- Civil War in the Southwest Borderlands, 1861–1867 by Andrew E. Masich
In Civil War in the Southwest Borderlands, Andrew E. Masich examines the little-known borderlands aspect of the war. Masich highlights how pre-war ethnic tensions, combined with the war itself, "ignited a powder keg of civil wars" that were fought "concurrent with and connected to the American Civil War for survival and dominance" (4). The groups in conflict included white Unionists and Confederates; Indian peoples, including the Navajo, Yaquis, Quechan, Pueblo, Apache, and Papago; and Mexicans on both sides of the border.
The setting of Masich's work is the southwestern border region between the United States and Mexico. He notes that many people, viewing the international border as irrelevant, passed freely back and forth between the two countries. Cultures, war, ideology, economics, and survival all influenced the actions of those in the borderlands. Union and Rebel forces, of course, were driven either to preserve the Union or defend and expand the Confederacy. Indians, seeing the opportunity the war brought, attempted to recapture agency lost. Raiding (which Masich skillfully differentiates from warfare) with impunity, they hoped to reverse the detrimental effects that white intrusion had on their sovereignty. Underlying the violence lay a "culturally rooted sense of martial manhood" (4).
Simultaneous to the American Civil War the French, with Spanish and English assistance, intervened in Mexico in response to President Benito Juárez's moratorium on foreign debt payments and installed Habsburg Prince Maximilian of Austria as emperor. This cleaved Mexican society along socioeconomic lines, with conservative elites rallying to Maximilian against liberal opponents. This flouting of the Monroe Doctrine guaranteed the attention of the United States despite its concurrent civil war. While struggling to retain control of the Southwest against Confederates and Indians, Union officers repeatedly advised superiors to cooperate with anti-Maximilian Mexican officials in northern Mexico (particularly Sonora) against their common enemies. These entreaties even broached the possibility of a joint U.S.-Mexican operation against Maximilian, with [End Page 342] the United States dismissing pretenses and invading and occupying portions of Mexico. Masich concludes that the American Civil War "triggered cataclysmic" consequences (288): increased federal control of the borderlands, decreased Indian agency, and precipitation of the reservation system. It also exacerbated societal tensions in Mexico that ultimately ignited the Mexican Revolution.
Masich superbly details Indian and Anglo warfare, equipment, tactics, and strategy. Especially enlightening is the author's dissection of how Indians and Anglos approached nature and survival in the desert. Although Indian tactics and adaptability proved superior, according to Masich, Anglo firepower and ferocity negated any indigenous advantages. The author also compares indigenous raiding and warfare, differentiating Apache and Navajo practices in particular. His conclusions are based heavily upon evidence from an often neglected source, the Indian Depredation Claims files.
Well-researched and written, this book is not without room for criticism. Indians are not portrayed in much depth outside of a military context. Others will want more of the Mexican perspective, which often disappears. The discussions of both slavery and debt peonage in the borderlands could use more detail. And finally, historians will be surprised to discover that Chief Justice John Marshall, not Roger B. Taney, ruled that "the Negro had no rights that white men were bound to respect" (275). These quibbles, nonetheless, hardly detract from an otherwise enlightening and highly recommended read.