What did the American Civil War look like from Diné Bikéyah and Apacheria? This is just one of the many questions that drives historian Megan Kate Nelson
’s The Three-Cornered War: The Union, The Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West
(Scribner, 2020), which details the Civil War’s impact on a diversity of historical actors vying for control, opportunity, and survival in the continental southwest. As both the Union and the Confederacy vied for claim to Indigenous lands, Diné, Apache, and other Indigenous nations fought back. The narratives of Juanita, a Diné woman who resisted Union encroachments upon her community and Diné lands, and Mangas Coloradas, a Chiricahua Apache chief who sought to expand and protect Apache territories, reveal the difficult choices Indigenous peoples made in the face of competitive expansion.
Megan Kate Nelson is a writer and historian with a background in the American Civil War, U.S. western history, and American culture. In The Three-Cornered War
, Nelson combines meticulous research in military records, letters and diaries, oral histories, and photographs with novel-like prose to tell the story of the American Civil War through the experiences of nine individuals. As Nelson shows how each of these individuals shaped and were shaped by the Civil War in the continental southwest, the result is a history of the American Civil War truly continental in its scope yet deeply individual in its impact.
Annabel LaBrecque is a PhD student in the Department of History at UC Berkeley. You can find her on Twitter @labrcq.