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Original Essays



Original Essays | September 17, 2014

Merritt Tierce: IMG Has My Husband Read It?

My first novel, Love Me Back, was published on September 16. Writing the book took seven years, and along the way three chapters were published in... Continue »

Original Essays | September 17, 2014

Merritt Tierce: IMG Has My Husband Read It?

My first novel, Love Me Back, was published on September 16. Writing the book took seven years, and along the way three chapters were published in... Continue »
  1. $16.77 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    Love Me Back

    Merritt Tierce 9780385538077


Original Essays

Shadows at Dawn

by Karl Jacoby
  1. Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History
    $6.50 Used Hardcover add to wishlist
    "A lucid, well-written work of regional history that opens necessary conversation and has broader implications — essential for students of the American West." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

    "This deftly constructed historical work demonstrates that what appears to have been a minor event can in fact illuminate important historical truths that should not be forgotten. Jacoby's superbly researched monograph is highly recommended." Library Journal

    "Jacoby sheds insight into the social, political, and economic complexities that characterized the nineteenth-century frontier." Booklist

  2. Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation
    $6.95 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist
    Winner of the 2001 Littleton-Griswold Prize, American Historical Association

    "A compelling new interpretation of early conservation history in the United States....Powerfully argued and beautifully written, this book could hardly be more relevant to the environmental challenges we face today." William Cronon, author of Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

When I was a child, my mother, brother, and I used to make a trip every year to Sonora, the Mexican state just across the border from Arizona, to visit my mom's parents. Moved by a peculiar gringo wanderlust, my grandparents had settled in the 1950s in a small Mexican village in the foothills of the Sierra Madre. One of our rituals upon crossing from Arizona into Sonora during these family trips was to go out for a festive dinner at a restaurant in the border city of Nogales named "La Caverna." As its name suggests, La Caverna was located in a cave in one of the steep hills abutting the borderline. Rumor had it that prior to becoming a restaurant, the cave had served as the jail on the Mexican side of town, and that sometime in the 1880s, Geronimo had been imprisoned there by Mexican authorities.

This tale was just one of many that I heard as a youth about the Apache presence in the U.S.-Mexico border region. These stories without exception took place in a distant, hazy past. One time, there had been Apaches roaming the rugged mountains near Nogales, and an Apache leader had been held captive deep inside its hills. Now the mountains crawled with border patrol agents, and La Caverna held diners, not Apaches. What had happened?

Throughout my career as a historian, I regularly find myself writing the book I wish had been available to my younger self. My first book, Crimes Against Nature, grew out of the simple desire to understand one of the other defining landscapes of my childhood: the national parks. In Shadows at Dawn, I sought to explain another puzzle: what had happened to the Apache presence along the U.S.-Mexico border?

As I began to read the various documents and personal recollection buried in archives around the region, one incident quickly emerged as central in understanding the borderland's Apache history. It was, to be sure, a terrifying story — of peace negotiations disrupted, of women and children killed in a surprise attack in 1871. But because the incident, the so-called Camp Grant Massacre, was so shocking and so momentous, it had generated a rare wealth of documents. These records illuminated the lost world of the borderlands — above all, the Apaches' interactions with the Anglo, Mexican, and other Indian inhabitants of the region — with a detail no other episode from the era could match.

It was also a history that contained many surprises for me. In my childhood stories, the Apache had appeared as aggressive raiders, attacking others without explanation. But the historical sources told me different tales — of the many occasions, from the Spanish colonial period onward, when the Apache had experienced violence at the hands of others; of the moments when the region's groups had worked out peaceful accommodations with one another. Indeed, one of the greatest ironies for me was discovering in the course of my research that the Apache band attacked in 1871 had previously resided in Tucson for several decades, amidst the very people who would later turn out to be their attackers.

My understanding of Apache history expanded not only with consulting the documentary evidence but by getting to know some of the residents of the present-day White River and San Carlos Apache Reservations, who generously showed me around their homelands and shared their perspectives on the past with me.

Grappling with this new history forced me to reconsider many of the tales I had been told as a child. Mexican forces, it turned out, had never captured Geronimo. Had he been seized, it is dubious that he would have been held in La Caverna, for I could find no record of this site ever having served as the Nogales, Mexico, jail. Even the name "La Caverna" seemed misplaced, for rather than being a naturally occurring cave, it was, I learned, the remnant of an old mine shaft.

Nevertheless, I still cherish the stories of my childhood — and not only because they summon up long-ago trips with cherished family members. These stories now represent for me a borderlands folklore that arose to explain how many residents of the region liked to imagine what their past should have been like. Mexican authorities should have captured Geronimo. Local settlers should have brought progress to the border, rather than the destruction of others' ways of life.

My childhood stories were true in another respect as well. There was indeed a subterranean Apache presence in the borderlands. It was not, however, Geronimo's apocryphal confinement in La Caverna but rather the far more complex and more challenging history of centuries of interactions between the Apache and a myriad of other inhabitants of the region. Shadows at Dawn is my effort to excavate this story and invite those readers anxious to cross the border between folklore and history to join me on a new journey.

÷ ÷ ÷

Karl Jacoby is an associate professor of history at Brown University and the author of Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves and the Hidden History of American Conservation, which was awarded the Littleton-Griswold Prize by the American Historical Association for the best book on American law and society and the George Perkins Marsh Prize by the American Society for Environmental History for the best work of environmental history. spacer

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