Megan Kate Nelson web res-2547.jpg


Megan Kate Nelson is a writer, historian, and cultural critic. Based in Lincoln, Massachusetts, she writes for the New York Times Disunion blog and Civil War Times, and is the author of Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (2012) and Trembling Earth: A Cultural History of the Okefenokee Swamp (2005).

Her book The Three Cornered War, about the Civil War and the American West, is forthcoming in 2020. This Strange Country, about Yellowstone Park, is forthcoming in 2022.


advance praise for the three-cornered war

“Of the several ‘western theaters’ in the Civil War that stretched 1800 miles from Knoxville to Tuscson, the events and significance of the one farthest west is least known or understood. Union forces in New Mexico and Arizona repulsed the Confederate attempt to conquer this region and subdued the Navajos and Apaches in a successful effort to ‘reconstruct’ this region in the United States. Megan Kate Nelson’s beautifully written account tell this important story.”
— James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

“In the 1860s New Mexico and the greater West experienced many civil wars.  With lucid storytelling, using nine remarkable characters, Nelson reveals a chaotic, desperate struggle of Union against Confederate, Native peoples against other Native peoples, and Natives on both sides.  This is the Civil War most Americans do not know and Nelson convinces us once again that the great conflict was about slavery and the winning the West with its land and resources.  Rarely is a Civil War book so readable and so new to our understanding.”
— David W. Blight, Yale University and author of the Pulitizer-prize winning Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.

“A gripping tale of the Civil War in the West. Exploring the interaction of a fascinating cast of characters during a time of immense change, Nelson reveals an all too human struggle for territorial control. Shifting perspective between nine key characters -- men, women, soldiers, and Native Americans -- The Tri-Cornered War brings this battle between peoples, armies, agendas, and the environment to living breathing life.”
— Joanne B. Freeman, Professor of History, Yale University

"Far from the Civil War's famous battlefields, a handful of individuals decided the fate of a vast landscape. In The Three-Cornered War, Megan Kate Nelson vividly portrays a complex struggle between peoples and armies—Navajo, Apache, Confederate, and Federal—over the mountains and deserts of the Southwest. Fast-paced and suspenseful, Nelson's account shifts perspective from the Navajo leader Juanita to the civilian Louisa Canby, from the Chiricahua titan Mangas Coloradas to the Texan Bill Davidson, among many others, in a web of conflicting agendas and shared suffering. This history of invasions, battles, and forced migration shapes the United States to this day—and has never been told so well."
— T.J. Stiles, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America

Symphonic in scale, The Three-Cornered War blends masterfully the intimate and the epic, weaving the biographies of nine individuals into a story of peoples—Apaches, Texans, New Mexicans, Confederates, Navajos, Federals—whose tragedies and triumphs resonate in the West we know today.”
— Dr. James F. Brooks, Gable Distinguished Chair in History, University of Georgia