Friday, December 21, 2007

Edwards: "The Prairie was on Fire: Eyewitness Accounts of the Civil War in the Indian Territory"

[The Prairie Was on Fire: Eyewitness Accounts of the Civil War in the Indian Territoryby Whit Edwards (Oklahoma Historical Society, 2001) Hardcover, 1 map, photos, notes, bibliography, index. Pp. 180 ISBN: 0941498727 $24.95]

With The Prairie was on Fire, author Whit Edwards provides the reader with a compilation of primary accounts dealing with the many campaigns and battles fought throughout the Indian Territory. Limiting himself to strictly military matters, Edwards nevertheless consulted upwards of 70 manuscript repositories and numerous secondary sources to put together this useful volume. This is not a narrative history. Short contextual passages serve only as introductions and transitions for the minimally edited primary accounts. Helpfully, each account included is fully annotated so interested readers and researchers can seek out the materials themselves.

While the book is well constructed hardcover (at a very reasonable price to boot) and nicely illustrated, it would have benefited from more maps. The single map included is a reproduction of an 1866 study of the eastern half of the territory. Both experienced readers and those new to these obscure events will likely have trouble visualizing the terrain. Granted, the actual location of many of these military actions are highly controversial even today, but useful maps do exist [some in the publisher's own Chronicles of Oklahoma journal]. Cartographic quibbles aside, this book should serve as a useful compilation of source materials for those whose research interests extend to the Civil War in the Indian Territory.

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