- Civil War in the Southwest Borderlands, 1861–1867 by Andrew E. Masich
"From 1861 to 1867 the diverse peoples—Indian, Hispano, and Anglo—of the Southwest Borderlands struggled for survival and dominance in civil wars, quite apart from the Civil War of the Southern rebellion that raged in the eastern United States" (3). So begins Andrew E. Masich's Civil War in the Southwest Borderlands, which examines the fighting in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico that took place from the start of the U.S. Civil War in 1861 to discharge of the last New Mexico volunteer in 1867. The Southwest Borderlands was a vast theater of war, the combatants, as I have noted elsewhere, far more peoples than armies.
Masich's first chapter covers these peoples. He identifies some twenty-seven different native societies, speaking languages from six different groups. To the familiar roll of Apaches, Navajos, and Comanches, Masich adds the Yumans (Quechans and Mojaves) and their antagonist Pima and Papago (Akimel and Tohono O'odham) neighbors. Other peoples included the Hispanos, ethnic Mexican U.S. citizens of New Mexico and Arizona; Anglos, non-Hispano U.S. citizens; and Mexicans of the border states of Sonora and Chihuahua. He notes that all the peoples of the Southwest Borderlands shared a "martial masculinity" in which men found violence a usable way to gain and maintain access to resources and, I would add, to reproductive opportunities (31). Thus "ethnic rivalries, competition for resources, and deeply rooted warrior traditions" underlay the fighting in the Southwest Borderlands (37).
Masich then moves to the start of the Civil War, noting that it "created a great power vacuum" in the region with the withdrawal of federal troops and the diversion of local, state, and federal attention (38). Among those seeking to fill the absence were Chiricahua Apaches, who had clashed with the U.S. before 1861, particularly in what would become the territory of Arizona. As Texan forces prepared to seize the Southwest, California Volunteer regiments mobilized to stop them, leading to an Anglo invasion of the Southwest, with the Californians coming across the deserts from the west and the Texans from the east. The Texan invasion ultimately failed, foiled [End Page 319] by distance, logistics, and the intervention of the Colorado Volunteers in New Mexico, and the Texans retreated, leaving both the Southwest and the story. Masich then takes up the tale in 1863 with Christopher "Kit" Carson's campaigns against the Mescalero Apaches and Navajos and continuing campaigns in Arizona against the Western and Chiricahua Apaches. He notes that the fighting hardened into a series of retaliations by all sides, with Indian revenge falling hardest on the Hispano inhabitants.
"By 1865," Masich writes, "the clashes over power and dominance among ethnic groups and nations had increased, and the level of violence had also risen" (197). Starting in 1864, as the U.S. Civil War was coming to an end, Plains Indians—Cheyennes, Comanches, Kiowas—attacked supply trains and settlers along the routes to Denver and into New Mexico. Campaigns to stop these raids resulted in the First Battle of Adobe Walls, where Carson was nearly defeated, and the massacre at Sand Creek. In Arizona, Pimas, Papagos, and Hispanos formed a multiethnic battalion to seek out Apaches, Yavapais, and Hualapais. Masich concludes that "the American Civil War had triggered multiple wars in the Southwest Borderlands during the 1860s," which "transformed the region's communities" (262). By 1867, Anglos were unquestioningly militarily, economically, and politically dominant in the Southwest, whereas in 1861 they had been one people among many.
The greatest contribution of Masich's work is that we now have a single-volume history of the Southwest Borderlands during the Civil War from which other scholars may depart or disagree. In full disclosure, I made tentative attempts several years back at a similar project but failed to make any headway, so I applaud the accomplishment. Masich also adds extensive coverage of Arizona to the typically New Mexican focus of most works. He...