Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Most of us on social media have probably seen, at one time or another, the frustration voiced by an individual that there is a decidedly lack of attention paid to the Western Theater of the Civil War by content creators and in many online publications. Really, there is nothing wrong with someone wanting to focus on the Eastern Theater. Most of the alluded to creators and publications are based in the East, so it is natural to focus on what is close and accessible. But what if there was a way to aid in bringing the Western Theater to the same online prominence? What if there was a way to increase the knowledge, understanding, and engagement in the Western Theater for students of the Civil War in one place? We here at The Western Theater in the Civil War want to provide students of the Civil War, and Civil War buffs in general, with a platform where they can easily find well-written and well-researched articles pertaining to the Western Theater by respected authors, bloggers, historians, National Park staff, and the up and coming young historians. That is our goal.
The Western Theater is so unique when compared with the East. The huge number of river transports, defenses, and operations along the mighty Mississippi, the Cumberland, the Tennessee, and the Ohio, along with some of the Mississippi and Georgia rivers that I won't even try to pronounce, worked with and against the collaboration of the Union Army and Brown Water Navy to slowly squeeze the Southern states into submission. Territory, inch by inch, gave way to the advancing Union armies, territory that fed the Confederate armies and allowed for the quick transportation of essential supplies to those fighting at the front. If the Kentucky lines of 1861 stayed in tact, it can be assumed that the Confederacy might have survived, at least longer than it did. The West is truly where the war was won and lost.
Not to mention, those of us who live in the Western Theater are surrounded by hidden history, and in some places, it is in danger of being lost forever to development. The only way these sites are saved is if people have the knowledge about their importance. We are hopeful that this platform provides at least some of that information to save hallowed ground, no matter how small.
You can expect a wide range of topics and articles here at The Western Theater in the Civil War. For those students of the war who are wondering where to start in their own Western Theater education, several book reviews ranging from campaign studies, leaders, large and small battles, and studies on the several field armies are in the works. Need a book on one of the Union field armies in the Western Theater? We have several book reviews coming up for that topic. Let's be honest, can you always trust an Amazon review? When you read a book review here, you can have the satisfaction that you are reading an honest review by someone who not only understands the topic, but has read the book thoroughly from cover to cover. The reviewer will discuss the positives of the book, and what the work lacked. These reviews will help you decide if this is the book for you.
Primary sources will be a huge part of this endeavor. The experiences of the soldiers on the dusty campaigns and the families left behind to run farms and businesses themselves are the driving forces that help us understand the war. With their personal recollections, letters, diaries and journals, and memoirs, we are better able to understand what this era was truly like. What was it like for an Illinoisan marching through Mississippi during the Vicksburg Campaign? How did a young college student in Indiana explain to his parents that he was enlisting against their wishes? How did a wife and mother manage the family farm in southern Indiana with the threat of guerrilla raids?
Original articles on skirmishes, battles, people, and events will also feature here. Some of these will be about the events and people you may already know, but you will also find great information on some things that may be off the beaten path. The Western Theater is huge, so too should our study!
Something that will be helpful for those who plan to visit Western Theater sites, is the articles you find written by those of use who visit. They will give you a basic rundown of what to expect and how to prepare for the visit, plus what you really need to see while there! We also have Q & A articles with different battlefield preservation associations and friends groups. This will allow you to give directly to the sites that you hold dear, and learn how these groups are saving those sacred sites.
Our team is a large collection of people, coming from different backgrounds and expertise in the Civil War and the Western Theater. National Park Service Rangers from three Western Theater battlefields will provide content on the war from their respective areas. Bloggers and researchers who specialize in a certain niche of the Western Theater will bring forth posts and articles on the topics they have spent years studying, usually the type of stuff that no one else thinks to research. You can also expect to find information presented by National Archives staff, battlefield and historic site tour guides, history professors, and genealogists, just to name a few. One thing we are especially proud of is providing a platform for the young and upcoming Civil War historians. As of right now, we have two young historians researching and writing on different aspects of the Western Theater. How many times have you heard someone complain that the younger generations don't care about our history, much less know it? Well, we aim to make sure that the Western Theater torch burns bright into the future.
We sincerely hope that you will join us in this endeavor to expand the study of the Western Theater, and bring it to the forefront on the web. We may be climbing an Everest, but it is not impossible. Share our articles, subscribe to the site, start conversations on the Facebook group, attend the learning opportunities, buy the books, and visit the sites yourself! In the words of General Sherman:
"Now as to the future. Do not stay in Washington...Come out West; take to yourself the whole Mississippi Valley...We have done much; still much remains to be done. Time and time’s influences are all with us...For God’s sake and for your country’s sake, come out of Washington! Here lies the seat of the coming empire..."