Sunday, September 16, 2007

Five Trans-Mississippi cavalry books: (Part 1) "A Severe and Bloody Fight"

A few years back I contributed a number of book snapshots for the Camp Pope Bookshop website [thanks to Camp Pope for permission to reprint these]. With some revisions, I've compiled these brief overviews for a five-part series covering various Trans-Mississippi theater raids, battles, and campaigns involving cavalry. Though varying somewhat in quality, each book is valuable enough at some level to recommend to interested readers.

[A Severe and Bloody Fight: The Battle of Whitney's Lane and Military Occupation of White County, Arkansas, May and June 1862 by Scott H. Akridge & Emmett E. Powers (White County Historical Society, 1996-OP*)]

Writers searching for a model of Civil War military history at a local level would do well to emulate A Severe and Bloody Fight. For a brief and relatively obscure episode in Arkansas Civil War history (May-June, 1862, White County), the authors uncovered an impressive array of primary research materials, and assembled their findings into a fascinating account of events centered around the Battle of Whitney’s Lane. However, military events don’t comprise the entire story, with the text also highlighting the invasion’s disruptive social and economic impact on the local populace.

The war came to White County soon after the battle of Pea Ridge, when General Curtis transferred his army to northeastern Arkansas in an attempt to capture Little Rock. However, the sparsely populated region could not support the food and forage needs of a large invading army. Near Searcy Landing, a Federal foraging expedition was attacked and defeated at Whitney’s Lane. Curtis, low on supplies and convinced the Confederates were in his front in force, abandoned the campaign. These actions form the basis for the book, the heart of which is an excellent blow by blow account of events at Whitney’s Lane.

Photographs, charts, illustrations, letters, and newspaper accounts fill the pages and numerous maps depict the progress of the opposing forces on campaign and during the Battle of Whitney’s Lane. The footnotes are extensive, providing a valuable starting point for further research. Detailed orders of battle and casualty lists are included in the appendices along with additional newspaper reports and an archaeological fieldwork summary. The comprehensiveness is extraordinary and this book is not be missed by those interested in Arkansas history.

* = According to the WCHS website, see link above, this book is only temporarily out-of-print. I am not privy to any information as to where the reprinting plans currently stand.

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