Thursday, April 21, 2011

Civil War in the Southwest

Civil War in the Southwest: Recollections of the Sibley Brigade. Edited by Jerry Thompson

This is an interesting collection of remembrances from seven members of the Sibley Brigade. They were originally published in a small East Texas newspaper, the Overton Sharp Shooter. It is also useful in that for some actions, like the battle of Valverde, there will be a few different viewpoints presented. For Valverde there are five different perspectives given.

It is an interesting read but I would not use it to pinpoint locations or time of day on a battlefield. It seems in every battle the Sibley Brigade thought they were heavily outnumbered but in reality they usually fought at pretty similar strengths.

I wish the editor had made the notations footnotes instead of end notes because his notes were more about background info than being bibliographic in nature. For instance for Valverde the common theme is that the Confederates faced roughly 4 to 1 odds, with Union numbers from 7000 to 8000, actually was 3800 and Confederates from 1400 to 2100, with 1800 being about right. One author claims Union losses of nearly 6000, while it really was about 250. Another says the Union recovered 1000 dead and had 1500 missing (which were lost in the river) while the Confederates captured 700 wounded, with more wounded on the other side of the river. That would put the loss around 3200 that this author was sure of plus the ones on the other side of the river he could only see but not count. By the way Confederate losses were around 180. The author who said the Union lost about 3200 said they buried 185 Confederates there, so he wasn't too far off. Other authors put it at 300 and 235, those two authors also claimed the Union loss at around 500-600. But finding out the rest of the story by flipping to the end notes was a little annoying when footnotes would have been much easier for the reader.

I prefer footnotes for annotating recollections because there is so much to clarify or correct in a 125-150 year old source. End notes are fine for scholarly books as they often are just citations. I do always check them just in case an author has left some interesting nuggets of information there. Some authors use their notes to supplement the story and some stick to just straight citations.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone wanting to learn more about the 1862 New Mexico Campaign. It will be a great supplement to one of the other scholarly campaign histories.

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