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Kansas History - Summer 2013

Kansas History, Summer 2013(Vol. 36, No. 2)

Dennis M. Dailey, “Josiah Miller, an Antislavery Southerner: Letters to Father and Mother.”

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Arriving in Lawrence, Kansas Territory, in the fall of 1854, where he and his friend and business partner, Robert G. Elliott, established the Kansas Free State, Josiah Miller was for the next sixteen years active in journalism, local and territorial politics, and a wide variety of business activities. Miller was born and raised in northern South Carolina, but his family and religious community were antislavery, an increasingly dangerous thing to be in the South during the late antebellum period. So Josiah Miller moved north to attend college and study law, and once settled in Kansas he sought to facilitate a similar exodus for his father, mother, and several siblings. “It took until April 1858 for Miller’s family to join him in Kansas Territory,” writes Professor Dennis M. Dailey, “and in the years between his arrival and theirs, they kept up a correspondence on matters personal and political that survives as a witness to the struggles of frontier life during the days of Bleeding Kansas.”

Ryan M. Kennedy, “‘Drunk and Disorderly’: The Origins and Consequences of Alcoholism at Fort Hays.”

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Established after the end of the Civil War, Fort Hays was positioned to protect the Smoky Hill Trail, the most efficient route to the gold fields of Colorado. While the trail wound through well-established Indian hunting grounds and initially caused friction between Indians and whites, by 1870 the “Indian problem” had largely abated. Unlikely to engage in combat with Indians, soldiers at the fort instead served mostly as laborers, in nearby Hays City, with the railroad, and at the fort itself. The tedious, routine-driven lifestyle enforced by Fort Hays commanders, in combination with feelings of frontier isolation and boredom, often led to resistance in the form of alcohol use. Utilizing court-martial records, Post Orders, and soldier journals, Ryan Kennedy argues that the barren circumstances at Fort Hays created an atmosphere ripe for alcohol abuse. Additionally, “Drunk and Disorderly” outlines the history of alcohol usage within American culture, the consequences of alcohol abuse in the frontier military, and the effects of excessive alcoholism on temperance policies.

Thomas Prasch, editor, “From Projections of the Past to Fantasies of the Future: Kansas and the Great Plains in Recent Film.”

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In his introduction to the seventh installment in the journal’s biennial film review series, Washburn University history professor Tom Prasch notes that many of the films under consideration look forward as much as they look back, for“just as Kansas’s past has a walk-on part in the cinema’s most significant recent historical epics, its future plays a part on the silver screen as well.” Twenty films are reviewed here by a diverse group of fine Kansas scholars: the classic Splendor in the Grass (1961), an ill-fated love story set in 1920s Kansas; the PBS documentary The Abolitionists (2013), which focuses on John Brown as one of five individuals who pushed forward the antislavery cause; two quite different documentaries on the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, Ken Burns’s The Dust Bowl (2012) and Harvesting the High Plains (2012); Sandzén: Ecstasy of Color (2010), an exploration the life and work of Kansas artist and art booster Birger Sandzén;Earthwork (2011), a feature film about the life and work of Kansas “crop artist” Stan Herd; Barbara Johns: The Making of an Icon (2012), which remembers the experience of one of the eventual plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas;a documentary on the rise and decline of Florence, Kansas (2011);She Told Me Stories (2013), a weaving together of the oral histories of Kansas’s women; seven short films sponsored by the Kansas Humanities Council, A Drive through History along the Post Rock Scenic Byway (2009),C. L. Brown and Kansas Independent Telephony, 1872–1935 (2012), Kansas State Penitentiary: An Institution and a Neighbor (2008), Strugglers Hill: A People, A Community (2011), Oil and Gold: The McPherson Globe Refiners Basketball Story (2012), Preserving the Past: Topeka’s Jayhawk Theatre (2011), Uncommon Ground: A Century of Bartlett Arboretum (2011); Lawrence-based filmmaker Kevin Willmott’s sci-fi send-up Destination Planet Negro! (2013); Hollywood’s Cowboys and Aliens (2011), in which sci-fi meets Western; and, lastly, two Wizard of Oz reimaginings, Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) and After the Wizard (2011).

Book Reviews

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Emigrants on the Overland Trail: The Wagon Trains of 1848
by Michael E. LaSalle
vii + 516 pages, illustrations, tables, notes, bibliography, index.
Kirksville, Mo.: Truman State University Press, 2011, paper $40.00.
Reviewed by Theresa L. Young, graduate student, Kansas State University, Manhattan.

With Golden Visions Bright Before Them: Trails to the Mining West, 1849–1852
by Will Bagley
xxi + 464 pages, illustrations, bibliography, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012, cloth $45.00.
Reviewed by Elliott West, professor of history, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

African American Faces of the Civil War: An Album
by Ronald S. Coddington
xxix + 338 pages, illustrations, bibliography, index.
Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012, cloth $29.95.

Men of Color to Arms! Black Soldiers, Indian Wars, and the Quest for Equality
by Elizabeth D. Leonard
xxviii + 315 pages, illustrations, index.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012, paper $19.95.
Reviewed by Kelly Erby, assistant professor of history, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas.

The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses S. Grant in War and Peace
by H. W. Brands
718 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
New York: Doubleday, 2012, cloth $35.00.
Reviewed by Patricia Ann Owens, independent scholar, Lawrenceville, Illinois.

Bucking the Railroads on the Kansas Frontier: The Struggle Over Land Claims by Homesteading Civil War Veterans, 1867–1876
by John N. Mack
xi + 211 pages, illustrations, appendix, bibliography, index.
Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2013, paper $45.00.
Reviewed by Sean M. Kammer, assistant professor, University of South Dakota School of Law, Vermillion.

Bethel College of Kansas, 1887–2012
by Keith L. Sprunger
ix + 278 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Newton, Kans.: Mennonite Press, 2012, cloth $39.95.
Reviewed by R. Alton Lee, emeritus professor of history, University of South Dakota, Vermillion.

Eisenhower: The White House Years
by Jim Newton
480 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
New York: Random House, 2011, cloth $29.95.
Reviewed by Amy Cantone, curatorial assistant, Missouri State Museum, Jefferson City.

War-Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences
by Mary Dudziak
221 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2012, cloth $24.95.
Reviewed by Brian Balogh, Compton Professor of History, The Miller Center and Department of History, University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States
by Mark Fiege
xii + 584 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Pillsbury, history teacher, Riverdale Country School, New York, New York.

American Genesis: The Evolution Controversies from Scopes to Creation Science
by Jeffrey P. Moran
xii + 155 pages, notes, index.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2012, cloth $29.95.
Reviewed by Hamilton Cravens, research specialist, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

The Failure of Popular Sovereignty: Slavery, Manifest Destiny, and the Radicalization of Southern Politics
by Christopher Childers
xii + 334 pages, illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012, cloth $39.95.
Reviewed by James L. Huston, professor of history, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater.


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The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Volume VI. An Awful Hush, 1895 to 1906.Edited by Ann D. Gordon. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2013, xlix + 602 pages, cloth $70.00).

The final volume in this monumental project—which began with the 1997 publication of In the School of Anti-Slavery, 1840–1866An Awful Hush, 1895 to 1906 features the same richly detailed editorial work that Ann Gordon, research professor in the Department of History at Rutgers, brought to the entire series and that makes it an indispensable resource. Appropriately, of course, volume six ends with the death of Susan B. Anthony on March 13, 1906, at age eight-six; the three years that had passed since the death of her friend and colleague in the crusade, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, were for Anthony “an awful hush,” but she continued to travel and write to the end. As with the other five volumes, students of Kansas history will find much of interest in the last, including a January 1905 letter to George W. Martin, secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, regarding a biography of her brother, Daniel R. Anthony, and the donation of some books and other historical materials.

Civil Liberties and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman: A Conflicted Legacy. Edited by Richard S. Kirkendall. (Kirksville, Mo.: Truman State University Press, 2013, xvi + 340 pages, paper $34.95.)

The ninth volume in the Truman Legacy Series, edited by one of the nation’s most notable Truman scholars, is based on papers presented at the May 2011 Truman Legacy Symposium held at Truman’s Little White House in Key West, Florida. As Professor Kirkendall explains, “the book offers a diversity of topics connected with the theme [Truman and civil liberties] and more than one point of view” (p. xi). The collection offers: ten scholarly essays, including Athan G. Theoharis’s “The Truman Presidency and the FBI” and Richard M. Fried’s “Harry and Joe: President Truman Confronts Senator Joe McCarthy”; a useful “graphic essay” of relevant documents and photographs by Raymond H. Geselbracht, special assistant to the director of the Truman Library; and appendixes containing the president’s speeches, messages, news conference remarks, and executive orders related to civil liberties.

The Mormon Rebellion: America’s First Civil War, 1857–1858. By David L. Bigler and Will Bagley. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012, xv + 392 pages, paper $24.95.)

Historians David Bigler and Will Bagley call the Mormon Rebellion a protracted and highly combustible standoff between federal troops and Mormon militiamen in 1857 and 1858, America’s first fight with theocracy. Drawing substantially from newly opened archival records, they seek to revise the Mormon-crafted “hero tale” that the rebellion was an example of an overbearing federal government trampling the religious rights of a persecuted minority. Rather than a “blunder” by President James Buchanan, the conflict was necessary, the authors argue, and the federal government was wise in sending troops into Utah Territory because Brigham Young, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was building a separate kingdom based on what he called theodemocracy.

Battle Hymns: The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil War. By Christian McWhirter. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012, viii + 321 pages, cloth $39.95.)

During the Civil War, writes historian Christian McWhirter, “songs were cultural tools used by all to convey ideas and influence others” (p. 4). Drawing on innumerable manuscript collections, a variety of contemporary newspapers, published materials, and sheet music, as well as on a host of secondary sources, McWhirter, assistant editor for the Papers of Abraham Lincoln at the National Archives, reveals why songs like “John Brown’s Body” and “Dixie” achieved such lasting fame. He describes how Union and Confederate officials attempted to create suitable anthems, compares civilian and military tunes, shows how African American music grew expectant with the approach of freedom, and traces the collective memory of Civil War tunes. Battle Hymns contains fascinating, humorous, and little-known stories from the period.

By All Accounts: General Stores and Community Life in Texas and Indian Territory.By Linda English. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013, v + 268 pages, cloth $29.95.)

By All Accounts explores daily life in both large and small late-nineteenth-century rural agricultural communities and finds numerous racial, gender, class, and ethnic distinctions in day-to-day commercial exchanges. Historian Linda English employs general store ledgers and account books to reveal the “complex web of relationships among merchants and customers involving commodities and prevailing cultural assumptions, local and regional economies, and communities and their inhabitants” (p. 3). English articulately describes general stores as the center of rural economic life and cultural exchange in small communities and illustrates how those store owners became vital lenders of credit that facilitated community growth. This New Western sociocultural study demonstrates that consumption patterns aptly reveal the changing nature of race relations in post–Civil War America. Further, it reveals that general store ledgers are an untapped wealth of historical information beyond the narrowly economic.

The Santa Fe Trail: Its History, Legends, and Lore.By David Dary. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012, xi + 368 pages, cloth $19.95.)

First Published in 2000 by Alfred A. Knopf, The Santa Fe Trail: Its History, Legends, and Lore, by noted University of Oklahoma journalism professor David Dary, is now available from the University Press of Kansas. Dary’s work does not solely address commerce and trade on the trail that officially began in 1821; it provides a total history of the development, life, and decline of the trail and covers the renewed cultural interest in the city of Santa Fe in the twentieth century. The narrative begins with the appearance of the Spanish on the North American Continent in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and traces how Santa Fe grew intoa vital commercial trading center and destination for French, Indian, and American traders before 1821. Dary tells “the full story” and reveals “the romance, flavor, and color associated with the trail” (p. xii). The book includes many maps and illustrations that highlight the people, places, and events that the annual caravan of traders encountered on the Kansas plains.