From beginning to end, the theater of Civil War conflict extended as far west as the country itself. With President Lincoln's first call for troops, recruiters fanned out through the Midwest, state militia units were mustered, and transport to the East was engaged. With the spread of the "fire of secession," local and state units were organized for service in the region. One of the first units to respond to Lincoln's call was the 1st Minnesota, and the first Union campaign began with Ohio militia units invading western Virginia in support of Union sympathizers. Union strength in the East was greatly bolstered by rugged midwestern regiments. They fought with distinction at Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, and in the long Wilderness Campaign and siege of Richmond. In the Midwest and trans-Mississippi West, midwestern units carried out the combined ground and naval assaults that won Union control of the strategic interior rivers of the South-first the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers and, with the fall of Vicksburg in mid-1863, the entire Mississippi River. Vicksburg was the conquest that persuaded Lincoln to assign Ulysses S. Grant of Illinois to command the Union forces in the East against Lee.
Grant's successor in command of the western forces was the Ohioan William Tecumseh Sherman. From Chattanooga in May 1864 Sherman, with three armies and 112,000 veteran soldiers, launched his remorseless march through the South. Because these were largely western troops, the diaries and other materials in Part 4 document this participation. The fall of Atlanta to Sherman's troops on September 2 dwarfed southern victories in the West that year. By late December, Sherman had reached the sea. The South's economy had been gutted, its morale nearly broken. Several midwestern regiments comprised foreign-born laborers, craftsmen, and shopkeepers. They were not long in this country when recruiters appeared in their German, Scandinavian, Swiss, and Irish neighborhoods in Chicago, Peoria, Detroit, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Davenport. Part 4 includes histories and narratives, some in English and some in other European languages, that highlight the immigrants' loyalty to their new country. A peculiar feature of the war in the West was the involvement of Native Americans, many of whom saw an opportunity to free themselves from the whites controlling their immediate area. Included in Part 4 are several histories pertaining to the suppression of Indian uprisings, particularly in Minnesota and the Southwest, by the Kiowa, Sioux, and Comanche.
Part 4 includes unit histories and personal narratives from states and territories of the West. These materials are assembled from a wide variety of state, university, and college libraries and historical societies. Documentation from the far western states and territories, except California, is less than that from the Midwest. With smaller populations, fewer units were raised and fewer histories produced. For this reason, materials from the Far West form a single group. Part 4 documents the midwestern and western units from mustering in to mustering out, through both contemporaneous accounts and later recollections. Infantrymen, cavalrymen, artillerymen, and some officers, scouts, nurses, and spies tell their stories. There are also accounts from a chaplain, a surgeon, and a drummer boy. Their descriptions cover the full range of emotions and experiences
endured in camps, marches, battles, hospitals, and prisons.