Monday, October 14, 2019

Book News: The Second Colorado Cavalry

The Second Colorado Cavalry is another Civil War regiment that served with distinction on the geographical fringes of the conflict and has long deserved a standalone unit study. Organized in October 1863 through a consolidation of the Second and Third Colorado infantry regiments, the Second Colorado Cavalry guarded the western overland trails, combated guerrillas along the Missouri-Kansas border, and played a prominent role in repelling Sterling Price's Confederate expedition into Missouri and Kansas in late 1864. Christopher Rein's upcoming The Second Colorado Cavalry: A Civil War Regiment on the Great Plains (OU Press, Feb '20) "is the first in-depth history of this regiment operating at the nexus of the Civil War and the settlement of the American West."

From the description: "Composed largely of footloose ’59ers who raced west to participate in the gold rush in Colorado, the troopers of the Second Colorado repelled Confederate invasions in New Mexico and Indian Territory before wading into the Burned District along the Kansas border, the bloodiest region of the guerilla war in Missouri."

The Second was also one of those volunteer regiments that stayed in active service through much of the remaining year in the frontier west before being replaced by the new regular regiments. "In 1865, the regiment moved back out onto the Plains, applying what it had learned to peacekeeping operations along the Santa Fe Trail, thus definitively linking the Civil War and the military conquest of the American West in a single act of continental expansion."

More from the description: "Emphasizing the cavalry units, whose mobility proved critical in suppressing both Confederate bushwhackers and Indian raiders, Rein tells the neglected tale of the “fire brigade” of the Trans-Mississippi Theater—a group of men, and a few women, who enabled the most significant environmental shift in the Great Plains’ history: the displacement of Native Americans by Euro-American settlers, the swapping of bison herds for fenced cattle ranges, and the substitution of iron horses for those of flesh and bone."

It is gratifying to see more of these obscure yet historically significant multi-duty units getting more attention in the published literature. I know that many Trans-Mississippi Civil War students have been clamoring for a Second Colorado regimental history for a long time.


  1. Drew,

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. This looks like an Excellent book on a regiment (in the vain of the recent 3rd Minnesota) book you reviewed that spent its entire career participating in the Trans Mississippi and lesser written engagements. Particulalry interested in a regimental level book detailing (in this case from the Federal perspective) the engagements of Sibley's New Mexico Campaign, their anti-guerilla campaigns in Missouri and full fledged participation in countering Price's raid. The name of the author sounded familiar and I realized it was on account of his Alabamians in Blue book on my book shelf which I have not read but more so because I regularly scan through theses and dissertations (I do wierd things like that) and saw his 92 Masters Theses was on Southern Unionists in the Trans Mississippi. He details 5 Federal Unionists in his theses - all cavalry units. The 1st Louisiana Cavalry, the 1st Corps DeAfrique (Louisiana) Cavalry, the 1st Texas (US) the Indian Home Guards, and the 1st Arkansas Cavalry (US). With the exception of the 1st Arkansas Cavalry which Russell Mahan has covered well and Wiley Britton's Indian Home Guards book none of these units have been written about. (I did see a NOVEL about the 1st US Texas Cavalry). Britton's book on the Indian Guards could sure use an update as it is from the 1920's?? Keeping my fingers crossed that he has an interest and would be the author to tackle a full length modern study of the Indian Home Guards. Even rarer it seems are regimentals on Confederate Arkansas or Missouri units that STAYED in the Trans Mississippi. Fertile ground for the right author.

    1. Same for Texas. I agree about Rein having a writing career worth following and also hope his interest in Trans-Mississippi topics persists. Among other up and coming CW historians of the region, I wonder what Matt Stith is up to now.


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