Book Review: The Confederate Military Forces in the Trans-Mississippi West, 1861-1865: A Study in Command


by William Royston Geise, edited by Michael J. Forsyth

El Dorado Hills, Ca.: Savas Beatie, 2022, revised edition. Pp. xviii, 226. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $32.95. ISBN: 1611216214

Command in the Confederate Trans-Mississippi

Coddington’s 1968 Gettysburg: A Study in Command, initiated the study of command as a distinct genre for students of the Civil War, but while much has been written since on the subject, not a great deal has been written about the Trans-Mississippi region. This work helps correct that oversight.

Dr. Geise's doctoral dissertation on the Trans-Mississippi was accepted by the University of Texas in 1974. Despite having taught and written extensively on the Civil War, Geise never revised his dissertation for publication, although it was highly regarded by those scholars who read it. After his passing, the dissertation, with many of his corrections and annotations on it, was "discovered." As a result, military historian Michael J. Forsyth, edited the manuscript for Savas Beatie.

In his preface, Geise explained, "My purpose in this study is to trace in some detail the evolution of unity of command and the development of improved organization and administration in the Confederate forces west of the Mississippi River and to relate these changes to the shifting strategic situation and the general course of the war. Consequently, I have not emphasized military field operations as much as I have focused on headquarters and staff functions.”

So we get relatively little on battles, but are better able to see the Trans-Mississippi through the actions of the various principle commanders, the workings of their staff, and the influence of their political friends or foes, as they tried to deal with the many challenges the theatre presented; vast distances, poor infrastructure, weak and often ineffective government organization, and the burdens placed on the commanders by leadership in Richmond, focused on events east of the Mississippi.

We see how changes in the commanders and the command structure of the region affected events, the influence of the Confederate War Department and other cabinet branches, the role of state governors, who felt that Richmond neglected the needs of the region to the point they often seemed to feel abandoned by President Jefferson F. Davis. We also have a look at how Davis and his government feared the Trans-Mississippi states might form their own independent country.

Geise shows us that Richmond delegated – or forfeited – considerable latitude to the state governments in the region, which often had to perform central government functions, such as regulating foreign trade and raising money.

In editing this work for publication, Forsyth left Geise's original notes intact, though updating quotations and adding explanations as needed.

This is a must read for any student of the Civil War, and particularly for those interested in the Trans-Mississippi.



Our Reviewer: David Marshall has been a high school American history teacher in the Miami-Dade School district for more than three decades. A life-long Civil War enthusiast, David is president of the Miami Civil War Round Table Book Club. In addition to numerous reviews in Civil War News and other publications, he has given presentations to Civil War Round Tables on Joshua Chamberlain, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the common soldier. His most recent previous reviews here include Their Maryland, The Lion of Round Top, Rites of Retaliation, Animal Histories of the Civil War Era, Benjamin Franklin Butler, Dreams of Victory: General P. G. T. Beauregard, Bonds of War, Early Struggles for Vicksburg, True Blue, Civil War Witnesses and Their Books, Love and Duty, When Hell Came To Sharpsburg, Lost Causes, Six Miles From Charleston, Five Minutes to Hell, "If We Are Striking for Pennsylvania", James Montgomery: Abolitionist Warrior, Cedar Mountain to Antietam, Lieutenant General James Longstreet, Count the Dead, All Roads Led To Gettysburg, Unhappy Catastrophes, The Heart of Hell, The Whartons' War, Gettysburg’s Southern Front , Civil War Monuments and Memorials, and The Tale Untwisted.



Note: The Confederate Military Forces in the Trans-Mississippi West is also available in e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: David Marshall   

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