Friday, April 1, 2016

Booknotes: The Civil War Years in Utah

New Arrival:
The Civil War Years in Utah: The Kingdom of God and the Territory That Did Not Fight by John Gary Maxwell (Univ of Okla Pr, 2016).

Billed as the full treatment of the subject, Maxwell's book is also a revisionist history of Mormon Utah society's participation, or lack thereof, in the Civil War and its post-war claims of pro-Union loyalties. In his study, Maxwell "contradicts the patriotic mythology of Mormon leaders’ version of this dark chapter in Utah history."
"While the Civil War spread death, tragedy, and sorrow across the continent, Utah Territory remained virtually untouched. Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—and its faithful—proudly praise the service of an 1862 Mormon cavalry company during the Civil War, Maxwell’s research exposes the relatively inconsequential contribution of these Nauvoo Legion soldiers. Active for a mere ninety days, they patrolled overland trails and telegraph lines.

Furthermore, Maxwell finds indisputable evidence of Southern allegiance among Mormon leaders, despite their claim of staunch, long-standing loyalty to the Union. Men at the highest levels of Mormon hierarchy were in close personal contact with Confederate operatives. In seeking sovereignty, Maxwell contends, the Saints engaged in blatant and treasonous conflict with Union authorities, the California and Nevada Volunteers, and federal policies, repeatedly skirting open warfare with the U.S. government."
I have no idea if Maxwell's thesis is part of a scholarly consensus (if there is one) at this point, but the book definitely sounds provocatively intriguing.

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