New NSHS-Authored Book Shows Nebraska’s Role in Civil War

From a pool of barely nine thousand men of military age, Nebraska—still a territory at the time—sent more than three thousand soldiers to the Civil War. They fought and died for the Union cause, were wounded, taken prisoner, and in some cases deserted. But Nebraska’s military contribution is only one part of the more complex and interesting story that James E. Potter, Nebraska State Historical Society senior research historian, tells in Standing Firmly by the Flag, published by the University of Nebraska Press. It is the first book to fully explore Nebraska’s involvement in the Civil War and the war’s involvement in Nebraska’s evolution from territory to thirty-seventh state on March 1, 1867. An earlier publication by Potter and Edith Robbins, the edited letters of Nebraska soldier August Scherneckau, was published in 2007 by the University of Oklahoma Press as Marching with the First Nebraska: A Civil War Diary.  

Although distant from the major battlefronts and seats of the warring governments, Nebraskans were aware of the war’s issues and subject to its consequences. National debates about the origins of the rebellion, the policies pursued to quell it, and what kind of nation should emerge once it was over echoed throughout Nebraska. Potter explores the war’s impact on Nebraskans and shows how, when Nebraska Territory sought admission to the Union at war’s end, it was caught up in political struggles over Reconstruction, the fate of the freed slaves, and the relationship between the states and the federal government.  

“Cavalry Charge of Sully’s Brigade at the Battle of White Stone Hill, September 3, 1863.” Harper’s Weekly, October 31, 1863

“A masterful narrative of wartime passions, played out on the battlefields, in the newspapers, and in the territorial legislature. Standing Firmly by the Flag tells the tumultuous story that culminated not on the road to Appomattox, but on the fitful path to Nebraska statehood.” —Eli Paul, editor, The Nebraska Indian Wars Reader: 1865–1877  

“This is easily the most complete and satisfying study of a critical but relatively neglected period in Nebraska’s territorial history. . . . Standing Firmly by the Flag offers a multifaceted portrait—military, political, economic, and social—of a frontier territory more affected by the tumult of civil war than its location (hundreds of miles from the conflict’s major battlefields) would suggest.” —Edward G. Longacre, author of The Cavalry at Gettysburg and Lee’s Cavalrymen

Standing Firmly by the Flag: Nebraska Territory and the Civil War, 1861-1867, is 400 pages and costs $29.95 ($26.95 for NSHS members), plus tax and shipping. To order contact the Landmark Stores at 402-471-3447.

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