Civil War Wests: Testing the Limits of the United States

Civil War Wests: Testing the Limits of the United States

This innovative study presents a new, integrated view of the Civil War and Reconstruction and the history of the western United States.

Award-winning historians such as Steven Hahn, Martha Sandweiss, William Deverell, Virginia Scharff, and Stephen Kantrowitz offer original essays on lives, choices, and legacies in the American West, discussing the consequences for American Indian nations, the link between Reconstruction and suffrage movements, and cross-border interactions with Canada and Mexico.

In the West, Civil War battlefields and Civil War politics engaged a wide range of ethnic and racial distinctions, raising questions that would arise only later in places farther east. Histories of Reconstruction in the South ignore the connections to previous occupation efforts and citizenship debates in the West. The stories contained in this volume complicate our understanding of the paths from slavery to freedom for white as well as non-white Americans.

By placing the histories of the American West and the Civil War and Reconstruction period within one sustained conversation, this volume expands the limits of both by emphasizing how struggles over land, labor, sovereignty, and citizenship shaped the U.S. nation-state in this tumultuous era. This volume highlights significant moments and common concerns of this continuous conflict, as it stretched across the continent and throughout the nineteenth century.

Published on the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, this collection brings eminent historians into conversation, looking at the Civil War from several Western perspectives, and delivers a refreshingly disorienting view intended for scholars, general readers, and students.

Published in Cooperation with the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University.

Praise for Civil War Wests

"Excellent in every respect, from superbly qualified writers."—D. Steeples CHOICE
"Timely . . . Civil War Wests very effectively extends Reconstruction into the West. . . . The volume makes clear the value of dramatically reframing our understanding of both the Civil War and the American West,"—The Journal of American History
"This excellent collection expands our understanding of the Civil War and the Reconstruction era... This is that rare collection of essays that engage one another; are of uniformly high quality and accessibility; add a new dimension to two related, though disparate, histories and historiographies; and offer scholars multiple points of departure for integrating western history in this period into a larger national and international context."—Michael A. Morrison Western Historical Quarterly

"The Civil War was fought in the West, over the West; and Reconstruction took place, also, in and because of the West. The war's meanings moved across geography and time in surprising ways. Assembling a stellar group of scholars, Arenson and Graybill have produced a first-of-its-kind collection of original essays on an enduring American conflict about race, place, sovereignty, citizenship, and memory. The parts make a whole here that should alter the way we teach the Civil War and Reconstruction era."—David W. Blight, Yale University, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

"General Sherman, Frederick Douglass, Kit Carson, General Custer, Calamity Jane, camels, and an infamous pig all keep company in this illuminating collection in which the too-often separate narratives of Civil War, Reconstruction, and western history are shown to be intertwined. In these interlocking chapters, readers will find hidden gems that illuminate ways in which the federal government sought to enforce its authority across the American landscape and to limit the meanings of citizenship for African Americans, Native Americans, and Chinese Americans. Civil War Westsably demonstrates that the Civil War was a national war and Reconstruction a far-reaching project that extended beyond the boundaries of the U.S. South."—Tiya Miles, author of Ties That Bind and The House on Diamond Hill

"This superb collection of wide-ranging, beautifully researched essays should startle every American historian into seeing just how much we have missed by leaving the American West too much out of the story of the traumatic, transformative middle years of the nineteenth century."—Elliott West, author of The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story

"Marked by vivid storytelling and provocative insights, Civil War Wests deepens our understanding of the conflict that sits at the center of the nation's history. No Civil War library can be considered complete without a copy of this volume."—Ari Kelman, author of A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek