Friday, May 12, 2017

Booknotes: Soldiers in the Southwest Borderlands, 1848–1886

New Arrival:
Soldiers in the Southwest Borderlands, 1848–1886
edited by Janne Lahti (Univ of Okla Press, 2017).

Venturing off the beaten path of officers and generals, this collection "offers new perspectives by focusing on the lives of enlisted soldiers from a variety of cultural and racial backgrounds." The ten biographical essays in Soldiers in the Southwest Borderlands reveal "the scholarship of experts who have mined military records, descendants’ recollections, genealogical sources, and even folklore to tell common soldiers’ stories." The time period covered in the book represents the years between the end of the U.S.-Mexican War and the subjugation of the tribes native to the Southwest.

"The essays examine enlisted soldiers’ cross-cultural interactions and dynamic, situational identities. They illuminate the intersections of class, culture, and race in the nineteenth-century Southwest. The men who served under U.S. or Mexican flags and on the payrolls of the federal government or as state or territorial volunteers represented most of the major ethnicities in the West—Hispanics, African Americans, Indians, American-born Anglos, and recent European immigrants—and many moved fluidly among various social and ethnic groups."

Several of the individuals showcased in the volume are Civil War soldiers, and readers will recognize many of the contributing authors (ex. William Kiser, Jerry Thompson, Megan Kate Nelson, Andrew Masich, and Robert Wooster) for their Civil War era scholarship. Adding more international perspective is volume editor Janne Lahti, a Finnish historian who specializes in American Studies at the University of Helsinki. In addition to supplying the book's introduction, he is also the author of the John Rope chapter.

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