Yankee Gold is a historical fiction, based in New Mexico during the US Civil War, which tells of one man’s quest to expand the territory, develop business in New Mexico and ultimately achieve statehood despite the reluctance of the people. It is an interesting tale as Steve Elkins, a young abolitionist attorney, must find a way to blend his personal morals with the conflicting morals of the region. At stake – his marriage, the fortunes of the land grant settlement and the future of New Mexico.
Despite being set during the US Civil War, Yankee Gold is not a war fiction novel. It is a historical fiction novel about the old west and the development of New Mexico which simply happened to occur during the time of the Civil War. There is war-time influence however the war is by no means the focus or even a strong factor in this story.
Steve Elkins is an abolitionist living in a territory that accepts slavery. He is an attorney and a politician with the desire to move New Mexico toward statehood despite the reluctance of the region’s settlers. His personal beliefs and values are in direct opposition with the populace of New Mexico however he remains steadfast and determined to move toward progress despite the cost. He risks his marriage as the privacy and sanctity of his personal life crumbles under the pressure of being a strong public figure; however, he believes strongly in his mission to develop business beyond the mines and succeed in achieving statehood and benefits for New Mexico.
There are heavy moral conflicts throughout Yankee Gold which detail the culture of American life during the Civil War. As previously mentioned, Steve Elkins is an abolitionist living in an area that condones slavery. Elkins is also confronted with the world of corruption and greed regarding the ore mines and mining business of New Mexico. The people working the mines are being mistreated, the safety of the mines is being neglected and the US army is in charge. In order to stand by his values, Elkins must oppose the US army and risk, once again, his family and his life.
It is an interesting story and it is far more political and strategic than I initially expected from a Civil War-era fiction. I have read, and know, very little about the western territories during the US Civil War. When I think of the US Civil War I think of the north vs the south; the Union vs the Confederacy. It is so easy to overlook what was occurring in the western territories during this time in our nation’s history. Elizabeth Rogers has done extensive research into the details of the old west during this era and she brings it all to light in this intricately woven tale of Steve Elkins, attorney and politician. There are moments when the book reads like a detail-based textbook however I found this perspective into the Civil War era so unique that I easily overlooked these few tedious moments.
Review by Ashley LaMarClosed the Cover