Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Shelby's Expedition to Mexico: An Unwritten Leaf of the War

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Shelby's Expedition to Mexico: An Unwritten Leaf of the War

Article excerpt

Shelby 's Expedition to Mexico: An Unwritten Leaf of the War. By John N. Edwards, edited with an introduction by Conger Beasley, Jr. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2002. Pp. xxxvii, 231. Preface, editor's note, introduction, notes, bibliography, index. $29.95.)

In April 1865, the American Civil War ended after four years of bitter struggle. With the Union preserved, Federal and Confederate troops mustered out of service and, for the most part, headed back to home and hearth. There were exceptions, however. Some Confederate generals, such as Joseph O. Shelby, William W. Loring, and Alexander W. Reynolds, offered their services to foreign governments and participated in military actions in other nations.

John N. Edwards, Shelby's adjutant, kept an account of the postwar activities of his Fourth Missouri Cavalry (Iron Brigade), yielding Shelby's Expedition to Mexico. First published in 1872 and reissued in 1889, Edwards' writings chronicled the amazing deeds of a band of men who refused to lay down their arms.

Having fought in the western theater, the Iron Brigade found itself in southwest Arkansas in the spring of 1865. In the confusion of those final days of war, rumors circulated that Confederate forces would retreat into Mexico to regroup under the command of Jefferson Davis. This plan, however, never reached fruition. Shelby and his men decided to move south of the Rio Grande anyway, planning to join the efforts of Archduke Maximilian of the Austro-Hungarian empire to overthrow Benito juarez's Mexican government. Riding southward toward Maximilian-controlled Mexico City, the Iron Brigade fought Native Americans, juaristas, and the environment during a three-month trek across mesquite-covered flatlands. …

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