Friday, February 12, 2021

Booknotes: Violence in the Hill Country

New Arrival:
Violence in the Hill Country: The Texas Frontier in the Civil War Era by Nicholas Keefauver Roland (Univ of Texas Press, 2021).

Given how much attention Southwest borderland studies get on the site, it will surprise no regular reader of CWBA that this is my most highly anticipated February release. Though many book-length works in this area of scholarship still dwell most upon the U.S.-Mexico international divide, much work is also being done on the shifting nineteenth-century boundaries of this country's internal frontiers. In that latter category is Nicholas Roland's Violence in the Hill Country: The Texas Frontier in the Civil War Era. For the purposes of Roland's study, the "Hill Country" is that part of south-central Texas ("western" Texas during the more sparsely settled antebellum and Civil War periods) formed by the "eroded eastern and southern margins of the Edwards Plateau, which rises to the west and north of the Blackland Prairie and Rio Grande Plains, respectively."

From the description: "In the nineteenth century, Texas’s advancing western frontier was the site of one of America’s longest conflicts between white settlers and native peoples." After Texas secession and the outbreak of civil war, Confederate supporters and Hill Country Unionists also came into violent conflict. "The Texas Hill Country functioned as a kind of borderland within the larger borderland of Texas itself, a vast and fluid area where, during the Civil War, the slaveholding South and the nominally free-labor West collided. As in many borderlands, Nicholas Roland argues, the Hill Country was marked by violence, as one set of peoples, states, and systems eventually displaced others."

More from the description: In the book, the author "analyzes patterns of violence in the Texas Hill Country to examine the cultural and political priorities of white settlers and their interaction with the century-defining process of national integration and state-building in the Civil War era. He traces the role of violence in the region from the eve of the Civil War, through secession and the Indian wars, and into Reconstruction. Revealing a bitter history of warfare, criminality, divided communities, political violence, vengeance killings, and economic struggle, Roland positions the Texas Hill Country as emblematic of the Southwest of its time."

The appendix section contains reference data in the form of death rosters from 1862-65 Civil War violence as well as lists of Hill Country settlers killed during Indian raids before and after the Civil War. University of Texas Press is not a regular publisher of Civil War titles, so it's nice to see the Austin crew dip their toes in waters frequented much more often by their Lone Star peers at College Station, Fort Worth, and Denton.

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