Scott McArthur. The Enemy Never Came: The Civil War in the Pacific Northwest. Caldwell: Caxton Press, 2012. 350 pp. $18.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-87004-512-7.
Reviewed by Henry Goldman (Longview Community College)
Published on H-CivWar (April, 2013)
Commissioned by Hugh F. Dubrulle (Saint Anselm College)
Goldman on McArthur, The Enemy Never Came
Scott McArthur, author of The Enemy Never Came, is an independent researcher of the history of the Pacific Northwest. His thesis is that even with the distances faced during the middle of the nineteenth century, the northwestern territories had to be prepared should the Civil War come their way. Similar preparations were made in the upper Midwest and in far-off New Mexico Territory. Of these areas, only the Southwest actually experienced an invasion from the Confederacy. However, all of the western territories did face problems from Native Americans and when there were no rebels to be fought, it was deemed proper to subdue the Native Americans who had sought to take advantage of the redeployment of regular troops to the East.
This outstanding volume tells the story of military forces raised in Washington Territory and the old Oregon Country to combat an anticipated Confederate invasion that never happened. Using primary materials, McArthur describes the region's preparations to participate in the American Civil War. Included are discussions of the removal of regular as well as volunteer troops from the territories to fight in the East and in the Indian wars. These events are remarkably similar to the story of the California Volunteers who marched to New Mexico Territory in 1862 to combat the Confederate invasion there, only to find that regular army troops, the Fifth Regiment U.S. Regular Infantry, had pushed the rebels back into Texas. Those troops then turned their attention to the "Indian problem" and were engaged well into 1866. McArthur clearly describes the feelings of the active but relatively sparse population, their fear of becoming involved in a shooting war, and the army's determination to turn its energies to safeguard the emigrant trains, the local settlers, and the entire Pacific Northwest. At the same time, there is a great deal of information about antiwar sentiment and the Order of Free Masons as well as other groups holding similar positions.
The author uses his sources well, including interviews and local historical data, primarily from Oregon and Washington repositories. He might have made better use of the War of the Rebellion: The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, in which pertinent data can be found in series 1, volumes 46, 48, 50, and 51. Curiously, he does not refer to Carl P. Schlicke’s General George Wright: Guardian of the Pacific Coast (1988), even though he does describe Wright as the primary military officer in the Northwest. McArthur offers a concise history of the "Oregon Country," detailing its history in the "fur frontier," John Jacob Aster and Astoria, and the fur wars with the Hudson's Bay Company. A mention of the Bonneville expedition of 1832-35, and a deeper discussion of the joint American and British administration of the area, as detailed by Frederick Merk in his Albert Gallatin and the Oregon Problem (1950), for example, may have been appropriate.
Generally, this work adds a great deal to the understanding of just how far-reaching the Civil War was. It is also convincing in its treatment of how the population of the remote territories of the Pacific Northwest became convinced that the war would come to them and how they were determined to stay out of it.
This work should be particularly engrossing for those interested in studying the American frontier during the Civil War and knowing more about the war’s impact on parts of the country where the conflict was waged with words, not guns.
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Henry Goldman. Review of McArthur, Scott, The Enemy Never Came: The Civil War in the Pacific Northwest.
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