Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Five books on Civil War Nebraska

1. Standing Firmly by the Flag: Nebraska Territory and the Civil War, 1861-1867 (2012)
by James E. Potter. [review]
Potter's comprehensive military and political history of Nebraska's Civil War is easily the most significant book ever published on the subject. Initially conceived as a First Nebraska regimental history, the project morphed into a wider study that also examines the late-war and beyond statehood debates at great length. If you're going to read just one book on Civil War Nebraska, this should be it.
2. Marching with the First Nebraska: A Civil War Diary (2007) August Scherneckau, ed.
by James E. Potter and Edith Robbins (trans.).
Over three thousand Nebraskans fought in the Civil War, with the First Nebraska Volunteer Infantry (later converted into cavalry) being the unit most recognized for its wartime contributions. Unfortunately, the regiment still has no standalone chronicler, although (as mentioned above) Potter includes a great deal of First Nebraska material in Standing Firmly by the Flag. As far as I know, Marching with the First Nebraska is the only edited letter collection, diary, or journal written by a Nebraska soldier or officer that's ever been published in book format.
3. Massacre along the Medicine Road: A Social History of the Indian War of 1864 in Nebraska Territory (1999) by Ronald Becher.
Though no organized Confederate force ever set foot on Nebraska soil, there were other deadly threats to the population. Based on an exhaustive compilation of firsthand accounts, Becher's book details the bloody summer of 1864 in the Nebraska interior, when Sioux and Cheyenne war parties attacked numerous ranches and way stations located along the vital stretch of continental emigrant trails spanning the territory.
4. Powder River Odyssey: Nelson Cole's Western Campaign of 1865, The Journals of Lyman G. Bennett and Other Eyewitness Accounts (2009) by David E. Wagner. [review]
Gary Gallagher vehemently disagrees, but I have maintained for the past 15 years on the site that drawing links between period Indian conflicts and western expansion to the Civil War's overall picture is worthy of discussion. The 1865 Powder River War was the last major campaign against native tribes that was conducted fully by Civil War volunteer units. Part of a three-pronged punitive expedition, Cole's wing, having set out from Omaha, spent the most time in Nebraska itself.
5. The Civil War in the Northwest: Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas (1960) by Robert Huhn Jones.
I probably wouldn't have included Jones's book if the pickings weren't already getting so thin. Though a classic study, the title oversells its coverage by a wide shot. If I recall correctly, there isn't very much in the way of proportional Nebraska content or focus inside even though it merits first mention in the subtitle.

1 comment:

  1. Drew, I wholeheartedly agree with the important link between the Indian Wars and Civil War Powder River and the Dakota War aside, you have Texas Confederates and the California Column fighting Apaches in New Mexico and Arizona, Colorado units fighting Cheyenne, and so on. I think it fair to say this transition from regulars to volunteers had a significant impact on relations with the western Native American population and policy.

    Chris Van Blargan


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