Monday, May 8, 2006

Watson: "Fight and Survive!: The Civil War in Jackson County, Arkansas"

Much like the disconnect between scholarly coverage of Civil War events in southwest Missouri vs. southeast Missouri, NE Arkansas is a bit of the red-headed stepchild of the NW corner of the state. I recently lost an ebay auction for a county history that I had never heard of previously but looked interesting, so I decided to use the excellent ILL system from the local library to obtain a copy of Fight and Survive!: The Civil War in Jackson County, Arkansas by Lady Elizabeth Watson (River Road Press: Conway, Ark; 1974, pp. 203, maps, photos, rosters).

Losing the auction didn't turn out to be all that bad. I can't say I was impressed with the book as it made few designs upon objectivity (hardly uncommon to Civil War county histories) and betrayed a simplistic interpretation of complex social divisions and a benignly paternalistic view of race relations. That's not to say it is without value. Watson covers--but not in great detail--some obscure battles and skirmishes in the area that you don't find mentioned in many texts (ex. skirmishes/battles at Waddill's Farm, Buck Pond, and Fitzhugh's Woods). Although a bit one-sided, letters and other first-person accounts convey the civilian experience of guerrilla warfare and occupation. Additionally, a few serviceable maps are included. Researchers will also find useful the several appendices devoted to rosters of units raised in the county.

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