No other state’s history is so entwined with the American Civil War as that of the Sunflower State, says historian Debra Goodrich Bisel. She will visit the Barton County Historical Society to present a lecture and book signing from 1-3 p.m. Friday in the main museum, located just south of the Arkansas River Bridge in Great Bend on U.S. 281. Admission to the program is free.
Bisel will visit the museum to share information about her new book, “The Civil War in Kansas: Ten Years of Turmoil.” It was published this year by History Press, with a foreword by Gen. Richard B. Myers (ret), 15th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
By the time the Civil War officially began in 1861, Kansas and Missouri had already been fighting for six years. The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act left the Kansas Territory wide open for white settlement, and the stage was set for a battle that would ignite the nation. From the hopes and dreams of settlers and the exploits of John Brown to the Lawrence and Pottawatomie Massacres and the many other battles and skirmishes, Bisel tells that tumultuous story.
Beverly Komarek, executive director of the historical society, said the historical society currently has a post-Civil War exhibit on the Exodusters and a Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) booth. When Bisel offered to do a program as she heads west to promote her book, Komarek accepted. “Her credentials are impressive,” Komarek said.
A native Virginian, Bisel has adopted Kansas as her home. She received her BA in history at Washburn University in Topeka, and also studied at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming. Bleeding Kansas, the Civil War and the Plains Indian Wars are her areas of focus. She consults at the Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, on media training. History is her first passion, and she has appeared in more than a dozen documentaries, including A&E’s American Experience and productions for the History Channel, the Discovery Channel and PBS, and she has been a featured speaker on C-SPAN.
Bisel has been the guest on talk radio shows around the country, including Captain Dale Dye in Los Angeles and Jan Mickelson in Des Moines. She was the host of her own radio show, Topeka Talks, on KMAJ AM in Topeka. As a freelance journalist, she contributes regularly to TK Magazine and localgrass.com. She is active in many groups and is president of the Shawnee County Historical Society and co-president of the Civil War Roundtable of Eastern Kansas. She is married to musician Gary Bisel.