentioned in the diary. In several instances, excerpts from official reports were included as supplementary materials. The notes also point the interested reader toward related books and articles. "A Rough Introduction to This Sunny Land" is recommended reading for students of the Trans-Mississippi, especially for those whose Civil War research interests encompass the wild and comparatively neglected region surrounding Fort Smith, Arkansas.