Monday, February 17, 2020

Booknotes: The Second Colorado Cavalry

New Arrival:
The Second Colorado Cavalry: A Civil War Regiment on the Great Plains by Christopher M. Rein (OU Press, 2020).

Formed in late 1863 by consolidating the Second and Third Colorado infantry regiments (the Third having never been able to raise even close to a full complement), the Second Colorado cavalry regiment is perhaps best known to Civil War students for its counterguerrilla activities in Missouri and its participation in repelling Sterling Price's Confederate campaign that reached the western part of the state in the fall of 1864. However, its military duties during and after the Civil War also extended much further west, when the troopers were assigned to patrol the overland trails and stage routes in Kansas and Colorado.

Christopher Rein’s The Second Colorado Cavalry: A Civil War Regiment on the Great Plains is "the first in-depth history of this regiment operating at the nexus of the Civil War and the settlement of the American West." In discussing the origins of the unit, Rein's study also extensively covers the 1862-63 activities of the Second Colorado infantry in New Mexico and Indian Territory before the October 1863 consolidation in St. Louis.

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. 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."

The Second Colorado Cavalry "offers us a much-needed history of the “guerilla hunters” who helped suppress violence and keep the peace in contested border regions; it adds nuance and complexity to our understanding of the unlikely “agents of empire” who successfully transformed the Central Plains." I'm really looking forward to reading this one.

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