Review: Fire in the Cane Field: The Federal Invasion of Louisiana and Texas, January 1861-January 1863

Fire in the Cane Field: The Federal Invasion of Louisiana and Texas, January 1861-January 1863 (Hardcover)
by Donald S. Frazier

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: State House/McWhiney Foundation Press (July 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933337362
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933337364

After the fall of New Orleans, Civil War history moves away from Louisiana & Texas.  “Beast” Butler, some issues with occupation and questions about the status of Freemen is all the coverage the area gets.  Port Hudson and the Red River Campaign complete the standard history of this area.  We have lost a history of small battles, maneuvers, political infighting by small units in a backwater of the war.  This Civil War history is not mighty armies lead by great generals fighting major battles.  It is companies lead by field grade officers fighting to secure small advantages.  It is a few gunboats trying to support a regiment ashore.  Small naval battles on the Gulf or in the rivers secure vital advantages by blocking ports or supporting movement.  Commanders face a continual problem of more missions than resources.  Opportunities are lost due to lack of resources and some missions fail when needed resources are not allocated.

The fall of New Orleans is the start not the end of the story.  Donald S. Frazier brings the first two years of the war to life in this vivid well-written book.  Covering both sides, without taking sides, the military, political and social questions interact causing a series of problems and opportunities.  This reminded me of Viet Nam, where two armies are interacting working with and over a civilian population of shifting loyalties.  The last chapter “Two years after secession” is one of the best reviews of the first two years of the war written.  While specific to this area, the author captures the position of both sides.

The author is a college history professor.  This means that the book is properly footnoted, has good sources and is well researched.  In addition, he is an excellent author with very readable and enjoyable style.  Maps are plentiful, useful and in the right place.  The publisher understood that the area is unfamiliar to the majority and made sure that we have the necessary maps.  The illustration, a combination of photographs and prints enhance the text and provide some stunning visuals.  This is a handsome book, well made of high quality materials.  The history contained inside, the covers, is excellent and to my knowledge unique scholarship.

This is the first of four books on the war in Louisiana and Texas, entitled the Louisiana Quadrille series.  Based on this book and the author’s “Blood & Treasure”, they are necessary books in a Civil War Library.

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