by Janne Lahti, editor
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017. Pp. xii, 236.
Illus., map, notes, index. $29.95. ISBN: 080615702X
Some Enlisted Men of the Frontier Army
Prof. Lathi (Helsinki) opens with an essay reminding us that history is as much made by “common men” as by the famous ones, and that the stories of these usually forgotten actors are of importance in understanding the settling of the southwest. He then discusses how research can be done on individuals who have left seemingly minuscule paper trails, a valuable passage for any scholar, involving census records, obscure newspapers, court records, and the like. Lathi then gives us surprisingly detailed profiles of ten of these “common men”, written by himself and nine American scholars.
These men are a surprisingly varied and interesting group, Native American, Anglo, Mexican, Irish, African American, Polish, and others, including “mixed”. They are soldiers, adventurers, outlaws, bandits, Indian scouts, and more. A few examples will suggest the character of these profiles:
- Santiago Brito was at times a Mexican militiaman, an immigrant, a miner, a waggoner, an Indian fighter, a stage coach operator, and ultimately a prosperous and patriotic American family man.
- George Goldsby had such complex racial roots that he served in a white cavalry regiment during the Civil War, and after it for a dozen years in the U.S. 10th Cavalry, the “Buffalo Soldiers”, rising to sergeant, eventually taking part in a violent protest against white racism, and spent much of his life in trouble with the law.
- Harry McConnell, a white Pennsylvanian served in the Civil War, was for a time a railroad man, served in the Army on the Texas frontier, did some prospecting, and eventually married and settled in Texas, where he did well as a shop keeper.
The essays are primarily attempts to suggest the varied backgrounds of these men, casting some light on life on the frontier. Since all of them served as soldiers, there’s a great deal in this work about military service, interactions between soldiers and civilians, racial boundaries, and not a few battles with Indians, bandits, and Confederates.
Soldiers in the Southwest Borderlands is a great book for anyone interested in life on the frontier and the “Indian Fighting” army.
Note: Soldiers in the Southwest Borderlands is also available in several e-editions.