The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West

Scribner. Feb. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9781501152542. $28. HIST
The outcome of the Civil War in the West had profound implications for the Native population, the region, and the nation at large. Historian Nelson (Ruin Nation) argues that the war in the New Mexico territory was the pivotal theatre of the Civil War. Nelson adroitly weaves the lives and experiences of nine people, including a Union army wife, a Navajo woman, an Apache chief, a rancher, and a young lawyer, to show how their lives were affected by the War. As the southern states seceded, Confederate leaders hoped that a pro-Confederate government in the region would significantly add to Confederate territory and open a possible invasion route into California. After an unsuccessful campaign by a Texas unit, the territory was free from Confederate incursion. This allowed Federal troops to continue to force Native tribes onto reservations, disrupting their lives, cultures, and traditions, thereby shaping the region for generations. Based on extensive archival research, Nelson’s work expands our understanding of how the Civil War affected Indigenous peoples and helped to shape the nation.
VERDICT Readers interested in the Civil War and Western history will enjoy this nuanced portrait of the era.
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