The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 321
marched hundreds of miles through burning and freezing desert, fought several
skirmishes and a couple of pitched battles, suffered heavy casualties-and ac-
complished nothing. That a collection of memoirs by men who were on the los-
ing side of this obscure campaign can be published by a university press with a
full set of academic bells and whistles suggests something about the hold that
the Civil War has on the American psyche-not to mention the publishing in-
The extent to which readers believe that the New Mexico campaign was im-
portant to the outcome of the Civil War-and few will probably go as far as the
editor in claiming that it was "one of the most ambitious and important cam-
paigns of the Civil War" (p. xiii)--will be the extent to which they appreciate this
slim volume. Thompson has provided plentiful footnotes to identify important
personages and straighten out the memoirists' mistakes and firmly roots these
primary sources in the proper historiography. His introduction provides a fasci-
nating provenance for the recollections, which first appeared in the 188os in an
obscure Rusk County publication called the Overton Sharpshooter, as well as a cap-
sule history of the campaign and of the brigade's main characters, including
such luminous Civil War Texans as Tom Green.
The recollections themselves revolve around the approach to and retreat from
New Mexico and the battles of Valverde and Glorieta. The several authors focus
primarily on military events, although none were high-ranking officers, several
played central roles in various episodes and none are shy about judging their su-
periors' decisions and in proclaiming such doubtful gems of military wisdom as
'just place plenty of courage behind a double-barrel shotgun and it will whip any
one on earth" (p. 6). Occasional descriptions of youthful hijinks lash with over-
stated comparisons to Spartans, the Light Brigade, and Napoleon's troops.
This is Civil War history with a Texas twist, and in many ways it fits better into
the literature of wild west adventure than the literature of the Civil War. The
armies fighting over the desolate New Mexican landscape resembled Texas
rangers, frontier militiamen, and Indian fighters more than they resembled the
huge, disciplined armies of the Eastern Theater. Thompson suggests, correctly,
that "few soldiers traveled as far, fought as hard, or suffered as much as the men
of the Sibley Brigade" (p. xiii) and the sometimes humorous and always opinion-
ated memories of the hard men who wrote about their experiences sound more
like frontiersmen like the Texan "Big Foot" Wallace than contemporaries who
wrote about their wars in the Confederate Veteran or Battles and Leaders of the Czvil
War. As such, these recollections of the Sibley Brigade's quixotic campaign span
two old and rich traditions in historical reminiscence. For these Texans, New
Mexico was the place where they were "touched with fire," and their memoirs
are more important for the ways in which they capture those days of blood and
adventure than they are for the military information they impart.
Marquette University James Marten
Confederate Symbols in the Contemporary South. Edited by J. Michael Martinez,
William D. Richardon, and Ron McNinch-Su. (Gainesville: University Press of
Here’s what’s next.
Show all pages in this issue.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/373/ocr/: accessed September 28, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.