Friday, August 11, 2017

Booknotes: Utah and the American Civil War

New Arrival:
Utah and the American Civil War: The Written Record edited by Kenneth L. Alford
 (Arthur H. Clark, 2017).

A number of books have examined the relationship between the U.S. government and Utah Territory during the Civil War era, most recently John Gary Maxwell's The Civil War Years in Utah: The Kingdom of God and the Territory That Did Not Fight (2016). Another book, Brent Rogers's Unpopular Sovereignty: Mormons and the Federal Management of Early Utah Territory (2017), examines the power conflict in the territory between Mormon settlers and the U.S. government and connects it to "larger conversations about popular sovereignty and the expansion of federal power in the West," issues that tore at the fabric of the nation as a whole during the last half of the 1850s.

A thick tome, editor Kenneth L. Alford's Utah and the American Civil War is a documentary study of the war years in Utah. "Organized and annotated for easy use, this rich mix of military orders, dispatches, letters, circulars, battle and skirmish reports, telegraph messages, command lists, and other correspondence shows how Utah’s wartime experience was shaped by a peculiar blend of geography, religion, and politics."

Alford "opens the collection with a year-by-year summary of important events in Utah Territory during the war, with special attention paid to the army’s recall from Utah in 1861, the Lot Smith Utah Cavalry Company’s 107-day military service, the Union army’s return in 1862, and relations between the military and Mormons. Readers will find accounts of an 1861 attempt to court-martial a Virginia-born commander for treason, battle reports from the January 1863 Bear River Massacre, documents from the army’s high command authorizing Governor James Doty to enlist additional Utah troops in October 1864, and evidence of Colonel Patrick Edward Connor’s personal biases against Native Americans and Mormons. A glossary of nineteenth-century phrases, military terms, and abbreviations, along with a detailed timeline of key historical events, places the records in historical context."

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