Friday, February 10, 2017

Booknotes: Civil War in the Southwest Borderlands, 1861–1867

New Arrival:
Civil War in the Southwest Borderlands, 1861–1867
by Andrew E. Masich (Univ of Okla Press, 2017).

The clash of borders and cultures in the Southwest is an increasingly popular topic in the academic literature, but Masich's book is particularly noteworthy for its concentration on the Civil War era and the broad inclusiveness of its discussion of the Anglo, Hispano, Indian, and Mexican peoples involved. Masich "is the first to analyze these conflicts as interconnected civil wars. Based on previously overlooked Indian Depredation Claim records [ed. an increasing number of scholars are making good use of these] 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."

Masich contends that in the borderland between the United States and Mexico, "the Civil War played out as a collision between three warrior cultures. Indians, Hispanos, and Anglos brought their own weapons and tactics to the struggle, but they also shared many traditions. Before the war, the three groups engaged one another in cycles of raid and reprisal involving the taking of livestock and human captives, reflecting a peculiar mixture of conflict and interdependence."

When the U.S. Army abandoned the region in 1861, the traditional cycle of violence returned with renewed fury. "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. When the fighting subsided, a new power hierarchy had emerged and relations between the region’s inhabitants, and their nations, forever changed."

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