by Dan Gibson
Former Arizona legislator and all-around nice guy Tom Prezelski is raising money on Kickstarter to finish his quite-cleverly-titled book on a bit of Mexican-American history during the Civil War, Knights of Woeful Countenance: 1st Battalion of Native Cavalry, California Volunteers, 1863-1866:
The current political dogma is based on the premise that Mexican-Americans are a new community, largely without roots in the United States. This is pure bunk. Mexican-Americans have always been here, though their role in building this country is too frequently dismissed and forgotten. In particular, the role of Mexican-Americans in the Civil War usually goes unmentioned.
Thousands of Mexican-Americans served on both sides of the great conflict, from Pennsylvania to the Pacific Coast. This project focuses on one battalion, about 400 men (plus their wives, in a few cases), raised from among the californios, the Spanish-Speaking natives of California, in the hopes that their legendary horsemanship could be put to good use in the federal service. These men served in California by supporting a campaign against Indians in the northern counties, pursuing bandits in the Central Valley, securing the roads across the southern deserts, and generally enforcing federal authority during the national crisis. Later, they were posted to a squalid post on the Mexican border in Arizona, from where they patrolled against Apaches and partisans of the Emperor Maximilian.
The Civil War is the great American Epic, our Iliad. That Mexican-Americans were a part of this story and therefore share in our national heritage is an inconvenient truth that is too little known. I hope that in a small way, this book can give this record its proper place in the popular imagination.