Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Southern Exodus to Mexico: Migration across the Borderlands after the American Civil War

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Southern Exodus to Mexico: Migration across the Borderlands after the American Civil War

Article excerpt

The Southern Exodus to Mexico: Migration across the Borderlands after the American Civil War. By Todd W. Wahlstrom. Borderlands and Transcultural Studies. (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2015. Pp. xxx, 189. $55.00, ISBN 978-0-8032-4634-8.)

How does southern history shift when Native Americans, Mexicans, and African Americans share pages and a central narrative with Confederates after the Civil War? Todd W. Wahlstrom's The Southern Exodus to Mexico: Migration across the Borderlands after the American Civil War provides a clue. The book seeks to anchor Confederate ambitions after the Civil War in a more global and multiethnic cultural frame. To me, this is the abiding tension in the project: Wahlstrom brings southern history to the northern Mexican borderlands, treating individual Confederate merchants and soldiers alongside Comanche and Kickapoo migrants within a sharp-edged Mexican political context. The tension lies in keeping the southern dimensions of this North American migration prominent but not overwhelming.

By bringing the tenuous dimension of the commercial allegiances between erstwhile Confederate elites and conservative landowners and politicians in Tamaulipas and Coahuila into view, Wahlstrom has done Mexicanists a great service. The book mines a variety of personal papers in special collections across the United States that give both day-to-day reports and textured portraits of the way Confederate southerners learned to work with politically conservative Mexican elites. These documented interactions provide a window into the direct military challenges Confederate soldiers faced from local Mexican, Apache, and Kickapoo militias when they sought to take possession of land south of the Nueces River. Many U.S.-based historians portray an easy projection of American power southward; Wahlstrom makes the weak jury-rigging of these projects very clear. In this fashion, he challenges the seamless way classes and popular books proclaim "America in the World."

Wahlstrom has done historians of the West and Native America a large favor. …

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