by Mark K. Christ
Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010. Pp. xii, 321.
Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0806140879
In Civil War Arkansas, 1863, Mark K. Christ, the author of The Die Is Cast: Arkansas Goes to War, 1861, Ready, Booted, and Spurred: Arkansas in the U.S.- Mexican War, and several other works, gives us an excellent account of the protracted struggle to restore Federal authority in Arkansas River Valley, as complex, bloody, and difficult as any campaign in the war, but largely obscured by the combination of having occurred in the Trans-Mississippi theatre, and taking place at the very same time spectacular battles were occurring further east, from Chancellorsville and Gettysburg to Vicksburg and Chickamauga.
Christ opens the book with a very useful description of the geographic setting, frequently overlooked in military histories, as well as the social, and political environment in which the campaign unfolded. Then, drawing upon many letters and diaries, he gives us vivid accounts of a surprising number of seriously hot fights, today almost totally forgotten, notably Arkansas Post, Helena, Fort Smith, and Pine Bluff. Along the way, we are also given short, often lively profiles of the principal officers on both sides, most less than famous, but among them Union's notoriously "political" John A. McClernand, who probably did his best work in Arkansas.
Any serious student of the Civil War will find this a valuable book.