Agents of Empire


Agents of Empire

The First Oregon Cavalry and the Opening of the Interior Pacific Northwest during the Civil War

James Robbins Jewell

356 pages
17 photographs, 2 illustrations, 7 maps, index


June 2023


$45.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2023


$45.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2023


$45.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Named a Top Ten Book of 2023 by Civil War Books and Authors

Agents of Empire
expands the historiographical scope of Civil War studies to include the war’s intersection with the history of the American West, demonstrating how the war was transcontinental in scope. Much more than a traditional Civil War regimental history, James Robbins Jewell’s work delves into the operational and social conditions under which the First Oregon Cavalry Regiment was formed. In response to ongoing tensions and violent interactions with Native peoples determined to protect their way of life and lands, Colonel George Wright, head of the military’s District of Oregon, asked the governor of Oregon to form a voluntary cavalry unit to protect white settlers and farmers.

By using local volunteers, and later two additional regiments of infantry from the region, the federal government was able to draw from the majority of Regular Army troops stationed in the Pacific Northwest, who were eventually sent to fight Confederate forces east of the Mississippi River. Had the First Oregon Cavalry failed to fulfill its responsibilities, the federal government would have had to recall Union forces from other threatened areas and send them to Oregon and Washington Territory to quell secessionist unrest and Indigenous resistance to land theft, resource appropriation, and murder. The First Oregon Cavalry ensured settlers’ security in the Union’s farthest northwest corner, thereby contributing to the Union cause.

Author Bio

James Robbins Jewell is a professor of history and co-chair of the Social and Behavioral Science Division at North Idaho College. He is the editor of On Duty in the Pacific Northwest during the Civil War: Correspondence and Reminiscences of the First Oregon Cavalry Regiment.


"The men of the 1st Oregon Cavalry never saw a Johnny Reb, much less got the chance to shoot at one. The nearest Civil War battlefield was more than a thousand miles away. But the 900 men who served in the unit between 1862 and 1866 all believed that they served the Union cause as dutifully as any man who crossed swords with Confederate soldiers on more renowned fields of battle. James Robbins Jewell's richly detailed regimental history connects their role in the Civil War with America's manifest destiny expansion into the Pacific Northwest."—Civil War Times

"Agents of Empire is the best of Jewell's multiple works on the First Oregon Cavalry over the decades, and could be a useful read for those studying military history or Native history in the Pacifi c Northwest."—Marc James Carpenter, Pacific Northwest Quarterly

"Civil War military history readers should always resolve to venture outside traditional comfort zones every once in a while, and they can certainly do that through the education lessons offered inside James Jewell's highly original and praiseworthy scholarship."—Civil War Books and Authors

"Well documented, with numerous maps and illustrations, Agents of Empire will serve as a solid reference work on this neglected time, place, and people. It offers a variant view of overland emigration activities during the Civil War."—Robert Clark, Overland Journal

"Agents of Empire ably adds to the growing body of scholarship about the Civil War in the far west."—Patrick Kelly-Fischer,

“Deeply researched and richly detailed, Agents of Empire makes a forceful argument as well as an engaging read. While Cascadia is generally viewed as a progressive area of the country, James Robbins Jewell reminds us that the region’s ‘founders’ were more complex and had a very different definition of ‘progress’ than we have today. Thus, Jewell’s work is not just an analysis of the process of the re-peopling of the Pacific Northwest and its establishment and growth but also has the power to illuminate many contemporary issues in the region today.”—Christopher M. Rein, author of The Second Colorado Cavalry: A Civil War Regiment on the Great Plains

“Oregon may have been far from the seat of the rebellion, but the Civil War found its way to the Pacific Northwest. This excellent examination of the hard-riding Oregon Cavalry Volunteers is more than a regimental history. It reveals the extraordinary challenges of waging war in this remote region against Native peoples who tragically found themselves caught between waves of westering white civilians and increasingly aggressive military operations by volunteer soldiers. Agents of Empire is a welcome addition to the growing body of work on the Civil War in the Far West, adding new dimensions and richness to our understanding of the war’s impact on the entire nation and its diverse peoples.”—Andrew E. Masich, author of Civil War in the Southwest Borderlands

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Maps
Chapter 1: Divisions and Dangers
Chapter 2: Recruiting
Chapter 3: Transitions
Chapter 4: Learning on the Job
Chapter 5: Fully Under Alvord’s Control
Chapter 6: Bold Plans
Chapter 7: Missed Opportunities
Chapter 8: Doing More with Less
Chapter 9: To the End of their Days


Named a Top Ten Book of 2023 by Civil War Books and Authors

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