Monday, December 09, 2013

Delaney: "THE MALTBY BROTHERS' CIVIL WAR"

[The Maltby Brothers' Civil War by Norman C. Delaney (Texas A&M University Press, 2013). Hardcover, 2 maps, photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:208/245. ISBN:978-1-62349-025-6 $32.95]

For Jasper, Henry, and William Maltby, the Civil War truly was brother vs. brother, though theirs was considerably less bitterly contested than some. All Ohio-born Democrats, Henry and William migrated to Texas during the 1850s where they worked together as newspapermen, while Jasper settled in Galena, Illinois as a respected gunsmith.  Their parents remained in Ohio during the war, initially shunning their wayward Confederate sons but eventually reconciling with and even joining the younger Maltbys in Texas.  The siblings certainly lived lives of historical significance and Norman Delaney's expansive The Maltby Brothers' Civil War has clear value as both joint biography and historical record of rarely studied Civil War era events in South Texas.

Readers most interested in the Civil War career of Jasper A. Maltby, the eldest of the three Maltbys, a Mexican War veteran and well respected Union officer [he was colonel of the 45th Illinois and later brigadier general], will likely be a bit disappointed to find that he gets the shortest straw of the three in terms of content. Though his Civil War military career was far more illustrious than William's, Jasper's service is retold in far less detail. The reason isn't exactly spelled out, but the author hints that primary source material for Jasper is lacking (it's likely his papers perished in a fire). Delaney's research interests also seem to have been more inclined toward the younger Maltbys and associated happenings in South Texas. Jasper is far from ignored, however, as fairly substantial attention is paid to his antebellum life, the kindness he extended to his captured Confederate brother [When William was captured in November 1863, Jasper was able to secure his transfer from a New Orleans prison camp and take him to Vicksburg, where William was afforded the freedom of the town until released], and the pension struggles of his widow. His involvement with the Army of the Tennessee is only briefly outlined. Maltby was wounded at Donelson and Vicksburg before being promoted to brigadier general, eventually leading a brigade assigned to garrison the Hill City after its surrender. Jasper died in Vicksburg in 1867, either from his wounds, yellow fever, or a combination of both. Even with a military career section that's not as fleshed out as one might wish, the book serves as the closest thing to a Jasper Maltby biography that can be found in the published literature.

Henry A. Maltby first appears in Texas records in 1851 as owner of a large circus, one that failed by 1853. Emerging from bankrupcy, Henry settled in Corpus Christi, where he was selected as mayor by the board of aldermen in 1856. Although Maltby's whereabouts for a seven month period following his resignation as mayor after serving only eight months remain a mystery, Delaney offers a convincing corrective to the literature claiming Henry was a filibuster participant and promoter. After holding a number of jobs and political posts, Henry launched his own newspaper, the Ranchero, which would consume his public life for the next eleven years. He also persuaded his younger brother William, an experienced typesetter, to leave Ohio and join the Ranchero in 1859. According to Delaney, Henry was ideologically aligned with the John C. Calhoun brand of Democratic politics and supported John C. Breckinridge during the 1860 presidential election. While neither Henry nor William aspired to own slaves, Henry, who was also a secession convention member, expressed conventional Deep South views of slavery and the 'proper' place of blacks in society. During the war, Henry remained at the helm of the Ranchero. Overcoming numerous funding and material obstacles, as well as the necessity of temporarily relocating south of the border, his editorials blasted the conduct of the Union army and naval forces in the region as well as the disloyalty of unionist civilians and collaborators. The political stances of the Ranchero were far from consistent, however. Shifting views may have been a matter of survival in Mexico, but Maltby also frequently altered his editorial positions in Texas politics depending on immediate circumstances. As one example, after declaring himself an enemy of Texas Unionist and general Edmund Davis during the war, Henry became an ardent promoter of the Republican Davis for governor during Reconstruction. To him, Davis was likely a lesser evil to a more radical candidate. After selling the Ranchero in 1870, Henry briefly reentered the newspaper sphere in 1874. He worked as a printer, insurance agent, and merchant before his death in 1906.

As mentioned above, William H. Maltby emigrated to Texas in 1859, where, through the influence of his brother and his July 1860 marriage to Mary Grace Swift, he cemented his place in the Corpus Christi community. As a member of the Cleveland Light Guards back home in Ohio, William was more militarily inclined than brother Henry, joining the Confederate army as an artillery officer. Though health problems limited his active service, he rose to the rank of captain. Captured at Fort Semmes in November 1863 along with a number of fellow Confederate defenders [the complete list is available in the appendix], William is justifiably criticized by the author and his own contemporaries for the collective lack of defensive preparation on Mustang Island. Leaving the army in 1864 on medical grounds, William Maltby rejoined the paper business. After the war, he ran his own paper, the Advertiser, before selling it in 1873. Like his brother, he couldn't stay away for long, returning to paper publishing in 1877 and dying only three years later at the age of 43.

In the overall scheme of things, William proved to be a lesser figure in Texas history, but his military career was very effectively exploited by Delaney to craft fine accounts of several little-known coastal operations. Thus, The Maltby Brothers' Civil War boasts considerable value as a military and social history of the war in South Texas. A handful of scholarly journal articles and recent books by Stephen Dupree and Stephen Townsend offer good overviews of Union amphibious operations around the mouth of the Rio Grande and up the barrier island chain lining the Texas coastline, but Delaney's book is the first detailed documentation of Union blockade and combined operations directed toward neutralizing Corpus Christi in particular by capturing surrounding islands and controlling the bays and waterways harboring Confederate blockade runners and coastal shipping. Inadequate maps are the only major drawback associated with the coverage.

In addition to the book's biographical and military history components, given the influential nature of the Ranchero, those researching Texas newspapers in operation during the Civil War and Reconstruction will find Delaney's study quite useful, as will readers investigating border politics and violence during the imperial period in Mexico. For all the above reasons, The Maltby Brothers' Civil War is highly recommended as one of the best Trans-Mississippi Civil War titles published this year.


More CWBA reviews of TAMU Press titles:
* Misadventures of a Civil War Submarine: Iron, Guns, and Pearls
* Turmoil on the Rio Grande: The Territorial History of the Mesilla Valley, 1846-1865
* Tejanos in Gray: Civil War Letters of Captains Joseph Rafael de la Garza and Manuel Yturri
* Why Texans Fought in the Civil War
* Moss Bluff Rebel: A Texas Pioneer in the Civil War
* Frontier Defense in the Civil War: Texas' Rangers and Rebels
* Confederate Struggle For Command: General James Longstreet and the First Corps in the West
* Planting The Union Flag In Texas: The Campaigns of Major General Nathaniel P. Banks in the West
* The Yankee Invasion of Texas
* Blood & Treasure: Confederate Empire in the Southwest

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