A dramatic, riveting, and deeply researched narrative account of the epic struggle for the West during the Civil War, revealing a little-known, vastly important episode in American history.
In The Three-Cornered War Megan Kate Nelson reveals the fascinating history of the Civil War in the American West. Exploring the connections among the Civil War, the Indian wars, and western expansion, Nelson reframes the era as one of national conflict—involving not just the North and South, but also the West.
Against the backdrop of this larger series of battles, Nelson introduces nine individuals: John R. Baylor, a Texas legislator who established the Confederate Territory of Arizona; Louisa Hawkins Canby, a Union Army wife who nursed Confederate soldiers back to health in Santa Fe; James Carleton, a professional soldier who engineered campaigns against Navajos and Apaches; Kit Carson, a famous frontiersman who led a regiment of volunteers against the Texans, Navajos, Kiowas, and Comanches; Juanita, a Navajo weaver who resisted Union campaigns against her people; Bill Davidson, a soldier who fought in all of the Confederacy’s major battles in New Mexico; Alonzo Ickis, an Iowa-born gold miner who fought on the side of the Union; John Clark, a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s who embraced the Republican vision for the West as New Mexico’s surveyor-general; and Mangas Coloradas, a revered Chiricahua Apache chief who worked to expand Apache territory in Arizona.
As we learn how these nine charismatic individuals fought for self-determination and control of the region, we also see the importance of individual actions in the midst of a larger military conflict. The Three-Cornered War is a captivating history—based on letters and diaries, military records and oral histories, and photographs and maps from the time—that sheds light on a forgotten chapter of American history.
Megan Kate Nelson is a writer and historian living in Lincoln, Massachusetts. She has written about the Civil War, US western history, and American culture for TheNew York Times, TheWashington Post, Smithsonian Magazine, Preservation Magazine,and Civil War Monitor. Nelson earned her BA in history and literature from Harvard University and her PhD in American Studies from the University of Iowa, and she has taught at Texas Tech University, Cal State Fullerton, Harvard, and Brown. Nelson is the author of The Three-Cornered War, Ruin Nation, and Trembling Earth.
"A gripping tale of the Civil War in the West. Exploring the interaction of a fascinating cast of characters during a time of immense change, Nelson reveals an all too human struggle for territorial control. Shifting perspective between nine key characters — men, women, soldiers, and Native Americans — The Three-Cornered War brings this battle between peoples, armies, agendas, and the environment to living breathing life." —Joanne B. Freeman, author of The Field of Blood and editor of Alexander Hamilton: Writings
"Far from the Civil War's famous battlefields, a handful of individuals decided the fate of a vast landscape. In The Three-Cornered War, Megan Kate Nelson vividly portrays a complex struggle between peoples and armies—Navajo, Apache, Confederate, and Federal—over the mountains and deserts of the Southwest. Fast-paced and suspenseful, Nelson's account shifts perspective from the Navajo leader Juanita to the civilian Louisa Canby, from the Chiricahua titan Mangas Coloradas to the Texan Bill Davidson, among many others, in a web of conflicting agendas and shared suffering. This history of invasions, battles, and forced migration shapes the United States to this day—and has never been told so well." —T.J. Stiles, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America