Wilson on Masich, 'Civil War in the Southwest Borderlands, 1861-1867'

Andrew E. Masich. Civil War in the Southwest Borderlands, 1861-1867. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017. x + 454 pp. $34.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8061-5572-2.

Reviewed by John P. Wilson (Independent Scholar)
Published on H-NewMexico (May, 2017)
Commissioned by Tomas Jaehn (Special Collections/Center for Southwest Research)

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=49255

The author’s intent in this volume is to explore how the American Civil War led to a series of conflicts between diverse communities, as well as organized militaries, in the American Southwest and neighboring Mexico. The earliest instances were the American invasion in 1846, the brief Quechan-Pima-Maricopa war in 1857, and the filibustering efforts of William Walker and Henry Crabb in northern Mexico.

The bulk of the narrative is given over to first recounting the Confederate invasion of the Southwest in 1861-62 and then to the organization and activities of the California Column beginning in 1862. The California soldiers and their role in settling and developing early Arizona, while hunting down hostile Indians, are a principal focus of the book. In addition to published and archival sources, Andrew E. Masich relies on many soldiers’ letters printed in contemporary newspapers and in postwar Indian Depredation Claims now filed in the US National Archives. The latter is a valuable resource, not much used in previous studies, and the writer tabulates some seven hundred of these from the years 1860-67. While these undoubtedly contain a wealth of information, only minimal use of them is included here.

Masich adopted a chronological narrative approach, but there are frequent lapses that sometimes result in confusion. The book would have benefited from tighter editing. There is what appears to be an overdue emphasis on the California Column and considerable repetition in regard to the role of its members in settling parts of Arizona, particularly the mining areas. The conflicts between various native groups do not receive much attention; one such conflict, the battalion of Arizona Volunteers versus various Apache groups, is discussed at two places, ninety pages apart, and probably merits even more attention. On the other hand, eight pages are more than enough to describe the arming and equipping of the California Volunteers.

While much in the book is not exactly new information, there are sections that stand out. Two such areas are the overview of the conservative versus Republican civil war in Mexico including the French intervention, 1862-67, and the efforts to avoid conflicts with the California Native Battalion. Besides the repetitions, many factual errors and dubious interpretations detract from the book. For example, compilation for the War of the Rebellion: Official Records publication series began in the late 1860s; Sibley’s Confederates retreated along a route west of the Rio Grande, not across the Jornada del Muerto; Paddy Graydon’s explosives-laden mules is a postwar fable; Brigadier General James Carleton was regarded as a protégé of Edwin Vose Sumner rather than of the long-dead Stephen Watts Kearny; and the ragtag Mexican army during the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, was led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, not by President Benito Juarez!

The book is well illustrated and supplied with ample endnotes and bibliographic references.

Citation: John P. Wilson. Review of Masich, Andrew E., Civil War in the Southwest Borderlands, 1861-1867. H-NewMexico, H-Net Reviews. May, 2017.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=49255

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.