Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Little to Eat and Thin Mud to Drink: Letters, Diaries, and Memoirs from the Red River Campaigns, 1863-1864

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Little to Eat and Thin Mud to Drink: Letters, Diaries, and Memoirs from the Red River Campaigns, 1863-1864

Article excerpt

Little to Eat and Thin Mud to Drink: Letters, Diaries, and Memoirs from the Red River Campaigns, 1863-1864. Edited by Gary D. Joiner. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2007. Pp. xxix, 342. Foreword by Peter S. Carmichael, acknowledgments, general editor's note, illustrations, maps, appendices, bibliography, contributors, index. $45.)

In this volume, Gary Joiner brings to the historical record of the Red River campaigns of 1863 and 1864 voices from the past, voices previously unheard by many scholars. This collection of letters, diaries and essays from a range of individuals-"common soldiers, midlevel officers, commanders and civilians" (p. xix)-offers a variety of perspectives not only on the military details of the campaigns but also daily life during the chaos of the conflict, significantly augmenting our understanding of the events of those months. The authors come from a variety of social and educational backgrounds and have various degrees of knowledge of the events playing out around them. Their private insights, fears, opinions, hopes, and memories remind us that history is almost never the product of a single viewpoint. They give the reader a sense of the humanity of the writers and the turmoil of their time. Here, reminiscences and memoirs written years after the events balance nicely with contemporary letters and diaries, adding depth that only the passage of time can bring. One memorable account, that of James A. Jarratt of the Consolidated Crescent Regiment, was written in 1906, with the intent of correcting previous inaccurate accounts of the Battle of Mansfield. In it, Jarratt describes that year's Decoration Day in Camden, Arkansas, commemorating the Battle of Jenkins Ferry of 1864:

It was truly a gala day for the young and they seemed to enjoy it immensely, for there was not much if any seriousness manifested among the crowd. …

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