Author Stories Podcast Episode 835 | Megan Kate Nelson Interview

Today’s author interview guest is Megan Kate Nelson, author of The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West.

A dramatic, riveting, and deeply researched narrative account of the epic struggle for the West during the Civil War, revealing a little-known, vastly important episode in American history.

In The Three-Cornered War Megan Kate Nelson reveals the fascinating history of the Civil War in the American West. Exploring the connections among the Civil War, the Indian wars, and western expansion, Nelson reframes the era as one of national conflict—involving not just the North and South, but also the West.

Against the backdrop of this larger series of battles, Nelson introduces nine individuals: John R. Baylor, a Texas legislator who established the Confederate Territory of Arizona; Louisa Hawkins Canby, a Union Army wife who nursed Confederate soldiers back to health in Santa Fe; James Carleton, a professional soldier who engineered campaigns against Navajos and Apaches; Kit Carson, a famous frontiersman who led a regiment of volunteers against the Texans, Navajos, Kiowas, and Comanches; Juanita, a Navajo weaver who resisted Union campaigns against her people; Bill Davidson, a soldier who fought in all of the Confederacy’s major battles in New Mexico; Alonzo Ickis, an Iowa-born gold miner who fought on the side of the Union; 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.

As we learn how these nine charismatic individuals fought for self-determination and control of the region, we also see the importance of individual actions in the midst of a larger military conflict. The Three-Cornered War is a captivating history—based on letters and diaries, military records and oral histories, and photographs and maps from the time—that sheds light on a forgotten chapter of American history.

Megan Kate Nelson is a writer and historian living in Lincoln, Massachusetts. She has written about the Civil War, U.S. western history, and American culture for the New York Times, Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine, Preservation Magazine, Civil War Times, and the Civil War Monitor. Nelson is the author of two previous books—Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (2012) and Trembling Earth: A Cultural History of the Okefenokee Swamp (2005).

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