About me

Photo by Sharona Jacobs

I grew up in Littleton, Colorado, and am now a writer and historian living in Lincoln, Massachusetts. I have written about the Civil War, U.S. western history, academia, and American culture for the New York Times, Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine, Preservation Magazine, Chronicle of Higher Education, and Civil War Times. I also write a regular column on Civil War popular culture, “Stereoscope,” for Civil War Monitor.

My book, The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West, is the recipient of a 2017 NEH Public Scholar Award. It will be published by Scribner in February 2020.

I am currently working on a new project, This Strange Country: Yellowstone and the Reconstruction of America, which will be published with Scribner in spring 2022.

I earned my BA in History and Literature from Harvard University and my PhD in American Studies from the University of Iowa, so you can call me Dr. Nelson.

I have also taught U.S. history and American Studies at Texas Tech University, Cal State Fullerton, Harvard, and Brown.

I have published two books:

Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (2012)

Trembling Earth: A Cultural History of the Okefenokee Swamp (2005)