Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Masich: "THE CIVIL WAR IN ARIZONA: The Story of the California Volunteers, 1861-1865"

[The Civil War in Arizona: The Story of the California Volunteers, 1861-1865 by Andrew E. Masich. (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006). Pp. 335, $32.95, Hardback, 2 maps, illustrations, photos, footnotes, bibliography. ISBN: 0-8061-3747-9]

Arizona’s place in the Civil War limelight was relatively brief, with most attention paid to the successful trek of General James H. Carleton’s “California Column” across the desert southwest in response to the 1861-1862 Confederate invasion of New Mexico. While dealing with this important event in some depth, Andrew Masich’s new book The Civil War in Arizona goes much further. Along with recounting the logistical preparations for a desert march of several hundred miles, the author details the process of organizing, arming, and equipping Carleton’s combined arms force. The soldiers saw little actual fighting against Confederate foes during the advance into Arizona, with the skirmish at Picacho Peak providing the most excitement, but occupation of the territory from 1862-1865 brought innumerable conflicts with the nearby Apaches. Importantly, Masich recognizes the role of Spanish-speaking native volunteers and friendly Indians in aiding these U.S. army operations.

Although military events certainly comprise a large segment of the book’s narrative history [note: for the Confederate viewpoint, L. Boyd Finch’s Confederate Pathway to the Pacific is recommended], the author is also interested in the territorial conflict’s social, political, and economic ramifications. Military rule replaced what civilian government existed, and Masich attributes much of the genesis of the region’s economic development to Gen. Carleton’s military and civilian policies. Soldiers built bridges and improved hundreds of miles of trails into serviceable wagon roads. Additionally, military couriers provided mail service throughout the settled areas. Carleton also had a creative solution to the problem of soldiers deserting for the gold fields—he had his commanders frequently detach entire companies to work their own claims. Hundreds of ex-soldiers remained in Arizona after the war, and the lasting effects went beyond simple economic development with educated men taking numerous community leadership roles.

The Civil War in Arizona is actually two books in one. In addition to his narrative history, Mr. Masich has compiled and edited a large number of newspaper articles written by soldier-correspondents during their wartime duty in Arizona. Filling almost two hundred pages of text, these letters, originally published in the San Francisco Daily Alta California, will be a great resource for other researchers. In addition to contributing voluminous footnotes for the letters, the author also helpfully places the writings within the context of the journalistic/literary standards of the time.

With this book, Andrew Masich has made a significant and original contribution to the literature of the Civil War in the Far West. Beyond filling in yet another historiographical gap, The Civil War in Arizona also serves as a nice companion volume to another recent monograph written from the Union point of view, Flint Whitlock’s Distant Bugles, Distant Drums: The Union Response to the Confederate Invasion of New Mexico. This is scholarly convergence at its best.

(Review reprinted with the permission of North and South Magazine, originally appearing in vol.10 #3, pp. 88, reviewed by Andrew Wagenhoffer)

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