A dramatic, riveting, and “fresh look at a region typically obscured in accounts of the Civil War. American history buffs will relish this entertaining and eye-opening portrait” (Publishers Weekly).
Megan Kate Nelson “expands our understanding of how the Civil War affected Indigenous peoples and helped to shape the nation” (Library Journal, starred review), reframing the era as one of national conflict—involving not just the North and South, but also the West.
Against the backdrop of this larger series of battles, Nelson introduces nine individuals: John R. Baylor, a Texas legislator who established the Confederate Territory of Arizona; Louisa Hawkins Canby, a Union Army wife who nursed Confederate soldiers back to health in Santa Fe; James Carleton, a professional soldier who engineered campaigns against Navajos and Apaches; Kit Carson, a famous frontiersman who led a regiment of volunteers against the Texans, Navajos, Kiowas, and Comanches; Juanita, a Navajo weaver who resisted Union campaigns against her people; Bill Davidson, a soldier who fought in all of the Confederacy’s major battles in New Mexico; Alonzo Ickis, an Iowa-born gold miner who fought on the side of the Union; John Clark, a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s who embraced the Republican vision for the West as New Mexico’s surveyor-general; and Mangas Coloradas, a revered Chiricahua Apache chief who worked to expand Apache territory in Arizona.
As we learn how these nine charismatic individuals fought for self-determination and control of the region, we also see the importance of individual actions in the midst of a larger military conflict. Based on letters and diaries, military records and oral histories, and photographs and maps from the time, “this history of invasions, battles, and forced migration shapes the United States to this day—and has never been told so well” (Pulitzer Prize–winning author T.J. Stiles).
Megan Kate Nelson is a writer and historian living in Lincoln, Massachusetts. She has written about the Civil War, US western history, and American culture for TheNew York Times, TheWashington Post, Smithsonian Magazine, Preservation Magazine, and Civil War Monitor. Nelson earned her BA in history and literature from Harvard University and her PhD in American studies from the University of Iowa, and she has taught at Texas Tech University, Cal State Fullerton, Harvard, and Brown. Nelson is the author of The Three-Cornered War, Ruin Nation, and Trembling Earth.
"Cynthia Farrell gives a solid narration of this fascinating and well-written account of the American Civil War in the West. While the main action of the Civil War took place between Richmond and Washington, there was a war west of the Mississippi, and this work looks at the war far west of that—in what is now New Mexico and Arizona. Through the lives of nine people who were in the midst of this drama, we see how the Confederate, Federal, and Native American antagonists interacted and had many divergent, and similar, goals. Farrell's alto voice is pleasant, and her enunciation good. . . . this fascinating account of a relatively unknown theater in the War Between the States is time well spent."