Two Wars on the Frontier is the annotated journal of A. J. Carlson, a Minnesota soldier who fought in both the US-Dakota War of 1862 and for the Union Army in the Civil War. On August 21, 1862, A. J. enlisted in Company H, Ninth Minnesota Regiment, which was composed primarily of men from Carver County, Minnesota. Because the U.S.-Dakota war had begun three days prior, A. J.’s company was retained in Minnesota to assist with this war. In October 1863, Company H left Fort Abercrombie, Dakota Territory for Fort Snelling, and then headed down the Mississippi River to fight in the Civil War.
Two Wars on the Frontier recorded Carlson’s observations and impressions of some of the defining events of American and Western history. The journal was first published in parts in the 1880s by the West Union News, a very small newspaper started by Carlson’s ten-year-old son. Most of the narrative was a personal account of the Civil War and the U.S. Dakota War of 1862, but the News chose to add other newspaper articles, court documents, and others’ personal accounts to complete the reader’s picture of the Wars and provide context for Carlson’s experiences.
Lost for over a hundred years, Carlson’s journal was re-discovered and published by the Carver County Historical Society to help readers understand the county’s place in history. No books or exhibits included Company H of the Ninth Minnesota Regiment, and their story was gradually forgotten, even in the local area. Bringing Carlson’s journal back into the spotlight provided a unique perspective from both sides of these important conflicts and reintroduced the significance of Carver County in nineteenth-century history.
Two Wars on the Frontier is an essential primary source for historians, as well as an enthralling read for history lovers. The journals and their supplementary content provide a compelling look at a tumultuous period in American history, and offer an unusually thorough analysis by the author of the tragedies of two wars. A.J. Carlson’s journals let readers experience history through his eyes as a soldier and Carver County native.