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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book review: The Civil War in the Western Territories by Ray Colton

The Civil War in the Western Territories: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and UtahThe Civil War in the Western Territories: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah by Ray Charles Colton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Civil War in the Far West--New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah--is the least studied theater of the war. Having lived there I find that strange because those years redefined the borders of all the states and created Arizona. Colton's classic study has been around since 1959 and it still makes useful reading today.

Colton gives a relatively brief (209 page) description of the conflict in this region, focusing on the military aspects. A long final chapter goes into politics, but those seeking in-depth political coverage will have to seek elsewhere. Same goes with the economic and social aspects. These are covered, but take a back seat to military operations.

It's here that Colton is at his best. the descriptions of battles are clear and full of color, and even the tiniest skirmish gets its due.

A few criticisms: the maps are a bit simple and the map of the Battle of Glorieta is reproduced so small that it is almost illegible. Also, there is little coverage of the motivations behind the Native Americans. They are seen as simply another combatant with little context as to why they did what they did. The Native Americans are shown in a somewhat sympathetic light (rare for work from the 1950s) yet they remain voiceless.

I would recommend this book as a starting point for those looking to study the war in the Far West, or as a basic coverage for those who only want to read one book on this aspect of the war.

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  1. Considering where you live, I'm amazed how much you know about this subject matter!

  2. Yes, Spain had its own Civil War that was equally nasty. But back in the day I was an Arizonan. Lived in Tucson for 12 years. I still live part time in Missouri.


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