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Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Civil War In Arizona by Andrew Masich

I’d like to recommend a very good book any 19th century American history buff would enjoy, titled The Civil War In Arizona: The Story Of The California Volunteers, 1861-1865 by Andrew E. Masich.

It is primarily touted as the perfect book for Civil War buffs. While I do have a mild interest in the Civil War since it's part of our 19th century history, I am absolutely passionate about learning all I can of 19th century Arizona in particular, because so much of Arizona’s story has not yet been told.

It drives me nuts that to this day pretty much the only thing people know about Arizona historically is that there were lots of Indians and that there was a gunfight at the OK Corral.

This book gives an excellent snapshot not only of the hardly known California Volunteers, who stepped in to fill the void left when regular troops were pulled from the territory in 1861, leaving territory residents at the mercy of Indians and desperadoes; it is also an excellent overview of the condition of Arizona during those years – the ruggedness of the land, the vast portions of yet undiscovered ground, native hazards and mineral wealth and the struggle to grow as a territory and prosper into a civilized being.

The book is well researched and rich in details. So rich in details that it carries the menace of temptation for me – to chase many different rabbit trails in new sources of material revealed.

But it did what I was hoping it would – give me a good overview of Arizona in that time period.

The book primarily concentrates on the California Column’s push from California, on through Arizona (not named Arizona Territory until 1863) and into New Mexico. Most of the details are of military life along the Colorado River and in Tucson.

If there was one thing I had wished could be covered in more detail, it would be those troops assigned to the more interior regions of Arizona at the time, around Ft. Goodwin and other areas.

Now one could argue that since the title of the book is The Civil War In Arizona, detailing Apache campaigns in the interior regions strays from the defined lines of the subject matter. However the author did take time to cover other Apache material in the text. It is also acknowledged that probably few letters were available from more remote posts like Ft. Goodwin, given the difficulty in expressing mail to the outside world. And in all likelihood these Apache campaigns amounted to only a small portion of the California Volunteers' activities in that territory, but I still find myself in want of source material regarding these early (prior to the more well known campaigns of the 1870's and 1880's) Apache campaigns, so I will just have to keep digging.

Nevertheless, it is an excellent read, and I am so happy I invested in it for my own personal library. It is one I am certain to refer to time and again as I study Arizona’s rich and colorful past.

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