RSU Pryor Professor Writing History Book

Dr. Jane JohanssonDr. Jane Johansson, RSU Professor of History, has been awarded a one-semester research sabbatical as she prepares for publication the personal diary, correspondence and newspaper articles written by Civil War officer Lt. Colonel Albert C. Ellithorpe.

A Chicago businessman and inventor, Ellithorpe was a commissioned Union officer in the First Indian Home Guards, a tri-racial unit made up of white commissioned officers, refugee Creek and Seminole Indians and African-Americans.

Ellithorpe’s writings reveal a messy, complex situation peopled by real (i.e. imperfect) human beings rather than a glorious, grand war of Good versus Evil. Ellithorpe and his men campaigned in Arkansas, the Indian Territory and in Missouri.

Political maneuverings for prized positions, corruption, and fraud are documented by Ellithorpe’s pen. Masses of refugees fleeing the armies are regarded with both compassion and occasional distaste (according to their loyalties) by Ellithorpe. Set piece battles such as Prairie Grove are the subject of his writings, but more frequent are accounts of the nasty and brutal guerrilla warfare of the border region.

Rather than being repelled by this type of warfare, which would seem like a more proper attitude for a gentleman of his time, the soldier seemed to participate with some gusto.

The war west of the Mississippi is Dr. Johansson’s primary academic interest, and she writes The Trans-Mississippian blog.