OldWestNewWest.com: History & Travel Magazine

Feb 22nd
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civil war

As men began choosing sides and preparing to fight in America's Civil War, men in the West also were preparing to fight for their lands and their way of life: The warriors of America's Indian tribes.

The Indian Wars of 1861-1865 are a little-recognized facet of America's Civil War, but it was a struggle that both Union and Confederate troops faced west of the Mississippi River.

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It surprises many people to hear that the American Civil War actually reached into the Southwest, into today's states of Arizona and New Mexico, and that Confederate forces once occupied Tucson, Arizona, and Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Compared to the battles that raged east of the Mississippi River, where tens of thousands of Union and Confederate forces faced and fought each other, the fighting in the deserts and mountains of the Southwest was more like a series of skirmishes.
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The plan seemed perfect. About 5,000 Union Army troops aboard 20 Navy vessels would leave from New Orleans, travel up the Sabine River in Texas, capture Sabine Pass and begin a Federal invasion of Texas. And why not? By mid-1863 Union forces controlled New Orleans, and with the fall of Vicksburg on July 4, the entire Mississippi River.

But Federal Admiral David Farragut and Union Army Major General N. P. Banks hadn't counted on Lt. Richard William "Dick" Dowling, a red-haired Irishman born in Galway County who was cocky, self-assured and only 25 years old.
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The next time you visit New Orleans' beautiful French Quarter, take a moment to drink a toast to Mayor John T. Monroe; if he hadn't given up the city to Union forces in 1862 without a shot being fired, much of the historic buildings you're seeing might not be there today.
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Kansas, Bloody Kansas. Men murdered in cold blood, others wounded or beaten, a town sacked, buildings burned, homes looted, women robbed - and all of this even before the American Civil War began.

For seven years, from 1854 until 1861, pro-slavery, anti-slavery and free-state advocates in Territorial Kansas battled each other in words, politics and violence.
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Pea Ridge National Military Park, just east of the small northwestern Arkansas town of the same name, not only is one of the nation's most intact Civil War battlefields, it is the site of the most pivotal battle waged in the struggle for the West.
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Ten miles southwest of Springfield, Missouri, just off Farm Road 182 near where it intersects Missouri Highway ZZ, you'll find the entrance to Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, one of the nation's lesser known Civil War battlefields.

Think of Wilson's Creek as a hidden, or at least highly overlooked gem of American history that not only offers a window into the early phase of the Civil War, but a glimpse at the political and economic struggles many Missourians faced at the time.
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The idea was simple: outfit a schooner for war, recruit a crew of Southern sympathizers, capture one of the mail steamers that each month sailed out of San Francisco Bay carrying at least a million dollars in gold, then go terrorize the Pacific Coast as a Confederate privateer.

The plot didn't come out of a Hollywood producer's script. It was real, and except for a slip of the tongue by one of the crewmen bragging during a night of drinking (as one account suggests) might have become more than just a minor footnote in California's role in Civil War history.
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Confederate general escaping into the desert, Texas soldiers heading west to invade, a troop of California militia "going over" to kill Yankees, and a Confederate privateer planning to sail boldly into San Francisco Bay.

It's a story big enough only for Hollywood. And it's all true.
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When the federal government at the start of the Civil War ordered regular Army troops to return to the East to fight Confederate forces, it created a power vacuum in the West.

"The Apaches watched the Army ride off, abandoning many frontier forts as they left, and they [the Apaches] thought they'd won, so there was a major increase in raids against the settlers," said Bob Spude, National Park Service historian in the agency's Intermountain Regional Office in New Mexico.
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In 1862, the town of New Ulm, Minnesota was a small, quiet settlement, mostly made up of German immigrants who had come to America eager to find a new life in the New World. They were farmers, shopkeepers and tradesmen. They were families-mothers, fathers and children-busy working and playing, all of them excited about the future ahead of them.

On Aug. 19, war came to New Ulm.
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