Saturday, December 15, 2018

Booknotes: On Duty in the Pacific Northwest during the Civil War

New Arrival:
On Duty in the Pacific Northwest during the Civil War: Correspondence and Reminiscences of the First Oregon Cavalry Regiment edited by James Robbins Jewell
(UT Press, 2018).

When regular army troops stationed in the Far West departed to points east at the outbreak of the Civil War, it was largely California volunteers that picked up the slack. Garrisoning key posts and keeping tabs on both internal dissent and potentially hostile tribes, they ranged all across the West's vast expanses, including the Pacific Northwest. Published primary source accounts of their service in the region are few, and by far the best-known is Royal Bensell's edited journal All Quiet on the Yamhill: The Civil War in Oregon (1959). But Oregon raised troops of their own, too, and James Robbins Jewell's new collection of wartime letters written by Oregon volunteers titled On Duty in the Pacific Northwest during the Civil War: Correspondence and Reminiscences of the First Oregon Cavalry Regiment is now available as part of UT Press's classic Voices of the Civil War series.

From the description: "From 1862 to 1865, twenty-six hundred miles away from the seat of the federal government in Washington, DC, the First Oregon Volunteer Cavalry Regiment offered aid to the Union cause in the American Civil War. The First Oregon Cavalry confronted a host of complex challenges unseen by their counterparts serving in a more traditional role in the East. Their battles were more often with Native Americans—and often more concerned with their own status in the territory than with the Civil War rending the nation—while searching for pro Confederate spies and sympathizers. However unsung during the war, the regiment carried out their responsibilities successfully, managing to expedite the development of the Pacific Northwest in the process."

Jewell's edited collection also represents the closest thing we currently have to a 1st Oregon regimental study. "Complete with a series of reminiscences and excerpts from memoirs by First Oregon Cavalry officers and soldiers, On Duty in the Pacific Northwest during the Civil War is the first collection of primary source materials from soldiers serving in this Far Western territory. Jewell’s first-rate collection enables readers to step directly into the Pacific Northwest of the early 1860s and experience the Civil War from a different perspective." I've been waiting all year to get my hands on this title, and it looks great. Expect a review fairly soon.

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