Monday, September 18, 2006

Mobley: "Making Sense of the Civil War in Batesville-Jacksonport and Northeast Arkansas 1861-1874"

[Making Sense of the Civil War in Batesville-Jacksonport and Northeast Arkansas 1861-1874 by Freeman K. Mobley (Batesville, AR: P. D. Printing, 2005. Maps, notes, bibliography, paperback, 322pp. $20.00)]

Making Sense... is a narrative history of the Civil War and Reconstruction periods in northeast Arkansas. The main region under consideration is the rough triangle formed by the towns of Batesville (on the White River), Jacksonport (located at the junction of the White and Black rivers), and Pocahontas (on the upper Black). Local historian Freeman Mobley connects extensive excerpts from military and civilian letters, diaries, and memoirs with his own narrative of events. This is executed well for the most part and a nice touch was the extension of the narrative into the Reconstruction period, a subject too often presented in relative isolation from the war itself.

Text coverage of military campaigns and social/political issues is comprehensive but not very detailed. However, my main complaint is with the way the book is promoted. It seems to me that a work that purports to "make sense" of such a complex and deeply divided region would construct some sort of analytical framework in support of an argument. Mobley does not do so, and while the primary source materials included within the text and the notes/bibliography might be useful, experienced readers are likely to be left with unfulfilled expectations. On the other hand, newcomers seeking a general introduction to the Civil War in northeast Arkansas will find this comprehensive history helpful.

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