About the Book
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.
“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