The Guns of Valverde
When you think of American Civil War battles, you probably think of the well-known ones which took place in Tennessee, Pennsylvania or Georgia. You’re not likely to think of the New Mexico Territory as a battleground area at all, but it was. The year was 1862, when rebels invading from Texas clashed with Union troops supported by volunteer regiments from California and Colorado, among others.
In Glorieta Pass, Nagle’s first book of three on this rather obscure subject in American history, the story centered directly on the battle of Valverde, which the Confederacy won. In the process, the Rebels captured a major prize, a battery of heavy Union artillery. With dwindling supplies, the Texans make a strategic retreat.
In this sequel to Glorieta Pass, the primary concern, obligation and duty of the Texans is getting their guns back home. This is all a matter of historic record. Nagle’s focus as a writer, however, is at the human level. The romance between Laura Howland and Captain Alastar O’Brien of the Colorado Volunteers often takes precedence over several other plot lines. These subplots seem to involve characters who appeared in the preceding book – all of which makes the first half of their continuing adventures rather hard to get into for a reader starting only with this novel.
Even more of a challenge for the uninitiated is untangling and following the ensuing military strategies as they develop. For a first-time Nagle reader, without having experienced the impact of the battle itself, only this, the aftermath, it takes about 200 pages for this novel to get all the baggage from the past squared away. It is only then that the novel is ready to stand on its own.
By that time, though, if Nagle has gotten you hooked, you’re in for one heck of a ride. You stop reading the novel, and start living it. War is a nasty business. It brings out the worst and the best in anyone living through it, and neither side has a monopoly on either villainy or heroism. Each is easy to distinguish, though, and Nagle will definitely have you rooting for the good guys.