During the Civil War, humans impacted plants and animals on an unprecedented scale as soldiers on both sides waged the most environmentally destructive war ever on American soil. Refugees and armies alike tramped across the landscape foraging for food, shelter, and fuel. Wild plants and animals formed barriers for armies and carried disease, yet also provided medicine and raw materials necessary to implement war, greatly influencing the day-to-day life of soldiers and civilians. Of the thousands of books written about the Civil War, few mention the environment, and none address the topic as a principal theme. In Flora and Fauna of the Civil War, Kelby Ouchley blends traditional and natural history to create a unique text that explores both the impact of the Civil War on the surrounding environment and the reciprocal influence of plants and animals on the war effort.
The war generated an abundance of letters, diaries, and journals in which soldiers and civilians penned descriptions of plants and animals, sometimes as a brief comment in passing and other times as part of a noteworthy event in their lives. Ouchley collects and organizes these first-person accounts of the Civil War environment, adding expert analysis and commentary in order to offer an array of fascinating insights on the natural history of the era.
After discussing the physical setting of the war and exploring humans' attitudes toward nature during the Civil War period, Ouchley presents the flora and fauna by individual species or closely related group in the words of the participants themselves. From ash trees to willows, from alligators to white-tailed deer, the excerpts provide glimpses of personal encounters with the natural world during the war, revealing how soldiers and civilians thought about and interacted with wild flora and fauna in a time of epic historical events.
Collectively, no better sources exist to reveal human attitudes toward the environment in the Civil War era. This one-of-a-kind reference book will spark widespread interest among Civil War scholars, writers, and enthusiasts, as well as environmental historians.
Kelby Ouchley is a naturalist and managed National Wildlife Refuges for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 30 years. His first book, Flora and Fauna of the Civil War: An Environmental Reference Guide, was published by LSU Press in 2010. A collection of his essays, Bayou-Diversity: Nature and People in the Louisiana Bayou Country, was released by LSU Press in October 2011. His first novel, Iron Branch: A Civil War Tale of a Woman In-Between, is now available in softback and e-book formats. Since 1995, Kelby has written and narrated a weekly conservation-related program for KEDM 90.3 FM, the public radio station that serves the Ark-La-Miss area. He has been awarded the Louisiana Governor's Conservationist of the Year Award.
"Few [Civil War] works will reflect such labor and love [...] [it] provides engaging environmental, economic, social, and cultural insights into the lives of the soldiers [...] Highly recommended."
– P.D. Thomas, Wichita State Univ.; Choice Reviews Online
"Falling somewhere between a reference text and a collection of thoroughly annotated personal anecdotes, this book combines dual disciplines to form a new study of environmental history.. Still, his text is filled with environmental lessons."
– Tennessee Libraries 61:2, 2011
" [...] Kelby Ouchley's Flora and Fauna of the Civil War is a welcome addition to the growing field of Civil War environmental studies. It will be a useful source for scholars interested in the complex and often contradictory relationships between humans and nature in wartime."
– Journal of Environmental History, July 2011
"I am encouraged when the occasional fresh look at the war comes along [...] Yes, I am recommending, very strongly, a reference guide, one that is thorough, witty, and full of insights from a fresh perspective on the effect of environment on soldiers and the effect of soldiers on environment."
– Baton Rouge Advocate, August 2011
"In an unusual blend of botany, history, and humanity, Kelby Ouchley has produced a fascinating, illuminating, and historically accurate account of the Civil War, the people who were directly or indirectly involved, and the ultimate environmental aftermath."
– Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, August 2011