- The Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian Territory ed. by Bradley R. Clampitt
Edited and with an introduction by Bradley R. Clampitt. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015. vii + 184 pp. Map, list of contributors, index. $25.00 paper.
The eight essays included in The Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian Territory provide a window into complex military, political, and social issues that do not fit easily within the traditional narrative of the American Civil War. Inhabitants of the sovereign tribal nations in Indian Territory, including tribal citizens, slaves, and Euro-American settlers, serve as the focal point of the volume. Thus, the collection marks a significant departure from the typical focus on the Union and the Confederacy in Civil War scholarship. It joins other recent contributed volumes, including Civil War Wests: Testing the Limits of the United States, edited by Adam Arenson and Andrew R. Graybill, and Empire and Liberty: The Civil War and the West, edited by Virginia Scharff, in exploring the impact of the Civil War in the trans-Mississippi West. The slim volume also complements When the Wolf Came, Mary Jane Warde's comprehensive narrative of the Civil War in Indian Territory.
Collectively, the essays in the volume demonstrate that while the battles in Indian Territory did not significantly affect the military outcome, the distinct sovereign status of the Five Tribes complicated the larger political and social landscape of the Civil War era. For instance, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations negotiated an alliance with the Confederacy because the terms of the treaty offered them better opportunities to protect their political autonomy than previous relations with the federal government had afforded. Essays by Clarissa Confer and Linda Reese also highlight just how disruptive the conflict and reconstruction efforts proved for the diverse population of Indian Territory, particularly women and newly emancipated slaves. Contributing to growing scholarship on Civil War memory and commemoration, Amanda Cobb-Greetham and White Edward's contributions illuminate the unique and complicated legacies of the American Civil War in Oklahoma. F. Todd Smith's essay, "'The Most Destitute' People in Indian Territory: The Wichita Agency Tribes and the Civil War" skillfully chronicles the ways in which smaller Native groups in Indian Territory suffered devastating losses in the midst of the larger conflict. Further essays covering the Plains Indian tribes would have been a welcome addition to the book.
More rigorous ethnohistorical research and interpretations would have strengthened some of the individual essays. For instance, Christopher B. Bean's "Who Defines a Nation?: Reconstruction in Indian Territory" relies almost exclusively on secondary sources and does not adequately problematize previous scholars' assumptions. In particular, the emphasis on political factionalism and a "traditional" versus "progressive" binary obscures the political, cultural, and racial diversity that characterize the Five Tribes. As a whole, however, the volume effectively explores the complex history of the Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian Territory with a particular emphasis on the diverse experiences of various Native communities. It will appeal broadly to students and scholars of Native American history and Civil War history. [End Page 147]
University of Central Oklahoma