Civil War Texas students have been treated to several first quality essay compilations within the past fifteen years. Ralph A. Wooster's Lone Star Blue and Gray: Essays on Texas in the Civil War (Texas State Historical Association) was published in 1995, and last year historian Charles Grear and Univ. of Arkansas Press released The Fate of Texas: The Civil War and the Lone Star State. Kenneth W. Howell's work on The Seventh Star of the Confederacy: Texas During the Civil War was concurrent with Grear's, and in turns out the two volumes complement each other quite well. While Grear, who contributed an essay to Howell's newly published book, focused his study's attention away from the battlefield, the seventeen essays assembled by Howell are finely balanced, almost equally divided between the military and socio-political arenas.
The first three essays -- Alwyn Barr's evaluation of the recent literature's scholarly impact, Archie McDonald's broad outline of the Civil War in the state, and James Smallwood's summarization of the Texas secession movement -- together form a good introduction for newer readers and a solid refresher for others.
One of the more educational specialized essays is Linda Hudson's study of the military First Degree Knights of the Knights of the Golden Circle. Long assuming the Knights were more of a shadowy organization, I was surprised at the scale and openness of the KGC's influence in Texas military and political spheres. Several of the military themed articles are also useful adjuncts to excellent book length studies. John Gorman's examination of enlistment patterns in the frontier units dovetails nicely with David Paul Smith's Frontier Defense in the Civil War: Texas' Rangers and Rebels (TAMU, 2002). Similarly, Donald Willett's account of the brief Union occupation of Galveston expands upon a segment of Edward Cotham's earlier work which emphasized the Confederate recapture of the port.
The military coverage is unusually comprehensive for an essay compilation, with only slight overlap. Mary Jo O'Rear writes about the August 10, 1862 Confederate attack on pro-Union German settlers at the Nueces River. Edward Cotham examines the course of Union failure to subdue the state, while concentrating on Sabine Pass. One of the best military articles was penned by Charles Spurlin. Beginning with the securing of the Rio Grande river mouth, his essay details the Union advance north along the Texas coastline, ending at Matagorda Island. Charles Grear's glimpse into the nature of the cooperation between Indian and Confederate forces was intriguing, leaving me with the desire to learn more*. Attitudes of Confederate Indians toward the Union's black troops and Confederate regard for their Indian allies forms a fascinating triangular relationship worthy of further study. Finally, Gary Joiner writes about the contributions of Texas cavalry to Confederate success in the 1864 Red River Campaign.
Smallwood's second article deals with Camp Ford, a Confederate training camp that later became their largest POW camp in the Trans-Mississippi. Other chapters provide the reader with a brief analytical overview of the effectiveness of Texas's wartime governors, a look at the public assistance program the state provided for soldier families, and snapshots of the lives of black slaves during and after the war as related through interviews and literature review. Additionally, while much of the economic oriented Civil War writing dealing with the Lone Star State focuses on the cross border cotton trade, the article in Howell's book instead delves into beef contracting. Finally, Bill Stein's contribution to Howell's book looks at wartime dissent in Colorado County and the government's response.
As one can see, the scope of The Seventh Star of the Confederacy is broad reaching. With its sweeping coverage of military, political, economic, and social issues and subjects, there's something new for scholars and interested readers of all stripes. This is the best Texas Civil War essay compilation I've encountered. Highly recommended.
* Grear is working on a book length treatment that will do just that, titled Fighting Alongside Confederate Indians: A History of Gano's Brigade in the Civil War (McWhiney Foundation Press, forthcoming).
Other Civil War Books and Authors reviews of Univ. of N. Texas Press titles:
* Texas Civil War Artifacts: A Photographic Guide to the Physical Culture of Texas Civil War Soldiers
* Spartan Band: Burnett’s 13th Texas Cavalry in the Civil War
* The Fate of Texas: The Civil War and the Lone Star State
* Frontier Defense in the Civil War: Texas' Rangers and Rebels
* Battle on the Bay: The Civil War Struggle for Galveston
* Sabine Pass : The Confederacy's Thermopylae
* Through the Howling Wilderness: The 1864 Red River Campaign and Union Failure in the West