A useful survey for readers interested in the Civil War in its short-lived southwestern theater.




The fight between North and South comes West.

Nelson’s (Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War, 2012, etc.) cast of characters reads like a John Ford film cast, featuring Mangas Coloradas, Kit Carson, and, in a cameo appearance, Geronimo. Added to it are lesser known figures such as John Baylor, a Texas rancher who became a Confederate, and James Henry Carleton, an agile foe on the Union side. The setting is New Mexico Territory, with a breakaway Arizona in favor of slavery and a nearby California founded as a free state. At the beginning of the Civil War, Baylor, writes the author, “became the first Confederate to lead a successful invasion of Union territory in the Civil War.” He captured a Union fort and threatened others before being relieved of command, in part because he had issued a no-quarter call against “renegade” Apaches. The Union Army eventually gained supremacy in the field with the arrival of columns from California and Colorado and victories in fights with Confederate forces, but federal forces then continued the war against the Apaches and Navajos to make the “three-cornered war” of which Nelson writes. That war took savage turns with the murder of Apache leader Mangas Coloradas, whose head was removed by a Union surgeon and boiled in a large kettle until “nothing but the skull was left.” It was a gruesome souvenir but not the only atrocity of the campaign. The war in New Mexico did not last long, with a “multiracial army of Union soldiers” composed of Hispanic New Mexicans and newcomer Anglos placing the territory firmly under Northern control by 1862. Nelson is a touch florid at times (“their stories reveal how the imagined future of the West shaped the Civil War, and how the Civil War became a defining moment in the West”), and most elements of her story are well known to students of the history of the American West. She does a good job of setting them in a coherent, if never particularly rousing narrative.

A useful survey for readers interested in the Civil War in its short-lived southwestern theater.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5254-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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