Monday, August 14, 2017

Booknotes: The Confederate Cherokees, Updated Edition

New Arrival:
The Confederate Cherokees: John Drew's Regiment of Mounted Rifles, Updated Edition by W. Craig Gaines (LSU Press, 2017).

The Confederate Cherokees "provides an absorbing account of the Cherokees’ involvement in the early years of the Civil War, focusing in particular on the actions of one group, John Drew’s Regiment of Mounted Rifles." By examining a Cherokee society deeply riven by antebellum factionalism between those that acquiesced to treaty removal to Indian Territory and those that violently opposed it, the book explains the complex loyalties involved and provides the context behind the unit's nearly wholesale desertion to the Union side during the early part of the war. Those that remained under the gray banner "earned a degree of infamy during the Battle of Pea Ridge, in Arkansas, for scalping Union soldiers," though the facts related to that event are still contested.

When first published back in 1989 [it was also issued in paperback in 1992], this study was truly groundbreaking. I read it much later than that and recall enough dated content to welcome the release of a new edition. I have both books in front of me now, and the only difference I can see between them is the new preface, which is three very brief paragraphs in length. In it, the author acknowledges the many books and articles related to the Cherokee Civil War experience that have been published since 1989, but unfortunately I don't see any evidence that any of this has been incorporated into the new edition. There aren't any sources listed in the bibliography that are dated post-1980s. It looks like a straight reprint.

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