Monday, October 31, 2016

Civil War in the Southwest Borderlands, 1861-1867

The Civil War in the Desert Southwest 1861-62 has drawn a great deal of popular and scholarly interest. It remains a source of some surprise that a small, isolated campaign that had little chance of becoming anything more than a quixotic Confederate adventure was able to garner such a rich, and still growing, literature. Of the more recent contributions, Andrew Masich's narrative and documentary history The Civil War in Arizona (2006) is one of the best, and he has another, more expansive, book on the way shortly (also from University of Oklahoma Press) titled Civil War in the Southwest Borderlands, 1861-1867 (Feb 2017).

The Spanish colonial martial tradition and the raiding political economy of the indigenous populations of the Southwest are certainly not previously unexplored topics, but the book description claims that Masich "is the first to analyze these conflicts [between 'Indians, Hispanos, and Anglos'] as interconnected civil wars. Based on previously overlooked Indian Depredation Claim records and a wealth of other sources, this book is both a close-up history of the Civil War in the region and an examination of the war-making traditions of its diverse peoples."

Multi-ethnic warfare in the region was characterized by centuries-long "cycles of raid and reprisal involving the taking of livestock and human captives, reflecting a peculiar mixture of conflict and interdependence." The violence expanded with the outbreak of the American Civil War. "Indians fought Indians, Hispanos battled Hispanos, and Anglos vied for control of the Southwest, while each group sought allies in conflicts related only indirectly to the secession crisis. When Union and Confederate forces invaded the Southwest, Anglo soldiers, Hispanos, and sedentary Indian tribes forged alliances that allowed them to collectively wage a relentless war on Apaches, Comanches, and Navajos. Mexico's civil war and European intervention served only to enlarge the conflict in the borderlands." I am looking forward to reading this one.

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