Historian Megan Nelson dives into the lesser known conflicts of the Civil War in her new book, “The Three-Cornered War: The Union, The Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West.”
She says the Confederacy wanted California for its ports to export cotton, as well as its gold mines, but the Union fought its effort to control that territory. The Union eventually expelled the Confederacy from there, but then turned its attention to purging Native Americans from their land all across Western America.
“This was a mount that actually launched the Indian Wars of the 1870s,” Nelson says. “The Civil War was actually [also] an Indian War.”
She says Native Americans would often raid Union and Confederate soldiers to capture their livestock, which they’d then sell. It was an important part of their economy. Nelson says the tribes felt justified because they felt the soldiers had invaded their land.
“In their view, these were foreign entities marching large armies through their territory,” she says.
Nelson says in her earlier research, she focused on the Southeastern theater of the Civil War – the one most people associate with that period of American history. But she says she later discovered that events in the Western theater were also important and largely forgotten.
“If you look at the map of the war, it actually ends its western border in Central Texas,” Nelson says. “Half of that Confederate state has been cut off. It convinced Americans that If it’s not on the map, could anything really have happened there that was important?”
Written by Laura Morales.