Theater of a Separate War: The Civil War West of the Mississippi River, 1861-1865

By Dobak, William A. | The Journal of Southern History, May 2018 | Go to article overview

Theater of a Separate War: The Civil War West of the Mississippi River, 1861-1865


Dobak, William A., The Journal of Southern History


Theater of a Separate War: The Civil War West of the Mississippi River, 1861-1865. By Thomas W. Cutrer. Littlefield History of the Civil War Era. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017. Pp. xviii, 588. $40.00, ISBN 978-1-4696-3156-1.)

There were several principal land theaters of the Civil War: the Virginia theater, largely confined to action between the Union and the Confederate capitals; the trans-Appalachian theater, confined to action south of the Ohio River; coastal operations in the Carolinas and Florida; and the trans-Mississippi theater, which covers the Confederate campaign in New Mexico, pro-Union and proConfederate guerrilla skirmishes on the Kansas-Missouri state line, Union attempts at landings on the Gulf Coast of Texas, overland invasions of Texas via the Red River, and intratribal and intertribal conflicts between the recently arrived Five Civilized Tribes and Plains tribes, who had come to the region about a hundred years earlier. These subjects and the simultaneous French-sponsored invasion of Mexico provide plenty of material for a 588-page book by Thomas W. Cutrer, a professor emeritus of history at Arizona State University.

Unfortunately, the book's 588 pages are relieved by only one map. The previous paragraph has indicated at least a half-dozen subtheaters and campaigns, each of which requires its own map to understand the text. What the book provides is a map spread on facing pages, showing the Rio Grande from Glorieta Pass, New Mexico (but not Santa Fe) to Palmito Ranch, Texas (but not Brownsville), and the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri (but not Fort Pillow) to New Orleans, Louisiana (but not Helena, Arkansas). Any author who has had to meet cartographers' charges will understand production costs, but the effect is to spoil the book.

Misspellings are rife: "Fort Donaldson" instead of Donelson, "Helen," Arkansas, instead of Helena, and "General McGruder" instead of General John Bankhead Magruder (pp. …

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