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  • Bound for Santa Fe: The Road to New Mexico and the American Conquest, 1806–1848
  • Cheryl J. Foote
Bound for Santa Fe: The Road to New Mexico and the American Conquest, 1806–1848. By Stephen G. Hyslop . Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. Photographs. Illustrations. Map. Notes. Bibliography. Index. xiv, 514 pp. Cloth, $34.95.

In 1806 , when Lt. Zebulon Pike traveled westward from Missouri, Santa Fe was a small provincial capital on New Spain's northern frontier. Most Americans had never heard of it, and few could have imagined that 40 years later American forces would seize New Mexico and add it to the territory of the United States. During those four decades, as Stephen Hyslop ably demonstrates, Americans discovered trade opportunities with settlers in New Mexico and Mexico, and the U.S. government determined to add New Mexico and California to the map of the nation. In Bound for Santa Fe, Hyslop traces the economic, cultural, and social exchanges between Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanos that prepared the way for the American occupation during the Mexican-American War.

The first part of the book recounts the Pike expedition that awakened American interest in New Mexico, William Becknell's opening of the Santa Fe trade, and the rapid commercial expansion that drew Americans as far south as Chihuahua and sent Mexican traders east to Missouri. Another informative chapter appears about the Native American presence on the Great Plains at the onset of the trade. This section introduces more than a dozen "literary travelers" whose chronicles form the basis for Hyslop's narrative: Philip St. George Cooke, Josiah Gregg, George Frederick Ruxton, Matt Field, Susan Magoffin, and Lewis Garrard are familiar sources to students of the Santa Fe trail, but Hyslop's perceptive discussions about each of these writers is as useful to veteran scholars as to neophytes.

In the second section, Hyslop carefully selects from the journals, diaries, and newspaper accounts to follow the geography of the trail. Descriptions of significant [End Page 538] locations on the route are interspersed with details of the trials that travelers faced. More significantly, geography furnishes the backdrop for the important historical events that transpired en route to New Mexico. Hyslop carefully analyzes the interplay between travelers and Native Americans as trade expanded. He examines American reactions to New Mexico and its inhabitants, and nuevomexicanos' responses to these newcomers. Traders and their customers developed complex interactions based on their desire for commerce. Although the traders represented the American vanguard to Mexican territory, they were there to make money and to broaden their experiences with other cultures. That they also became agents of Manifest Destiny was, Hyslop argues, an outgrowth of their trading interests, rather than their primary intent.

The third section examimes the "the American Conquest" of the territory. American forces under Stephen Watts Kearny took possession of New Mexico in August 1846 , when Mexican governor Manuel Armijo failed to mount a defense of the area. Hyslop explores the forces that may have influenced Armijo and the depth of resentment among Native Americans and nuevomexicanos toward the American forces, which culminated in the Taos Rebellion of 1847. Still, in the midst of war and rebellion, merchants continued their trading ventures south into Mexico. Their demands for protection influenced colonel Alexander Doniphan to move his command south, leading to the battle of Sacramento and Doniphan's occupation of Chihuahua. Nor did the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo terminate the exchanges between citizens of Mexico and Americans in the Southwest. Instead, the border between distinctive cultures proved much more fluid and ill defined than the Rio Grande.

Bound for Santa Fe is a masterful treatment of the subject. Some readers may desire more discussion of the economics of the Santa Fe trade or additional treatment of Hispanic merchants who became traders. Still, Hyslop intended to focus on the experiences of Americans who ventured into New Mexico and Mexico. Even so, he devotes considerable attention to Spanish and Mexican sources to provide a balanced account of the cultural exchange and accommodation that took place in the Southwest. His expertise with Native American history also is apparent, for Indians appear as important players...


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pp. 538-539
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Archived 2004
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