Wednesday, January 25, 2006

25 Great Trans-Mississippi books (Part 1)

Lawyer/historian and author Jim McGhee recently asked me if I would consider doing a top-25 list of Trans-Mississippi books. I usually don't like 'top' or 'best of' lists because they are so obviously subjective, or skewed simply by a bias of interest if nothing else, but I was curious to see what I would come up with as well. Part One will follow in a second, but first a few caveats:

1. The list is not comprehensive in terms of being multi-disciplinary, it is just my personal opinion in line with my own study interests. Although I regularly read all types, I think from reading my blog you can pretty much determine what kinds of books I most like to read--i.e. detailed modern battle and campaign histories over social or political histories, biographies, diaries, memoirs, essay compilations, unit histories, etc. Judge the list for what it is, not for what it isn't.

2. If I haven't read it it won't be on the list. I won't go on reputation only no matter how lofty, so obviously this leaves out some very fine books.

3. The list will not be in any kind of order, so #1 will not necessarily be my favorite.

With the preliminaries out of the way, here we go:

25. Kirby Smith's Confederacy : The TransMississippi South, 1863-1865 by Robert Kerby

24. Bloody Valverde: A Civil War Battle on the Rio Grande, February 21, 1862 by John Taylor
(comment: the only modern book-length study of this battle)

23. The Battle of Glorieta by Don Alberts
(comment: I think this is the best of the three or four Glorieta books, with the Edrington and Taylor book coming in second)

22. Civil War Kansas: Reaping the Whirlwind by Albert Castel
(comment: Castel calls this the "authorized edition")

21. Walker's Texas Division, C.S.A: Greyhounds of the Trans-Mississippi by Richard Lowe
(comment: the best modern history of a Trans-Mississippi division, and one of the best of all CW divisional studies)

(TO BE CONTINUED--Next 11 Through 20)


  1. Drew,

    Good idea for a list -- I have long concentrated my reading on Western and Trans-Mississippi topics. I was glad to see you listed Don Alberts' Glorieta book. I did a dual review of his book and the Edrington/Taylor book, since they were released so close together. The Alberts book is far superior -- a lot longer and more detailed, for one thing.

    It's my understanding that Alberts, who had been putting his book together for years, generously shared a lot of information with E and T, who failed to mention they were rushing to press with a book of their own on the same subject. They got theirs out months ahead of Alberts, but the superior scholarship of Alberts' volume is readily apparent when read them back-to-back.

    Dave Woodbury

  2. Hi David,
    Thanks for writing. Can't disagree with any of that. The Alberts book is one of my favorites. There are a couple marginal choices on the list. I vacillated over whether to include Taylor's Valverde book, for example. And that story you relate certainly is unfortunate. BTW, I checked my copy and they didn't mention Alberts's help in the Acknowledgments either.



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