Finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in History
The Three-Cornered War by Megan Kate Nelson has been selected as the 2021 Winner of the A. M. Pate, Jr. Award in Civil War History. This award is presented to the book judged to be the best addition to the historical coverage of the Trans-Mississippi sector of the Civil War. The book is a well-researched, beautifully written account of the Civil War in the American West.
This part of the War was not just between North and South, it also included interaction and war with Native Peoples. The Indian Wars started before the Civil War, continued during it and culminated long after it. In many ways this book is a story about the development of the American West.
Dr. Nelson tells this story through the lives of 9 people: John R. Baylor, a Texas legislator who established the Confederate Territory of Arizona; Louisa Hawkins Canby, a Union Army wife; James Carleton, a professional Union soldier; Kit Carson, a famous frontiersman who led a regiment of volunteers against the Texans, Navajos, Kiowas, and Comanches; Juanita, a Navajo weaver; Bill Davidson, a soldier who fought in all of the Confederacy’s major battles in New Mexico; Alonzo Ickis, an Iowa-born gold miner; John Clark, a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s who embraced the Republican vision for the West as New Mexico’s surveyor-general; and Mangas Coloradas, a revered Chiricahua Apache chief who worked to expand Apache territory in Arizona. Each narrative lends a human element that enriches the book and the history.
To summarize, the Three-Cornered War is a superb book. Even if you know the story of the Civil War in the West, once you start this book, you will not be able to put it down. No wonder it was a finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize. Excellent history – great writing!
Of the several “western theaters” in the Civil War that stretched 1800 miles from Knoxville to Tucson, the events and significance of the once farthest west is least known or understood. Union forces in New Mexico and Arizona repulsed a Confederate attempt to conquer this region and subdued the Navajos and Apaches in a successful effort to “reconstruct” the region into the United States. Megan Kate Nelson’s beautifully written account tells this important story.”
—James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
“The ‘Three-Cornered War sheds a bright light on the forgotten intersection of America’s westward expansion and its cataclysmic Civil War. Full of irony, sharp character sketches and fast-paced battle scenes, Megan Kate Nelson’s book should be read by anyone who wants to understand the roots of modern America — or just wants a gripping story, powerfully told.”
—Clay Risen, author of The Crowded Hour
“Based on extensive archival research, Nelson’s work expands our understanding of how the Civil War affected Indigenous peoples and helped to shape the nation. Readers interested in the Civil War and Western history will enjoy this nuanced portrait of the era.”
—Library Journal, starred