December 2016 (vol. 6, no. 4)

December 2016 (vol. 6, no. 4)

Volume 6, Number 4
December 2016


Judith Giesberg

Editor’s Note


Pekka Hamalainen

Reconstructing the Great Plains: The Long Struggle for Sovereignty and Dominance in the Heart of the Continent

Taking a continental view of the crises of the mid-nineteenth century, this article builds on the recent historiographical trend that demonstrates that the Civil War and the Indian Wars were not unrelated conflicts but rather were part of a project to preserve and expand federal power during the Greater Reconstruction of 1845-1877. The nomadic horse nations of the Great Plains resisted the United States’ imperial project and defended their sovereignty through treaties and military action. However, Union victory in the Civil War and the subsequent reconstruction of southern society provided a renewed impetus to subjugate western Indian nations and strip away their sovereignty. This perspective reminds us that conflicts over race, sovereignty, and belonging played out across the continent in the Civil War era.

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Megan Kate Nelson

The Civil War from Apache Pass

When Americans think of the landscape of the Civil War, they likely think of the battlefields of the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States. Few would think of the Apache Pass and the American Southwest as part of the Civil War. This article situates the reader on the Apache Pass in the parched landscape of the Arizona desert. Apache Pass, centrally located in the Southwest, was a crucial source of water for travelers traversing the arid region. In a multilateral conflict over self-determination, Native American nations and Union and Confederate forces clashed along the pass as they sought control of the spring that would allow them to dominate the pass and establish their claim to this territory and its avenues to the Pacific Coast. Through military reports and letters from military campaigns in the Southwest, the author shows that the American Southwest was one of the Civil War’s more bitterly contested theaters.

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Kevin Waite

Jefferson Davis and Proslavery Visions of Empire in the Far West

Long before his tenure as the President of the Confederate State of America, Jefferson Davis had visions of a southern, proslavery empire in the American Southwest, a political, commercial, and ideological project that would strengthen the slave South in the face of a hostile, antislavery North. Through his pre-war offices as senator from Mississippi and secretary of war under Franklin Pierce, Davis advanced expansion projects friendly to southern interests, like a southern transcontinental railroad and, remarkably, a military camel corps that could traverse the deserts of the Southwest and forge new transportation links between that region and the South. During the Civil War, Davis believed the Southwest, with its mineral deposits and ports on the California coast, could be a key to the Confederacy’s survival. His frustrated dreams of a pro-slavery empire remind us that the continental Far West maintained a central place in the geopolitics of the Civil War era.

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Review Essay

Stacey L. Smith

Beyond North and South: Putting the West in the Civil War and Reconstruction

This essay surveys a historiography of the West that seeks to replace the North-South regional framework that has dominated the study of the Civil War and Reconstruction with a national or continental framework. It explores how the insights of western history offer a new perspective on this era as a multi-front conflict over the extent of federal power and the meaning of race and gender that involved competing sovereignties across the continent. The essay concludes with a call for new work that affords greater attention to the West’s racial diversity, beyond the usual focus on relations between Native Americans and white settlers, and geographic diversity in which state-building and sovereignty conflicts played out at different times.

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Book Reviews

Books Received

Notes on Contributors

Also Available at Project Muse