A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers and Militia

By Rein, Chris | The Journal of Southern History, November 2016 | Go to article overview

A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers and Militia


Rein, Chris, The Journal of Southern History


A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers and Militia. By Jerry D. Thompson. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2015. Pp. xii, 939. $95.00, ISBN 978-0-8263-5567-6.)

Jerry D. Thompson's comprehensive review of the men who joined the New Mexico volunteers and militia during the American Civil War assembles virtually every surviving shred of evidence, including muster rolls, service records, memoirs, and official reports, to paint an exhaustive picture of the wartime service of the nuevomexicanos who answered their new nation's call. The work reduces the focus on "great men," such as Colonel Christopher "Kit" Carson, and instead emphasizes the men who replaced departed Federal troops and enabled the territory's military campaigns. In so doing, Thompson highlights the institutional racism that has diminished the service record of the New Mexico volunteers and forces a reappraisal of accepted understandings of events in the territory during the war.

Thompson, Regents Professor of History at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas, extends his expertise on the Civil War on the southern border, and especially on the Hispanos caught up in the larger struggle. This massive volume is divided roughly in half, with the first four hundred pages devoted to a narrative of the volunteers' and militia's service, while the second half lists every known member of the various units raised in the territory during the war, alongside other appendixes. The narrative covers the two principal campaigns in the territory: the 1861-1862 Texan invasion successfully repulsed at the battle of Glorieta, and the genocidal campaign against the Navajos that resulted in their temporary confinement on the squalid Bosque Redondo reservation in the Pecos Valley. The irony emerges that New Mexico remained staunchly pro-Union despite the widespread prevalence and practice of Native American slavery among the territory's citizens. The narrative is straightforward, relying on both primary sources and published accounts, especially Don E. …

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