"A Rough Introduction to This Sunny Land": The Civil War Diary of Private Henry A. Strong, Co. K, Twelfth Kansas Infantry. Edited by Tom Wing. (Little Rock: Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, 2006. Pp. xxi, 96. Foreword by Edwin C. Bearss, acknowledgments, introduction, map, illustrations, notes, bibliography, biographical notes. $11.95, paper.)
One of the most commonly repeated assertions about American Civil War scholarship is that the conflict in the Trans-Mississippi has been "largely ignored" by historians. This was probably true through much of the late twentieth century, when monographs and articles dealing with the conflict centered on events transpiring east of the Mississippi. But recent years have seen the publication of numerous works specifically describing the war in the West. The University of Arkansas Press has taken the lead in documenting this theater in its series The Civil War in the West, and a glance at other publishers' lists shows a continuing effort to bring to light research on the topic. One naturally wonders when such output will reach the critical mass that allows us to abandon our lament that those who suffered and died far from the fields of Gettysburg have been "largely ignored."
Historian Tom Wing has certainly done his part to contribute to that critical mass in "A Rough Introduction to This Sunny Land": The Civil War Diary of Private Henry A. Strong, Co. K, Twelfth Kansas Infantry. A former employee of the National Park Service, Wing has taken a rare and valuable primary source on the Trans-Mississippi and made it available to an audience far beyond the few who may have had the opportunity in past years to examine a typewritten transcription of the original diary now held by the Fort Scott National Historic Site. The result is an entertaining read that makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the war in the West.
Henry Strong enlisted in the Union Army on August 16, 1862, in response to President Eincoln's call for 300,000 troops to help suppress the rebellion. Strong's regiment, the 12th Kansas Volunteer Infantry, served exclusively in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and the Indian Territory. The regiment spent much of its time in the later months of the war in garrison at Fort Smith and participated in the Camden Expedition in the spring of 1864. Strong did not start his diary until October 1, 1863, but his first entries summarized his first fifteen months in uniform before he began making regular notations of his experiences. Those notations range from brief descriptions of miles marched and weather conditions endured, to more detailed entries such as a valuable first-person description of the battle of Jenkins' Ferry and the capture of the steamboat J. …