Since the end of the Civil War more than a book a day has been published about the war!
This is a staggering statistic but perhaps not a surprising one. Nothing has captured our imagination like the conflict that tore this country apart. It still incites strong passion and maybe it should. Civil War causalities exceeded all of America’s losses in all of our other wars combined, from the Revolutionary War through the Vietnam War. Even more significantly, many of the issues that provoked the Civil War continue to confound us today. Race is still a major issue in terms of inequality if not freedom. Are our current political differences irreconcilable? We have even had 2012 presidential candidates bring up the issue of secession! The War also excites history buffs to heights of craziness, reenacting battles on a weekend diet of hardtack. During the American Civil War Minnesota experienced a second Civil War between the original inhabitants, the Dakota Indians, and the area’s newest settlers. Arguably this makes the 1860’s this State’s most interesting and exciting decade. Our Best 150 best books blog acknowledges this with another entry on our growing list.
Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, 1861-1865: Prepared and Published Under the Supervision of the Board of Commissioners Appointed by the Act of the Legislature of Minnesota of April16, 1889. St. Paul, Minnesota: Printed for the State by the Pioneer Press Company, 1890 -1893. 844 pgs; 654 pages.
Prominently displayed on the shelves of any serious collector of Minnesota history you will find this two volume description of the martial imbroglios that defined the early days of our state. This is a significant publishing effort on the part of the State. The idea was to have the participants themselves, men who led soldiers into battle, recount the tragic entanglements of both the Dakota Conflict and the long war between the States. Narratives of the various regiments are written by such prominent figures as Charles Flandrau, C. C. Andrews, J. W. Bishop, and William Lochren. Lochren’s description of the First Minnesota’s various campaigns including their bravery, and 83% causality rate, at Gettysburg, [about which General Handcock rightly said “There is no more Gallant dead recorded in history”] is in itself worth the price of the volumes.
The Board of Commissioners packed these books with details. MITCAIW is the first stop for information regarding the campaigns and those who fought. Whether you are interested in, finding out if Great Grandfather was a soldier, in reading a biography of one of the officers, finding the date of a particular battle, or seeing a roster of the “Scandinavian Guards” this is the “go to” book. The second volume consists of Minnesota’s “official reports and correspondence” of both wars chronically arraigned. Probably because of the important primary source material in volume two, it was reprinted in a second edition and thus is a more common and readily available book. In fact, unopened boxes of the second edition of the second volume were discovered in the basement of the Capital in the late 1970’s and distributed to anyone interested.
The book is still in print with the MHS Press [I just counted and there are actually 7 copies left!] and it is greatly enhanced by a 144 pages index that was not part of the original publication but a1936 WPA project under the direction of MHS reference assistant, Irene B. Warming. I prefer Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars in their beautiful, original, and [given the poignant subject matter] more appropriate, three quarter leather bindings.
C.C. Andrews, 1865, on the left and Charles Flandrau, 1862, on the right.