Thursday, April 30, 2020

Preview: Tempest Over Texas

Historian Donald Frazier, formerly of McMurry University and currently Director of the Texas Center at Schreiner University, first envisioned his grand history of the Civil War in Louisiana and Texas as filling four volumes (informally called his "Louisiana Quadrille"). However, as sometimes happens with big projects, the series has grown since inception to now include a planned fifth volume. Currently scheduled for a May 2020 release from publisher State House Press is the fourth and now penultimate installment Tempest over Texas: The Fall and Winter Campaigns of 1863–1864. I recently received a prepublication version from the author and thought I would offer a little preview for those readers interested in the topic.

Volume One Fire in the Cane Field: The Federal Invasion of Louisiana and Texas, January 1861-January 1863 (2009) covered a lot of ground in both states, but the following two books (2011's Thunder Across the Swamp: The Fight for the Lower Mississippi, February - May 1863 and 2015's Blood on the Bayou: Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and the Trans-Mississippi) focused strongly on Civil War events within the Pelican State. Volume Three left off with the Union Army's return to the LaFourche District of SW Louisiana after the July 1863 capture of Port Hudson. With the Mississippi River now open to traffic all along its length, the big question (to be answered in Tempest Over Texas) was what was next for Union and Confederate forces in the region, the former still coveting Texas and the latter again greatly outnumbered and pressed back on their heels.

In addition to documenting numerous skirmishes, raids, and other side-operations, Tempest Over Texas will offer in-depth coverage of the Second Battle of Sabine Pass, the Battle of Sterling's (the author prefers "Sterling" over the more common "Stirling" spelling) Plantation, the fall Texas Overland Expedition, and the seaborne operation that seized the mouth of the Rio Grande before moving north into Matagorda Bay. Big battles are absent from period, with the largest military action being the Confederate victory at Bayou Bourbeau. 

The narrative stresses connections between the Louisiana and Texas fronts (though all of the campaigns have received good standalone coverage in books and articles, the author believes those ties remain largely underappreciated). Associated settings of French intervention in Mexico, Unionist opposition in Texas, and emancipation are discussed as well. The book also appears to offer a treatment of Banks that is more sympathetic than most. Though he doesn't try to broadly rehabilitate the military reputation of Nathaniel Banks, Frazier does believe that Banks "did what he could in a difficult arena,...often with his bosses actively undermining him." The book ends during the winter of 1863-64. As one might guess, the major focus of the fifth volume will be the Red River Campaign of 1864.

That should do for now. I hope the late-May release date is still in play, and the book will surely be reviewed if I can get a copy from the publisher.

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