Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Booknotes: Albert C. Ellithorpe, the First Indian Home Guards, and the Civil War on the Trans-Mississippi Frontier

New Arrival:
Albert C. Ellithorpe, the First Indian Home Guards, and the Civil War on the Trans-Mississippi Frontier edited by M. Jane Johansson (LSU Press, 2016).

I've written about this highly anticipated (for me, anyway) title more than once on the site and even interviewed editor Jane Johansson [link] some time ago, but now the actual book has finally arrived. The experiences of Union and Confederate Indian units that operated in the often chaotic Missouri-Kansas-Arkansas-Indian Territory borderland during the Civil War remain underexplored, as does the nature of the war fought in many of the region's darkest and most isolated corners. Never fueling the popular imagination to begin with, the contributions of the Indian Home Guard regiments to the Union war effort in this region have faded further into deep obscurity, so Johansson's editing of the Ellithorpe papers and writings is really a landmark event in Civil War publishing, one that will hopefully revive interest in these unique units and their roles in the conflict.

From the description: "Major Ellithorpe’s unit [the First Indian Home Guards]―comprised primarily of refugee Muscogee Creek and Seminole Indians and African Americans who served as interpreters―fought principally in Arkansas and Indian Territory, isolated from the larger currents of the Civil War. Using Ellithorpe’s journal and his series of Chicago Evening Journal articles as her main sources, M. Jane Johansson unravels this exceptional account, providing one of the fullest examinations available on a mixed-race Union regiment serving in the border region of the West."

In addition to chapter notes, Johansson provides biographical material on Ellithorpe and connecting passages of narrative (in the form of fairly extensive chapter introductions) throughout the volume.

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