Sunday, August 16, 2015

Wooster & Wooster, eds. : "LONE STAR BLUE AND GRAY: Essays on Texas and the Civil War, Second Edition"

[Lone Star Blue and Gray: Essays on Texas and the Civil War, Second Edition edited by Ralph A. Wooster and Robert Wooster (Texas State Historical Association, 2015). Softcover, maps, illustrations, photos, tables, notes, index. 448 pp.  ISBN:978-1-62511-025-1 $27]

The first edition of Lone Star Blue and Gray (THSA) was published in 1995 and edited by Ralph A. Wooster. Adding Robert Wooster as co-editor, Lone Star Blue and Gray: Essays on Texas and the Civil War, Second Edition (2015) retains five essays from the first edition while adding eleven new ones [For those who own the '95 edition, the holdovers are the articles authored by Jeanne Heidler, James Marten, Alwyn Barr, Anne Bailey, and Frank Smyrl].

As before, all selections are drawn from scholarly regional and topical historical journals like Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Military History of the Southwest, Journal of Southern History and others. In addition to the editors's general introduction, the essays are separately introduced with brief commentaries that conclude with a few suggested reading offerings. The Woosters divide the sixteen chapters into five thematic groupings: Beginnings, Home Fronts, War Fronts, The Soldiers, and Meanings of the War. The new edition has greater topical variety, more closely representing current trends in Civil War era scholarship.

In Part 1: Beginnings, the first essay is an excellent literature review compiled by Walter Bell. It's quite comprehensive, with both text and notes listing and commenting on relevant books and journal articles dealing with military, political, judicial, social, economic, racial and gender issues. Archaeology articles and reports were not considered, an unfortunate choice given their clear demonstration in recent decades of the benefits of the multidisciplinary approach to history. This is followed by Andrew Lang's study of Texas historical memory during the secession crisis, where proponents of the movement offered a selectively positive and romantic view of the Texas Revolution and independent period as support for another radical leap of faith. Whereas all southern states could point to the American Revolution for ideological reinforcement of a new nationalism, Texans uniquely could look to their own more recent history (although relatively few current residents experienced it personally) for parallels in resorting to independence in order to secure rights threatened by higher government authorities (e.g. Mexico in 1836 and the U.S. 25 years later). Jeanne Heidler adds additional context to the surrender of U.S. forces in Texas in 1861. With previous studies centering on the conflicted loyalties and physical/mental debilities of department commander General David Twiggs, Heidler argues effectively that the War Department and executive leadership consistently ignored the Georgian's regular requests for guidance and thus shared significantly in the responsibility for the national embarrassment.

Part II: Home Fronts is kicked off with David Humphrey's lengthy chapter examining how Austin citizens of all political stripes obtained their war news and how they reacted to the information, which was always late, frequently exaggerated, and often flat out wrong. With Confederate news sources gradually muted by the loss of first New Orleans then Vicksburg/Port Hudson, the citizens had to rely either on "Yankee news or no none at all" when it came to the eastern war. Residents had to go about their daily lives in an isolated corner of the Confederacy with no reliable information upon which to base present and future plans. This kind of information blackout is a rather underappreciated burden borne most heavily by Trans-Mississippi citizens. James Marten then offers an overview of slavery in Texas during 1861-65, which essentially differed little from other Deep South states but with two significant exceptions. Texas uniquely experienced a massive increase in slave population (perhaps 40,000 persons) from other Confederate states threatened by federal advances and it also shared a national border with anti-slavery Mexico. Joseph Brown and Zebulon Vance garner most of the attention when it comes to state governors who were thorns in the side of Confederate authorities, but, as John Moretta clearly shows in the section's third essay, Texas governor Pendleton Murrah could be just as difficult in his adherence to states' rights philosophy when it came to conscription and the cross border cotton trade. In the final chapter for this section, Glen Sample Ely documents the disastrously ineffective border defense of West Texas from Kiowa and Comanche incursions, a job which was largely ignored by the Confederate government and left to a thin line of resource starved state troops after the departure of federal garrisons in 1861. By the latter stages of the war, the western Texas frontier was back to what it was 25 years before the Civil War began. Support for the Confederacy crumbled in the chaos, leading to mass desertion and population exodus along with widespread life stock trading with the enemy. Ely's findings contradict many accepted conclusions about the effectiveness of Texas Rangers in West Texas border defense.

The new volume sheds much of the earlier edition's military content. Part III: War Fronts begins with Alwyn Barr's classic and oft cited Centennial article on Texas coastal defense. Anne Bailey then discusses the reactions of Texas soldiers to contact with black troops on the battlefield, specifically what occurred during a cavalry raid in Louisiana three weeks after Milliken's Bend. Gary Joiner then concludes the section with a brief but solid overview of the role of Tom Green's Texas cavalry in the 1864 Red River Campaign.

Another Centennial era article from 1961 begins Part IV: The Soldiers. In it Frank Smyrl discusses Texans that served the Union army during campaigns in both their home state and Louisiana. It remains a classic, though the fact that it mentions the large number of Mexican Texans in blue only in passing dates it, the work by Jerry Thompson and others in ensuing decades doing much to flesh out the whole scope of Union enlistment in the region. Charles Brooks's article is a detailed demographic and cultural analysis of Hood's Texas Brigade largely from the perspective of the enlisted men, who were closely representative of Texas society as a whole and who demanded and received heavy doses of compromise when it came to discipline, subordination, and the selection of those that would lead them into battle. Randolph Campbell's contribution is a quantitative study of the impact of the war on the military age population of Harrison County, Texas. It provides yet more clear evidence that the overly simplistic and still pervasive "rich man's war, poor man's fight" mantra needs to be drastically revised. Another interesting finding is the county's lower than expected military participation rate. The methodology employed leaves Campbell to believe that accepted estimates from other Confederate county and state studies might be too high.

The last section, Part V: Meanings of the War, is led by Alexander Mendoza and his look at Laredo Tejanos in the army. Rather than trying to fit his subjects into Confederate or Union loyalties, Mendoza instead emphasizes a localized border identity among Tejanos that recognized town and family allegiances far more than shifting national ones. Joleene Maddox Snider then offers a colorful life portrait of Sarah Devereaux, a member of upper class East Texas society. Like many of her Deep South contemporaries, during the war she assumed many plantation roles and tasks traditionally performed by husbands. Her biography is remarkable for her sustained success as a female planter in the face of so many internal and external obstacles, with the 1856 death of her husband perhaps preparing her for the even greater adversities foisted upon her by Civil War events. In the book's final chapter, Jerry Thompson discusses the New Orleans disinterment and Texas reburial of Albert Sidney Johnston in the context of Reconstruction politics.

All of the articles in Lone Star Blue and Gray were previously published but the volume retains significant value as an expertly curated collection of articles that together comprise an excellent cross section of the Texas Civil War experience. With the great majority of Second Edition content being different, owners of the first edition of Lone Star Blue and Gray will want to add this new iteration to their bookshelves.

Other CWBA reviews of TSHA titles:
* Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas
* Civil War and Revolution on the Rio Grande Frontier: A Narrative and Photographic History

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