Sunday, January 6, 2013

Warren: "THE SECOND BATTLE OF CABIN CREEK: Brilliant Victory"

[The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory by Steven L. Warren (The History Press, 2012). Softcover, maps, photos, drawings, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:136/253. ISBN:978-1-60949-832-0 $24.99 ]

First published in 2002 in a limited edition hardcover, Steven Warren's Brilliant Victory: The Second Battle of Cabin Creek was and remains the only book length history of the successful 1864 Confederate raid in Indian Territory. With title and subtitle reversed, The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory is a newly released paperback edition of Warren's study. Second Cabin Creek, fought on September 19, 1864, indeed was a notable Confederate victory. Two mounted brigades under the command of brigadier generals Stand Watie and Richard Gano surprised a huge federal supply train of around 300 wagons with a night attack on the Cabin Creek station stockade defended by the escort under the command of Major Henry M. Hopkins of the 2nd Kansas Cavalry. The Confederates were able to escape with 130 heavily laden wagons, a boon to the resource starved southerners and their Indian allies. It also helped alleviate the sting of an earlier defeat on the same spot in July 1863.

Most of the previous work on the raid and battle is now dated, but Warren, given the source material available, crafts a more than adequately detailed narrative account, mostly from the Confederate perspective. In addition to providing readers with background information of the men and units that participated in the operation, events occurring before and after Cabin Creek are covered.  Prior to Cabin Creek, the Confederates crossed two rivers (the Arkansas and the Verdigris) and overran a Union hay camp at Flat Rock, 35 miles south of the stockade.  After the battle, Gano and Watie were able to evade all Union attempts to recapture the wagon train, the most serious threat at Pryor Creek.  Warren also examines the post-war careers of several of the key figures involved in the raid, as well as the recollections of other less well known participants.  Some enduring mysteries surrounding the battle, the most prominent examples being the controversy surrounding the whereabouts of Hopkins and the myth of the cannon buried in the creek, are also addressed.

The appendices comprise a large portion of the text. Richard Gano's extensive war memoir is reproduced, alas without much in the way of reference to his Indian Territory operations (those pages are lost), as is a valuable Cabin Creek account written by a Kansan, Dr. George A. Moore. A wide range of other material -- among them a schematic battle map; an analysis of the moon's position and its affect on visibility during the night attack; and POW and casualty lists -- is included, as well.  What's missing is a good battlefield map.  The ones provided are spartan affairs, lacking the unit and terrain detail that one expects from a modern battle study.

It is certainly cheering news to students of the Trans-Mississippi theater that Warren's groundbreaking work is available again as part of The History Press's Civil War Sesquicentennial series.  Hopefully, this reprint will grab the attention of a new audience, expanding awareness of both the Second Battle of Cabin Creek and the war in the Indian Territory in general.

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