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A Civil War Soldier's Journals and Letters Home
While eyewitness accounts of the Civil War by enlisted men are uncommon, even scarcer are personal narratives from the Civil War in the West. These journals and letters were written by Lewis Roe, an Illinois farm boy who served in the 7th U.S. Infantry and the 50th Illinois Volunteer Infantry between 1860 and 1865. They offer details of an epic march from Fort Bridger, Wyoming, to New Mexico, a firsthand account of the Battle of Valverde (1862), and Roe’s efforts to understand ongoing events as the country rushed toward the outbreak of hostilities. Later in the war, Roe documented the Union occupation of Rome, Georgia, and the battle of Allatoona, and left us a candid account of an enlisted man’s experiences with Sherman’s army on its March to the Sea and in the Carolinas Campaign. His relative objectivity and attention to everyday details make this valuable record a lively read.
The Letters of Private Eddie Matthews, 1869–1874
During his five years in the army, Private Edward L. Matthews wrote a series of exceptionally detailed and engaging letters to his family back home in Maryland describing his life in the Arizona and New Mexico Territories. Eddie Matthews’s letters, published here for the first time, provide an unparalleled chronicle of one soldier’s experiences in garrison and in the field in the post–Civil War Southwest.
Eddie’s letters record a vivid chronicle of day-to-day life in the frontier regulars. Included are operational details in his company, candid observations of people and places, intimate views of frontier society, and personal opinions that probably would have been forgotten or moderated had he recorded his experiences later in life. More subtle are his valuable references to the state of transportation and communication in the Southwest during the early 1870s. Matthews probably did not realize until later years that he was not only a witness to the nation’s rapid westward expansion, but was himself a tiny cog in the machinery that made it possible.
Jean Louis Berlandier and the Exploration of Northern Mexico and Texas
This is a true story of discovery and discoverers in what was the northern frontier region of Mexico in the years before the Mexican War. In 1826, when the story begins, the region was claimed by both Mexico and the United States. Neither country knew much about the lands crossed by such rivers as the Guadalupe, Brazos, Nueces, Trinity, and Rio Grande. Jean Louis Berlandier, a French naturalist, was part of a team sent out by the Mexican Boundary Commission to explore the area. His role was to collect specimens of flora and fauna and to record detailed observations of the landscapes and peoples through which the exploring party traveled. His observations, including sketches and paintings of plants, landmarks, and American Indians, were the first compendium of scientific observations of the region to be collected and eventually published.
Here, historian Russell Lawson tells the story of this multinational expedition, using Berlandier’s copious records as a way of conveying his view of the natural environment. Lawson’s narrative allows us to peer over Berlandier’s shoulder as he traveled and recorded his experiences. Berlandier and Lawson show us an America that no longer exists.
The Winters Centennial
On January 6, 1908, the Supreme Court ruled that when land is set aside for the use of Indian tribes, that reservation of land includes reserved water rights. The Winters Doctrine, as it has come to be known, is now a fundamental principle of both federal Indian law and water law and has expanded beyond Indian reservations to include all federal reservations of land.
Ordinarily, there would not be much to say about a one hundred-year-old Supreme Court case. But while its central conclusion that a claim to water was reserved when the land was reserved for Indians represents a commitment to justice, the exact nature of that commitment—its legal basis, scope, implications for non-Indian water rights holders, the purposes for and quantities of water reserved, the geographic nexus between the land and the water reserved, and many other details of practical consequence—has been, and continues to be, litigated and negotiated. In this detailed collection of essays, lawyers, historians, and tribal leaders explore the nuances of these issues and legacies.
Texts and Contexts
This essay collection offers an overview of Vizenor scholarship through close reading of his texts and exploration of the intellectual contexts in which they are situated. Vizenor’s achievements cannot be easily summarized; rather, this book gives due evidence of the complexity of his work and the diverse critical responses to it.
Travel, Empire, and Exceptionalism from Manifest Destiny to the Great Depression
This thoughtful examination of a century of travel writing about the American West overturns a variety of popular and academic stereotypes. Looking at both European and American travelers’ accounts of the West, from de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America to William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways, David Wrobel offers a counter narrative to the nation’s romantic entanglement with its western past and suggests the importance of some long-overlooked authors, lively and perceptive witnesses to our history who deserve new attention.
Prior to the professionalization of academic disciplines, the reading public gained much of its knowledge about the world from travel writing. Travel writers found a wide and respectful audience for their reports on history, geography, and the natural world, in addition to reporting on aboriginal cultures before the advent of anthropology as a discipline. Although in recent decades western historians have paid little attention to travel writing, Wrobel demonstrates that this genre in fact offers an important and rich understanding of the American West—one that extends and complicates a simple reading of the West that promotes the notions of Manifest Destiny or American exceptionalism.
Wrobel finds counterpoints to the mythic West of the nineteenth century in such varied accounts as George Catlin’s Adventures of the Ojibbeway and Ioway Indians in England, France, and Belgium (1852), Richard Francis Burton’s The City of the Saints (1861), and Mark Twain’s Following the Equator (1897), reminders of the messy and contradictory world that people navigated in the past much as they do in the present. His book is a testament to the instructive ways in which the best travel writers have represented the West.
Frontier and Nation in Paraguay, 1904–1936
Paraguay’s Chaco frontier, one of the least known areas in one of the least known countries in South America, became the unexpected scene of the bloodiest international war in the Americas, the Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia (1932–35).
A picture postcard from the Chaco War era shows a large heart, emblazoned with the word “Paraguayo,” pumping its way through the flat dusty wilderness of the Chaco and leaving a zigzag trail of smashed Bolivian forts and soldiers along the way. This visual propaganda shows why the Paraguayans were sure they would win the war: they were brave, passionate soldiers. They considered themselves invincible descendants of the great hero of the War of the Triple Alliance (1864–70), Marshal Francisco Solano López (El Mariscal).
But Solano López was not universally revered. A controversial figure, he was widely believed to have led Paraguay into economic, social, and cultural ruin. The debate over López’s actions shaped the country’s culture and politics for over a century after the War of the Triple Alliance. Bridget María Chesterton’s in-depth examination of Paraguay’s unique nationalism and the role of the frontier in its formation places the debate over López in the context of larger themes of Latin American history, including racial and ethnic identity, authoritarian regimes, and militarism.
The 1544 Investigation of the Coronado Expedition
Only two years after Coronado’s expedition to what is now New Mexico, Spanish officials conducted an inquiry into the effects of the expedition on the native people Coronado encountered. The documents that record that investigation are at the heart of this book. These depositions are as fresh as today’s news. Published both in the original Spanish and in English translation, they provide an unparalleled wealth of information about the Indians’ responses to the Europeans and the attitudes of the Europeans toward the native peoples.
From the moment he arrived in New Mexico in 1964, Gus Blaisdell (1935–2003) was a legendary presence. Famous in Albuquerque as a writer, teacher, publisher, editor, and especially as the proprietor of the Living Batch bookstore, Blaisdell was also a brilliant critic whose essays influenced readers throughout the country and across the Atlantic. This long-awaited collection of Blaisdell’s critical writings includes essays on literature, art, and film, along with moving tributes by some of the distinguished writers who numbered Blaisdell among their friends. Introductory essays by philosopher Stanley Cavell and literary critic David Morris join colleague Ira Jaffe’s poignant memoir to provide perspectives on the man by friends who knew him well. Glimpses of Blaisdell’s vivid personality can be had from the many photographs included, and the diligently researched chronology compiled by Nicole Blaisdell Ivey tracks the course of her father’s complicated life.
Fray Alonso de Benavides's History of New Mexico, 1630
The most thorough account ever written of southwestern life in the early seventeenth century, this engaging book was first published in 1630 as an official report to the king of Spain by Fray Alonso de Benavides, a Portuguese Franciscan who was the third head of the mission churches of New Mexico. In 1625, Father Benavides and his party traveled north from Mexico City to New Mexico, a strange land of frozen rivers, Indian citadels, and mines full of silver and garnets. Benavides and his Franciscan brothers built schools, erected churches, engineered peace treaties, and were said to perform miracles.
Benavides’s riveting exploration narrative provides portraits of the Pueblo Indians, the Apaches, and the Navajos at a time of fundamental change. It also gives us the first full picture of European colonial life in the southern Rockies, the southwestern deserts, and the Great Plains, along with an account of mission architecture and mission life and a unique evocation of faith in the wilderness.