Flight Into Oblivion. By A. J. Hanna. (Richmond: Johnson Publishing Company, 1938. xi+306 pages. Illustrations and maps. $2.75.)
Flight Into Oblivion is a volume that marks the author, A. J. Hanna, as one who knows how to use historical facts so the layman can understand them. The events of the Civil War have become history; no longer are they discussed with deep personal feelings. The War will soon be a century old, and the time has come when without "malice of forethought" a capable writer can relate facts without arousing the ardor of the Civil War participants and their children to the point of wishing to fight the conflict again.
With the ability of a capable narrator, Mr. Hanna first gives admirable and sufficiently long character sketches of the members of the Confederate cabinet and other officials of that time. They are good introductions; from them, the reader will know each character when he meets him on other occasions.
The setting of the story is geographical, military, social and economic. The location of scenes is easily made from maps that frequently appear. The military phase of the book is not heavy, but is adequately treated; the social life, whether in homes or on the trail of "oblivion" is carefully described; the clothing, food, and finances (if any) are projected into the story with sufficient emphasis. In fact the novelist will do well to read Mr. Hanna's description for the factual portrayal of characters and scenes.
The Union sentiment in North Carolina is mentioned in the reception given Jefferson Davis as he escaped from Richmond into Greensboro. The status of the Confederate treasury was a matter of concern to those who escaped from the Capitol as the Union forces approached. To carry the half-million dollars from the Treasury during the flight was a task that required courage, care and accounting. In fact the Treasury Department seemed to function longer than any other, unless it was the Navy—if one may consider the heroic voyages of the fugitives to Cuba and the Bahama Islands as constituting a "Navy."
A chapter of the book describing General E. Kirby Smith's almost absolute command of the Trans-Mississippi Military Department, is one that should be carefully read. Here is one of the first attempts to show how the cotton market was kept open for Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Indian Territory. Davis considered joining Smith where they might continue the fight—a dream, but worth considering. (Kirby Smith was not the last
Confederate general to surrender, as stated on page 141. General Stand Watie, who commanded troops in Indian Territory, surrendered June 23, almost a month after Smith.)
The escape of some officials to foreign lands and the flight of others, only to end in being captured, constitute two thirds of the book. By the latter part of June, Jefferson Davis, Secretary of the Navy Mallory, Postmaster General Reagan, and Secretary of the Treasury Trenholm, were captured. Benjamin, Secretary of State, and George Davis, Attorney General, were hard pressed to avoid capture. General Breckinridge, Secretary of War, had escaped by this time. The escape of Breckinridge is one of the thrilling adventures of modern times. The frail boat that carried his party from Florida to Cuba was such that few would have used to venture a mile from shore. Benjamin, versatile and resourceful, passed himself as a farmer in order to reach the coast and make his way to England, where he became a lawyer of importance. The escape or capture of the other high officials is related.
The book is valuable as history. It is documented to meet the needs of the critical reader, and contains a good index. There are no controversial discussions. The narrative is unbiased and well told. It is a contribution to the literature of the Civil War period.
M. L. Wardell
University of Oklahoma
35,000 Days in Texas, A History of the Dallas News and its Forbears. By Sam Acheson, (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1938. 337 pp. Frontispiece, introduction, illustrations, appendix, bibliographical note, and index. $2.50.)
But a few months before the undersigned was asked to review 35,000 Days, he had visited the offices and library of The News because of am interest in the index controls being placed over the files of that significant newspaper. He left the building with an unexpressed feeling that here was an "institution." So, in spite of a studied attempt at objectivity, this volume was read for pleasure, and it may be stated, with satisfaction.
If "The News is the story of Texas" one cannot admit that this volume tells the "story," but much that is of interest is to be found here; nor is it balanced, for the sources used were not so; but it is interesting and it is worth reading.
One is carried from the field of "personal" journalism to the "corporate" publication of the present, with sufficient detail to satisfy the general reader. The political, economic and social causes espoused by the News and its predecessor axe presented with state,
regional, or national backgrounds sketched in where essential to the story's balance. One notices gaps in political campaigns, though the more interesting are highlighted. The latter is true also of the Civil War, the Galveston Flood, the Settlement of Oklahoma, and the late depression. Here one finds specific examples of the effect of the railroad, the telegraph, the telephone, and the electric light on the collection and dissemination of the news. Here is the story of beginnings in chain newspaper operation. And too, it is a story of some of the men and women who made this paper what it is today.
One takes up this book and begins reading an intimate story of "The Old Lady By the Sea," but the book closes, on a News of neuter gender. The author of this volume does not follow the same course in his narration.
John C. L. Andreassen
Historical Records Survey
Our Oklahoma, By Muriel H. Wright. (Guthrie, Oklahoma: Co-Operative Publishing Company. 1939. Illustrated. xiii 454 pp. 67c)
This volume, recently completed and issued from the press, has been chosen and adopted by the State Text-Book Commission for use in the grade schools of Oklahoma. Thirty-one years ago, the study of Oklahoma history was introduced into the public schools of the state and the first text-book treating of that theme, of necessity based upon hasty, and imperfect research, though wholly from primary source materials made its initial appearance. Jesse Chisholm was still Oklahoma's "forgotten man" in those days, though his name has since come into a measure of deserved recognition in the estimation of the people of Oklahoma. "The Trail of Tears" received its first literary mention in that little volume, though, inadvertently, in a wrong connection. One of the most pertinent criticisms of that first treatise came from William H. Murray, since governor of the state, who remarked that the book, contained "too much war and battle and not enough About the life of the people."
However imperfect that pioneering effort may now seem to have been and despite unkind criticisms, which were numerous at first, it served to quicken a popular interest in the local history of a new commonwealth with a result that many people have acquired a general knowledge of the state's history with such as neither writers nor teachers had previously been familiar.
Tracing descent from historic antecedents, possessed of wide acquaintance and inspiring associations, the author of this latest
work on the history of Oklahoma was privileged to live her earlier life in an environment that made for studious habits, inclinations and tastes. Moreover, she has spent nearly a score of years in consistent and more or less continuous historical research. She was, therefore, peculiarly qualified to undertake the preparation of the story of her home state for the information and inspiration of its rising generation. Although both by heredity and environment, she might easily have manifested a measure of prejudiced feeling in some instances of text expression, her statements concerning controversial issues are noticeably fair-minded and free from any hint of personal bias. She has used rare judgment in the selection of essential materials for the text of her book, with the result that it impresses the reader as having presented a well-rounded balance, with no over-load of details, yet stressing the more important phases in such a way as to prepare the mind of the pupil for more thorough studies in due and proper relation in the maturity of after years.
This small volume is exceptionally well illustrated containing approximately 125 engravings of scenes, views, portraits, artifacts, etc., all of which are authentic and appropriate, including a number that are old and rare. Lastly it is a fact worthy of mention that this book is the first history of Oklahoma that has been entirely planned and written by a native of the state, one who has been a successful teacher in its public schools and one, who, in her own personality, combines much that is best and most desirable in both the Caucasian and native American elements of its citizenship.
It is justly due, also that the publishers are to be complimented upon their part of the production of this work—for the excellence of its mechanical construction and finish of the volume, which befits its literary and artistic composition, its patriotic standards and civic ideals as well.
Joseph B. Thoburn
Union Memorial Hall
The Chouteaus and the Founding of Salina, Oklahoma's First White Settlement. By Vinson Lackey. (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Claude F. Neerman Co., 1939. 40 pp. Seven illustrations. $.50)
The appearance of this booklet is welcome and timely, in view of the increasing interest in the story of Oklahoma's first white settlement occasioned by the recent legislative resolution designating as "Oklahoma Historical Day" the birth date of Salina's founder, Major Jean Pierre Chouteau, who was born October 10, 1758.
In connection with the recent statewide observance of Oklahoma Historical Day a prominent state newspaper said editorially, "Much of the pride of Oklahoma centers about the original settlement at
Salina. Our people have seized upon various things to celebrate. We have had a great many stirring events in our brief formal history.
"We are in the habit of thinking of the settlement of Indian Territory and the Opening of Oklahoma Territory as the high points of pioneering and occupation.
"The Chouteau trading post antedates all the events by which we ordinarily reckon our history. There was the first business of record, and from that experiment arose fleeting visions of permanent settlement and the greatness that was to come. People should now realize that our cardinal dates are not, like the state itself, recent. The history of the trading post at Salina is just about as long as the career of the United States as a republic. The exploits of the Chouteaus were indeed potent in opening the way for general settlement and for our advanced state."
In a charming, brief and informal manner the author brings us to a realization of the truth of the editorial.
He takes for his warp the facts which heretofore have appeared only as fragmentary and widely scattered statements by established historians writing principally of other things. Through this he weaves a woof spun from the more persistent stories and statements handed down from generation to generation in the Chouteau family, utilizing only such interview material as gives strength, color and pattern to the piece.
He reconstructs long lost detail with a newspaperman's assurrance, but not from imagination alone, for one senses even in these passages the store of first-hand knowledge and experience which keeps his statements always within the bounds not only of plausibility but of probability.
Footnotes are few, but a list of suggested readings with page citations is given, and the narrative plainly shows evidence of careful and extensive research not only in the perusement of printed pages but in many other fields as well.
The lithographic illustrations are no less interesting than the text. The ones of Major Jean Pierre's first trading house on Grand river and of Col. A. P. Chouteau's residence show evidence of intensive research and might well be used as a guide in any plan to reconstruct these historic buildings.
The use of 10 point Textype (linotype) facilitates reading, and the 5½ by 8½ inch size fits the coat pocket. The booklet is bound in heavyweight Strathmore Doubledeckle paper and carries an attractive cover design which gives an inkling of the story within.
J. B. M.
The Formation of the State of Oklahoma. By Roy Gittinger. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1939. xii+309 pp. Appendices and maps. $2.50.)
After reading this revised edition of The Formation of the State of Oklahoma by Dr. Roy Gittinger of the University of Oklahoma, the reviewer feels tempted to write that it is the definitive treatment of this subject. The writer has carefully delineated the history of events from 1803, the date of the Louisiana Purchase, to 1907, when Oklahoma was admitted as a State. As the publisher's announcement stated, he has given "an account of . . . the treaties which settled Indians in Oklahoma, the developments after the settlement of the Indian tribes, the problems which arose in connection with white settlement, and finally the events which culminated in the establishment of the commonwealth."
In this scholarly and well-documented volume the author has related the events he describes to contemporary events taking place on the national stage. He has shown clearly how inextricably are interwoven the national Indian policy and the events which took place in the area later to be known as the State of Oklahoma.
The University of Oklahoma Press has made a noteworthy contribution in making available a new edition of The Formation of the State of Oklahoma, which appeared first twenty-two years ago as Volume Six of the University of California Publications in History.
The broad scope of this interesting volume is indicated by the chapter headings, which are as follows: Beginnings of the Indian Territory West of the Mississippi, The Establishment of the Larger Indian Territory, The Separation of Nebraska and Kansas from the Indian Territory, The Proposed State of Neosho, The Indian Territory During the Civil War, The Reconstruction of the Indian Territory, The Boomers, How the Boomers Won, Four Years of Waiting, The Settlement of Oklahoma Territory, The Settlement of the Indian Territory, The Admission of Oklahoma.
One of the remarkable features of this history is the mention of the names of American statesmen ordinarily not associated with our history. Also rescued from oblivion are others like Senator Robert W. Johnson of Arkansas.
The reviewer regrets that Dr. Gittinger did not find time to relate the findings of more recent studies to the main body of his work. He has, added, however, a supplemental list of newer books dealing with the period covered in this voume to the bibliography on pages 288-290.. An extended use of the manuscript sources would have added greater validity to his conclusions. The author is justified, however, in stating in his Preface that "The more recent works have not affected essentially the conclusions here presented."
James W. Moffitt
Oklahoma Historical Society