Monday, July 11, 2011

"Sibley's New Mexico Campaign"

I'll always have a soft spot for Martin Hardwick Hall's Sibley's New Mexico Campaign (University of Texas Press, 1960). It was the first serious study I read (albeit over three decades after its release) about a campaign fought west of the Mississippi and I've been hooked ever since. Though relatively brief by today's standards, it's coverage of the desert campaign from inception through the Confederate retreat back to Texas holds up better than most 1960s campaign studies. A particularly noteworthy inclusion was a complete roster of the Confederate force.  Hall, a doctoral student under T. Harry Williams, also completed a companion reference work The Confederate Army of New Mexico (Presidial Press, 1978).  Tragically, he was murdered in his home in 1981, the perpetrator never found.

In 2000, Sibley's New Mexico Campaign was reissued by the University of New Mexico Press (with a foreword by Jerry D. Thompson). The new edition contains a number of minor corrections discovered by Hall after the original publication (and noted by Hall in Thompson's personal copy). The five maps that accompanied the first edition are absent, replaced by a single theater image.  While the more recent campaign overview authored by Donald Frazier is excellent and several of the battles have received their own book length studies from capable talents like Don Alberts, it remains a worthwhile endeavor to go back and review the work of the man that started it all, Martin Hardwick Hall.


  1. The letterbook from the campaign published by Texas Western Press is a valuable teaching tool, with its own brief history of the campaign. I use it in my teaching of the Civil War and the Far American West.

  2. One of my favorite pieces of published primary source material from the campaign is John P. Wilson's multi-dimensional compilation "When the Texans Came: Missing Records from the Civil War in the Southwest, 1861-1862" (University of New Mexico Press, 2001).

  3. The cover image on that book is regrettable. Sibley was only in his mid-40s in 1861-62. When he was in his 60s he had some 3/4-length portraits taken in his old uniform, and a cropped version of one of these photos is the only Sibley portrait we are ever shown. Surely there must be images of Sibley in his prime.


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