Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History PDF AZW3 EPUB MOBI TXT Download

In the tradition of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a stunningly vivid historical account of the forty-year battle between Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West, centering on Quanah, the greatest Comanche chief of them all. S. C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moonspans two astonishing stories. The first traces the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history. The second entails one of the most remarkable narratives ever to come out of the Old West: the epic saga of the pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches.Although readers may be more familiar with the tribal names Apache and Sioux, it was in fact the legendary fighting ability of the Comanches that determined just how and when the American West opened up. Comanche boys became adept bareback riders by age six; full Comanche braves were considered the best horsemen who ever rode. They were so masterful at war and so skillful with their arrows and lances that they stopped the northern drive of colonial Spain from Mexico and halted the French expansion westward from Louisiana. White settlers arriving in Texas from the eastern United States were surprised to find the frontier being rolled backward by Comanches incensed by the invasion of their tribal lands. So effective were the Comanches that they forced the creation of the Texas Rangers and account for the advent of the new weapon specifically designed to fight them: the six-gun.The war with the Comanches lasted four decades, in effect holding up the development of the new American nation. Gwynne’s exhilarating account delivers a sweeping narrative that encompasses Spanish colonialism, the Civil War, the destruction of the buffalo herds, and the arrival of the railroads—a historical feast for anyone interested in how the United States came into being.Against this backdrop Gwynne presents the compelling drama of Cynthia Ann Parker, a lovely nine-year-old girl with cornflower-blue eyes who was kidnapped by Comanches from the far Texas frontier in 1836. She grew to love her captors and became infamous as the “White Squaw” who refused to return until her tragic capture by Texas Rangers in 1860. More famous still was her son Quanah, a warrior who was never defeated and whose guerrilla wars in the Texas Panhandle made him a legend.S. C. Gwynne’s account of these events is meticulously researched, intellectually provocative, and, above all, thrillingly told. Empire of the Summer Moon announces him as a major new writer of American history.

S. C. Gwynne
May 10, 2011
371 pages

File Size: 27 MB
Available File Formats: PDF AZW3 DOCX EPUB MOBI TXT or Kindle audiobook Audio CD(Several files can be converted to each other)
Language: English, Francais, Italiano, Espanol, Deutsch, chinese

“Transcendent . . . Empire of the Summer Moon is nothing short of a revelation . . . will leave dust and blood on your jeans.”–New York Times Book Review”In Empire of the Summer Moon, Sam Swynne has given us a rich, vividly detailed rendering of an important era in our history and of two great men, Quanah Parker and Ranald Slidel Mackenzie, whose struggles did much to define it.” -Larry McMurtry About the Author S.C. Gwynne is the author of Hymns of the Republic and the New York Times bestsellers Rebel Yell and Empire of the Summer Moon, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He spent most of his career as a journalist, including stints with Time as bureau chief, national correspondent, and senior editor, and with Texas Monthly as executive editor. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife. Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. OneA NEW KIND OF WARCAVALRYMEN REMEMBER SUCH moments: dust swirling behind the pack mules, regimental bugles shattering the air, horses snorting and riders’ tack creaking through the ranks, their old company song rising on the wind: “Come home, John! Don’t stay long. Come home soon to your own chick-a-biddy!”1 The date was October 3, 1871. Six hundred soldiers and twenty Tonkawa scouts had bivouacked on a lovely bend of the Clear Fork of the Brazos, in a rolling, scarred prairie of grama grass, scrub oak, sage, and chaparral, about one hundred fifty miles west of Fort Worth, Texas. Now they were breaking camp, moving out in a long, snaking line through the high cutbanks and quicksand streams. Though they did not know it at the time—the idea would have seemed preposterous—the sounding of “boots and saddle” that morning marked the beginning of the end of the Indian wars in America, of fully two hundred fifty years of bloody combat that had begun almost with the first landing of the first ship on the first fatal shore in Virginia. The final destruction of the last of the hostile tribes would not take place for a few more years. Time would be yet required to round them all up, or starve them out, or exterminate their sources of food, or run them to ground in shallow canyons, or kill them outright. For the moment the question was one of hard, unalloyed will. There had been brief spasms of official vengeance and retribution before: J. M. Chivington’s and George Armstrong Custer’s savage massacres of Cheyennes in 1864 and 1868 were examples. But in those days there was no real attempt to destroy the tribes on a larger scale, no stomach for it. That had changed, and on October 3, the change assumed the form of an order, barked out through the lines of command to the men of the Fourth Cavalry and Eleventh Infantry, to go forth and kill Comanches. It was the end of anything like tolerance, the beginning of the final solution.The white men were grunts, bluecoats, cavalry, and dragoons; mostly veterans of the War Between the States who now found themselves at the edge of the known universe, ascending to the turreted rock towers that gated the fabled Llano Estacado—Coronado’s term for it, meaning “palisaded plains” of West Texas, a country populated exclusively by the most hostile Indians on the continent, where few U.S. soldiers had ever gone before. The llano was a place of extreme desolation, a vast, trackless, and featureless ocean of grass where white men became lost and disoriented and died of thirst; a place where the imperial Spanish had once marched confidently forth to hunt Comanches, only to find that they themselves were the hunted, the ones to be slaughtered. In 1864, Kit Carson had led a large force of federal troops from Santa Fe and attacked a Comanche band at a trading post called Adobe Walls, north of modern-day Amarillo. He had survived it, but had come within a whisker of watching his three companies of cavalry and infantry destroyed.2The troops were now going back, because enough was enough, because President Grant’s vaunted “Peace Policy” toward the remaining Indians, run by his gentle Quaker appointees, had failed utterly to bring peace, and finally because the exasperated general in chief of the army, William Tecumseh Sherman, had ordered it so. Sherman’s chosen agent of destruction was a civil war hero named Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, a difficult, moody, and implacable young man who had graduated first in his class from West Point in 1862 and had finished the Civil War, remarkably, as a brevet brigadier general. Because his hand was gruesomely disfigured from war wounds, the Indians called him No-Finger Chief, or Bad Hand. A complex destiny awaited him. Within four years he would prove himself the most brutally effective Indian fighter in American history. In roughly that same time period, while General George Armstrong Custer achieved world fame in failure and catastrophe, Mackenzie would become obscure in victory. But it was Mackenzie, not Custer, who would teach the rest of the army how to fight Indians. As he moved his men across the broken, stream-crossed country, past immense herds of buffalo and prairie-dog towns that stretched to the horizon, Colonel Mackenzie did not have a clear idea of what he was doing, where precisely he was going, or how to fight Plains Indians in their homelands. Neither did he have the faintest idea that he would be the one largely responsible for defeating the last of the hostile Indians. He was new to this sort of Indian fighting, and would make many mistakes in the coming weeks. He would learn from them.For now, Mackenzie was the instrument of retribution. He had been dispatched to kill Comanches in their Great Plains fastness because, six years after the end of the Civil War, the western frontier was an open and bleeding wound, a smoking ruin littered with corpses and charred chimneys, a place where anarchy and torture killings had replaced the rule of law, where Indians and especially Comanches raided at will. Victorious in war, unchallenged by foreign foes in North America for the first time in its history, the Union now found itself unable to deal with the handful of remaining Indian tribes that had not been destroyed, assimilated, or forced to retreat meekly onto reservations where they quickly learned the meaning of abject subjugation and starvation. The hostiles were all residents of the Great Plains; all were mounted, well armed, and driven now by a mixture of vengeance and political desperation. They were Comanches, Kiowas, Arapahoes, Cheyennes, and Western Sioux. For Mackenzie on the southern plains, Comanches were the obvious target: No tribe in the history of the Spanish, French, Mexican, Texan, and American occupations of this land had ever caused so much havoc and death. None was even a close second.Just how bad things were in 1871 along this razor edge of civilization could be seen in the numbers of settlers who had abandoned their lands. The frontier, carried westward with so much sweat and blood and toil, was now rolling backward, retreating. Colonel Randolph Marcy, who accompanied Sherman on a western tour in the spring, and who had known the country intimately for decades, had been shocked to find that in many places there were fewer people than eighteen years before. “If the Indian marauders are not punished,” he wrote, “the whole country seems in a fair way of becoming totally depopulated.”3 This phenomenon was not entirely unknown in the history of the New World. The Comanches had also stopped cold the northward advance of the Spanish empire in the eighteenth century—an empire that had, up to that point, easily subdued and killed millions of Indians in Mexico and moved at will through the continent. Now, after more than a century of relentless westward movement, they were rolling back civilization’s advance again, only on a much larger scale. Whole areas of the borderlands were simply emptying out, melting back eastward toward the safety of the forests. One county—Wise—had seen its population drop from 3,160 in the year 1860 to 1,450 in 1870. In some places the line of settlements had been driven back a hundred miles.4 If General Sherman wondered about the cause—as he once did—his tour with Marcy relieved him of his doubts. That spring they had narrowly missed being killed themselves by a party of raiding Indians. The Indians, mostly Kiowas, passed them over because of a shaman’s superstitions and had instead attacked a nearby wagon train. What happened was typical of the savage, revenge-driven attacks by Comanches and Kiowas in Texas in the postwar years. What was not typical was Sherman’s proximity and his own very personal and mortal sense that he might have been a victim, too. Because of that the raid became famous, known to history as the Salt Creek Massacre.5Seven men were killed in the raid, though that does not begin to describe the horror of what Mackenzie found at the scene. According to Captain Robert G. Carter, Mackenzie’s subordinate, who witnessed its aftermath, the victims were stripped, scalped, and mutilated. Some had been beheaded and others had their brains scooped out. “Their fingers, toes and private parts had been cut off and stuck in their mouths,” wrote Carter, “and their bodies, now lying in several inches of water and swollen or bloated beyond all chance of recognition, were filled full of arrows, which made them resemble porcupines.” They had clearly been tortured, too. “Upon each exposed abdomen had been placed a mass of live coals. . . . One wretched man, Samuel Elliott, who, fighting hard to the last, had evidently been wounded, was found chained between two wagon wheels and, a fire having been made from the wagon pole, he had been slowly roasted to death—‘burnt to a crisp.’ ”6Thus the settlers’ headlong flight eastward, especially on the Texas frontier, where such raiding was at its worst. After so many long and successful wars of conquest and dominion, it seemed implausible that the westward rush of Anglo-European civilization would stall in the prairies of central Texas. No tribe had ever managed to resist for very long the surge of nascent American civilization with its harquebuses and blunderbusses and muskets and eventually lethal repeating weapons and its endless stocks of eager, land-greedy settlers, its elegant moral double standards and its complete disregard for native interests. Beginning with the subjection of the Atlantic coastal tribes (Pequots, Penobscots, Pamunkeys, Wampanoags, et al), hundreds of tribes and bands had either perished from the earth, been driven west into territories, or forcibly assimilated. This included the Iroquois and their enormous, warlike confederation that ruled the area of present-day New York; the once powerful Delawares, driven west into the lands of their enemies; the Iroquois, then yet farther west into even more murderous foes on the plains. The Shawnees of the Ohio Country had fought a desperate rearguard action starting in the 1750s. The great nations of the south—Chicasaw, Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, and Choctaw—saw their reservation lands expropriated in spite of a string of treaties; they were coerced westward into lands given them in yet more treaties that were violated before they were even signed; hounded along a trail of tears until they, too, landed in “Indian Territory” (present-day Oklahoma), a land controlled by Comanches, Kiowas, Araphoes, and Cheyennes.Even stranger was that the Comanches’ stunning success was happening amid phenomenal technological and social changes in the west. In 1869 the Transcontinental Railroad was completed, linking the industrializing east with the developing west and rendering the old trails—Oregon, Santa Fe, and tributaries—instantly obsolete. With the rails came cattle, herded northward in epic drives to railheads by Texans who could make fast fortunes getting them to Chicago markets. With the rails, too, came buffalo hunters carrying deadly accurate .50-caliber Sharps rifles that could kill effectively at extreme range—grim, violent, opportunistic men blessed now by both a market in the east for buffalo leather and the means of getting it there. In 1871 the buffalo still roamed the plains: Earlier that year a herd of four million had been spotted near the Arkansas River in present-day southern Kansas. The main body was fifty miles deep and twenty-five miles wide.7 But the slaughter had already begun. It would soon become the greatest mass destruction of warm-blooded animals in human history. In Kansas alone the bones of thirty-one million buffalo were sold for fertilizer between 1868 and 1881.8 All of these profound changes were under way as Mackenzie’s Raiders departed their camps on the Clear Fork. The nation was booming; a railroad had finally stitched it together. There was only this one obstacle left: the warlike and unreconstructed Indian tribes who inhabited the physical wastes of the Great Plains.Of those, the most remote, primitive, and irredeemably hostile were a band of Comanches known as the Quahadis. Like all Plains Indians, they were nomadic. They hunted primarily the southernmost part of the high plains, a place known to the Spanish, who had been abjectly driven from it, as Comancheria. The Llano Estacado, located within Comancheria, was a dead-flat tableland larger than New England and rising, in its highest elevations, to more than five thousand feet. For Europeans, the land was like a bad hallucination. “Although I traveled over them for more than 300 leagues,” wrote Coronado in a letter to the king of Spain on October 20, 1541, “[there were] no more landmarks than if we had been swallowed up by the sea . . . there was not a stone, nor a bit of rising ground, nor a tree, nor a shrub, nor anything to go by.”9 The Canadian River formed its northern boundary. In the east was the precipitous Caprock Escarpment, a cliff rising somewhere between two hundred and one thousand feet that demarcates the high plains from the lower Permian Plains below, giving the Quahadis something that approximated a gigantic, nearly impregnable fortress. Unlike almost all of the other tribal bands on the plains, the Quahadis had always shunned contact with Anglos. They would not even trade with them, as a general principle, preferring the Mexican traders from Santa Fe, known as Comancheros. So aloof were they that in the numerous Indian ethnographies compiled from 1758 onward chronicling the various Comanche bands (there were as many as thirteen), they do not even show up until 1872.10 For this reason they had largely avoided the cholera plagues of 1816 and 1849 that had ravaged western tribes and had destroyed fully half of all Comanches. Virtually alone among all bands of all tribes in North America, they never signed a treaty. Quahadis were the hardest, fiercest, least yielding component of a tribe that had long had the reputation as the most violent and warlike on the continent; if they ran low on water, they were known to drink the contents of a dead horse’s stomach, something even the toughest Texas Ranger would not do. Even other Comanches feared them. They were the richest of all plains bands in the currency by which Indians measured wealth—horses—and in the years after the Civil War managed a herd of some fifteen thousand. They also owned “Texas cattle without number.”11On that clear autumn day in 1871, Mackenzie’s troops were hunting Quahadis. Because they were nomadic, it was not possible to fix their location. One could know only their general ranges, their hunting grounds, perhaps old camp locations. They were known to hunt the Llano Estacado; they liked to camp in the depths of Palo Duro Canyon, the second-largest canyon in North America after the Grand Canyon; they often stayed near the head waters of the Pease River and McClellan’s Creek; and in Blanco Canyon, all within a roughly hundred-mile ambit of present-day Amarillo in the upper Texas Panhandle. If you were pursuing them, as Mackenzie was, you had your Tonkawa scouts fan out far in advance of the column. The Tonks, as they were called, members of an occasionally cannibalistic Indian tribe that had nearly been exterminated by Comanches and whose remaining members lusted for vengeance, would look for signs, try to cut trails, then follow the trails to the lodges. Without them the army would never have had the shadow of a chance against these or any Indians on the open plains.By the afternoon of the second day, the Tonks had found a trail. They reported to Mackenzie that they were tracking a Quahadi band under the leadership of a brilliant young war chief named Quanah—a Comanche word that meant “odor” or “fragrance.” The idea was to find and destroy Quanah’s village. Mackenzie had a certain advantage in that no white man had ever dared try such a thing before; not in the panhandle plains, not against the Quahadis.Mackenzie and his men did not know much about Quanah. No one did. Though there is an intimacy of information on the frontier—opposing sides often had a surprisingly detailed understanding of one another, in spite of the enormous physical distances between them and the fact that they were trying to kill one another—Quanah was simply too young for anyone to know much about him yet, where he had been, or what he had done. Though no one would be able to even estimate the date of his birth until many years later, it was mostly likely in 1848, making him twenty-three that year and eight years younger than Mackenzie, who was also so young that few people in Texas, Indian or white, knew much about him at the time. Both men achieved their fame only in the final, brutal Indian wars of the mid-1870s. Quanah was exceptionally young to be a chief. He was reputed to be ruthless, clever, and fearless in battle.But there was something else about Quanah, too. He was a half-breed, the son of a Comanche chief and a white woman. People on the Texas frontier would soon learn this about him, partly because the fact was so exceptional. Comanche warriors had for centuries taken female captives—Indian, French, English, Spanish, Mexican, and American—and fathered children by them who were raised as Comanches. But there is no record of any prominent half-white Comanche war chief. By the time Mackenzie was hunting him in 1871, Quanah’s mother had long been famous. She was the best known of all Indian captives of the era, discussed in drawing rooms in New York and London as “the white squaw” because she had refused on repeated occasions to return to her people, thus challenging one of the most fundamental of the Eurocentric assumptions about Indian ways: that given the choice between the sophisticated, industrialized, Christian culture of Europe and the savage, bloody, and morally backward ways of the Indians, no sane person would ever choose the latter. Few, other than Quanah’s mother, did. Her name was Cynthia Ann Parker. She was the daughter of one of early Texas’s most prominent families, one that included Texas Ranger captains, politicians, and prominent Baptists who founded the state’s first Protestant church. In 1836, at the age of nine, she had been kidnapped in a Comanche raid at Parker’s Fort, ninety miles south of present Dallas. She soon forgot her mother tongue, learned Indian ways, and became a full member of the tribe. She married Peta Nocona, a prominent war chief, and had three children by him, of whom Quanah was the eldest. In 1860, when Quanah was twelve, Cynthia Ann was recaptured during an attack by Texas Rangers on her village, during which everyone but her and her infant daughter, Prairie Flower, were killed. Mackenzie and his soldiers most likely knew the story of Cynthia Ann Parker—most everyone on the frontier did—but they had no idea that her blood ran in Quanah’s veins. They would not learn this until 1875. For now they knew only that he was the target of the largest anti-Indian expedition mounted since 1865, one of the largest ever undertaken.Mackenzie’s Fourth Cavalry, which he would soon build into a grimly efficient mobile assault force, for the moment consisted largely of timeservers who were unprepared to encounter the likes of Quanah and his hardened plains warriors. The soldiers were operating well beyond the ranges of civilization, beyond anything like a trail they could follow or any landmarks they could possibly have recognized. They were dismayed to learn that their principal water sources were buffalo wallow holes that, according to Carter, were “stagnant, warm, nauseating, odorous with smells, and covered with green slime that had to be pushed aside.”12 Their inexperience was evident during their first night on the trail. Sometime around midnight, above the din of a West Texas windstorm, the men heard “a tremendous tramping and an unmistakable snorting and bellowing.”13 That sound, as they soon discovered, was made by stampeding buffalo. The soldiers had made the horrendous mistake of making camp between a large herd of buffalo and its water source. Panicked, the men emerged from their tents in darkness, screaming and waving blankets and trying desperately to turn the stampeding animals. They succeeded, but by the smallest of margins. “The immense herds of brown monsters were caromed off and they stampeded to our left at breakneck speed,” wrote Carter, “rushing and jostling but flushing only the edge of one of our horse herds. . . . one could hardly repress a shudder of what might have been the result of this nocturnal visit, for although the horses were strongly ‘lariated out,’ ‘staked,’ or ‘picketed,’ nothing could have saved them from the terror which this headlong charge would have inevitably created, had we not heard them just in time to turn the leading herds.”14Miraculously spared the consequences of their own ignorance, the bluecoats rounded up the stray horses, broke camp at dawn, and spent the day riding westward over a rolling mesquite prairie pocked with prairie-dog towns. The latter were common in the Texas Panhandle and extremely dangerous to horses and mules. Think of enormous anthills populated by oversized rodents, stretching for miles. The troopers passed more herds of buffalo, vast and odorous, and rivers whose gypsum-infused water was impossible to drink. They passed curious-looking trading stations, abandoned now, consisting of caves built into the sides of cliffs and reinforced with poles that looked like prison bars.On the second day they ran into more trouble. Mackenzie ordered a night march, hoping to surprise the enemy in its camps. His men struggled through steep terrain, dense brush, ravines, and arroyos. After hours of what Carter described as “trials and tribulations and much hard talk verging on profanity” and “many rather comical scenes,” they fetched up bruised and battered in the dead end of a small canyon and had to wait until daybreak to find their way out. A few hours later they reached the Freshwater Fork of the Brazos, deep in Indian territory, in a broad, shallow thirty-mile-long valley that averaged fifteen hundred feet in width and was cut by smaller side canyons. The place was known as Blanco Canyon and was located just to the east of present-day Lubbock, one of the Quahadis’ favorite campgrounds.Whatever surprise Mackenzie had hoped for was gone. On the third day the Tonkawa scouts realized they were being shadowed by a group of four Comanche warriors, who had been watching their every move, presumably including what must have seemed to them the comical blunders of the night march. The Tonks gave chase, but “the hostiles being better mounted soon distanced their pursuers and vanished into the hills.” This was not surprising: In two hundred years of enmity, the Tonkawas had never been close to matching the horsemanship of the Comanches. They always lost. The result was that, while the cavalrymen and dragoons had no idea where the Comanches were camped, Quanah knew precisely what Mackenzie was doing and where he was. The next night Mackenzie compounded the error by allowing the men the indulgence of campfires, tantamount to painting a large arrow in the canyon pointing to their camp. Some of the companies blundered yet again by failing to place “sleeping parties” among the horses.At around midnight, the regiment was awakened by a succession of unearthly, high-pitched yells. Those were followed by shots, and more yells, and suddenly the camp was alive with Comanches riding at full gallop. Exactly what the Indians were doing was soon apparent: Mingled with the screams and gunshots and general mayhem of the camp was another sound, only barely audible at first, then rising quickly to something like rolling thunder. The men quickly realized, to their horror, that it was the sound of stampeding horses. Their horses. Amid shouts of “Every man to his lariat!” six hundred panicked horses tore loose through the camp, rearing, jumping, and plunging at full speed. Lariats snapped with the sound of pistol shots; iron picket pins that a few minutes before had been used to secure the horses now whirled and snapped about their necks like airborne sabres. Men tried to grab them and were thrown to the ground and dragged among the horses, their hands lacerated and bleeding.When it was all over, the soldiers discovered that Quanah and his warriors had made off with seventy of their best horses and mules, including Colonel Mackenzie’s magnificent gray pacer. In west Texas in 1871, stealing someone’s horse was often equivalent to a death sentence. It was an old Indian tactic, especially on the high plains, to simply steal white men’s horses and leave them to die of thirst or starvation. Comanches had used it to lethal effect against the Spanish in the early eighteenth century. In any case, an unmounted army regular stood little chance against a mounted Comanche.This midnight raid was Quanah’s calling card, a clear message that hunting him and his Comanche warriors in their homeland was going to be a difficult and treacherous business. Thus began what would become known to history as the Battle of Blanco Canyon, which was in turn the opening salvo in a bloody Indian war in the highlands of west Texas that would last four years and culminate in the final destruction of the Comanche nation. Blanco Canyon would also provide the U.S. Army with its first look at Quanah. Captain Carter, who would win the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in Blanco Canyon, offered this description of the young war chief in battle on the day after the midnight stampede:A large and powerfully built chief led the bunch, on a coal black racing pony. Leaning forward upon his mane, his heels nervously working in the animal’s side, with six-shooter poised in the air, he seemed the incarnation of savage, brutal joy. His face was smeared with black warpaint, which gave his features a satanic look. . . . A full-length headdress or war bonnet of eagle’s feathers, spreading out as he rode, and descending from his forehead, over head and back, to his pony’s tail, almost swept the ground. Large brass hoops were in his ears; he was naked to the waist, wearing simply leggings, moccasins and a breechclout. A necklace of beare’s claws hung about his neck. . . . Bells jingled as he rode at headlong speed, followed by the leading warriors, all eager to outstrip him in the race. It was Quanah, principal warchief of the Qua-ha-das.15Moments later, Quanah wheeled his horse in the direction of an unfortunate private named Seander Gregg and, as Carter and his men watched, blew Gregg’s brains out.© 2010 S. C. Gwynne Read more <div id="

  • “Someone in a thread mentioned the book “Empire of the Summer Moon,” which was a big bestseller published in 2010. Unfortunately, a lot of well-meaning people have read this book without realizing this is little more than racist drivel under the facade of scholarship. The quality of the scholarship, however, is just terrible. Here are some examples (for those of you who have read the book or may be interested):The author makes sweeping generalizations and straight up lies without bothering to fact check anything. here are just a few examples…# 1 “No tribe other than the Comanches ever learned to breed horses–an intensely demanding, knowledge-based skill that helped create enormous wealth for the tribe.” The Nez Perce’ were some of the most successful horse breeders in North America. Anyone claiming to be a historian who can’t be bothered checking something like that is not a historian.# 2 The San Saba massacre was the greatest military setback the Spaniards suffered in the New World: with less than 2 dozens casualties, this one is barely a blip on the radar and doesn’t even come close to the Pueblo Revolt and the Noche Triste.# 3 “Torture of survivors was the norm, as it was all across the plains.” No, it wasn’t. it was practiced by some tribes, and not by others.# 4: he describes the trip from Independence to Houston as “yet another thousand miles.” it’s not even close to 1,000 miles. Anyone exaggerating such easily provable facts is not a researcher.# 5: “…the highest civilian wartime toll in U.S. history prior to 9/11” – referred to the Minnesota Uprising of 1862. The Minnesota Uprising was not a one time event like 9/11, so if we include more prolonged conflicts, then obviously more civilians died during the Civil War than in the Minnesota Uprising.# 6: “it was in Texas where human settlement first arrived at the edges of the Great Plains” He writes this in reference to the first white people showing up, because you know… Natives who set up sedentary villages there were not ‘human.’# 7: more importantly, the author uses sources long since discredited by historians, and doesn’t use much better sources already used in works of actual scholarship such as Pekka Hämäläinen’s “The Comanche Empire”.#8 I won’t even get into details regarding how the author keeps interjecting his straight up racism throughout the work (using a framework of ranking societies from savagery to civilization that has been rejected since the second half of the 20th century.) I could go on, but you get the idea.Unfortunately, Empire of the Summer Moon is not the only popular history book about Native history that promotes exaggerations, not so subtle racism, and straight up lies. The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud is another one that is equally characterized by the same ridiculously bad standards of scholarship. Ok, my rant is over. Have a good day!”
  • I am a Comanche and this book appalled me on numerous occasions. The author consistently demeaned our tribe and labeled us as ‘savages’ throughout the entire book. This book has so many glaring inconsistencies and exaggerations it’s hard to take seriously in any literary sense. What is even more disturbing is the fact that it seems to rely heavily on shocking the reader in an a horrible attempt to portray what the author felt was a ‘realistic’ depiction of Comanche life. I was hoping I could come away from reading this with a fuller knowledge of my own history but wound up disappointed instead.
  • This book was a good example of socialist History. The author has taken a subject and told the story through a leftist prism. Lot’s of words and time is spent pretending the Comanches were something they were not…a functioning nation with political and cultural ties among tribes. The ‘author’ goes to great lengths to revise the History of the plains Indians and particularly the Comanches. It’s all well and good if you have been through the indoctrination camps that pass for higher education in this country. However, if you are looking for a factual account without a leftist narrative this book isn’t a good choice.
  • We live in Oklahoma – the middle of modern day Comanche County. My best friend growing up was the great-granddaughter of Chief Quannah Parker. She was even named after Cynthia Ann Parker. She has been my friend for over 60+ years. Therefore, I knew some of the history of the Comanche way of life, but from their side. I still cherish those memories of the stories told to me by her Grandmother (which was really her great-aunt, but called Grandmother by Comanche culture). She told of how afraid of the soldiers they were as children on the reservation near Fort Sill. I was a child hearing these stories, not really understanding… My family (white settlers) had settled in Oklahoma Territory from the Llano, Texas area before the turn of the century. They had lived thru the battles and loss of lives. Some went on to Arizona, but that’s another story.EMPIRE OF THE SUMMER MOON really awakened some of those memories – but from both sides. It was a horrible time for the settlers and the Indians! I have read many books on the subject, but this was the BEST, most accurate account, from both sides. It gives true documentation of events as they happened. We have given this book to so many family members and friends. A few weeks ago, we gave it to a Comanche friend. He said he learned so much about his people from this book. We HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone wanting to know the true history of the west from both sides.
  • If you’re hoping for a historical novel, then forget it and look elsewhere; the real life stories told in this book are far too incredible to ever be used in a fictional novel as readers would simply find these real-life events to be too unbelievable. This isn’t a particularly easy read; it’s dense and there’s lots of it (but the last 30% of the Kindle edition is entirely bibliography and notes and photos), but it is utterly compelling. At times, I became a little wearied as it catalogued every single interaction between white settlers and Indians over a 200 year period, but each story was interesting in its own right and I couldn’t wait to see what came next.SC Gwynne is meticulous, not only in the extreme depth of his research, but in his attempt to remain unbiased in his telling of events. There is, unsurprisingly, a tendency to be kinder in the consideration of the actions of the Indians than in those of the white settlers and their politicians yet there is very little sentimentality in here and, certainly, almost no ‘noble savage’ imagery. As I’ve found previously, reading this in Kindle format has the disadvantage that the map at the front is extremely important but it’s difficult to keep switching from the page being read and the map. I would also, certainly, urge readers to take the trouble to access the photographs right at the end of the book (after the bibliography) as they are utterly engrossing.As a UK resident, history enthusiast and, I hope, of moderate intellect, I was amazed and ashamed to find that I’d heard of very few of the characters whose lives are chronicled in this book. How can these people have been so amazing and yet I’ve never heard of them? Well, I have now! One of the few names familiar to me was Geronimo and, as possibly the most famous Indian in the world, one might have expected to find him featured prominently. Ironically, he isn’t and the scorn with which Mr Gwynne describes Geronimo leaves little doubt of his contempt for the man.Conversely, the Quanah Parker who is the eponymous subject in the sub-title, is described not just in huge detail but in almost reverential terms, albeit with apparently good reason. I had, vaguely, heard of Quanah Parker before and, certainly, of his mother, Cynthia Ann Parker who was the white woman, taken as a child as a hostage by the Comanche, adopted into the tribe, and who gave birth to the half-breed Quanah who, later, became the greatest of the Indian chiefs in recorded history. Cynthia Ann forgot how to speak English and, when she was recaptured by a white army patrol and returned to her family, she fought fiercely, until she died, to return to her Comanche tribe. The Americans of the day simply couldn’t conceive of a white woman wanting to go back to live with the ‘savages’. Quanah Parker is the stuff of legend. A huge and physically powerful warrior (most Comanche were small in stature) and strikingly handsome with it, he simply excelled at everything, be that killing settlers, running rings around the military, becoming the one and only Chief of the Comanches, being the leader of Indians in the reservations, becoming a friend to presidents, ranching or, generally, being hugely influential in shaping the history of the time. I’ve attended management training sessions in which everyone is asked to choose an individual whom they might like to emulate in their management style. Folk choose figures such as Churchill or Brunel or Richard Branson but, had I known about Quanah Parker at that time, he would have been my choice hands down.So, let’s turn to books and cinema. I love historical novels from the likes of Bernard Cornwell, Giles Kristian et al, and I also enjoy the occasional film (or movie for Americans) that uses a historical character as a base; Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo Di Caprio in ‘The Revenant’, Jeremiah Johnson (an amalgam of real people) played by Robert Redford and, of course, the John Wayne film ‘The Searchers’ is based on the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, for example. Yet what struck me in reading this book is the number of real life characters, of whom I’ve never heard, whose stories are utterly incredible, eben when one knows that they’re true. Any one of these would make a brilliant subject for the attention of the likes of Cornwell (who already has ‘form’ in writing about historical America) and Kristian. And thinking about what a big budget movie could do with this stuff makes the head spin. For example;The whole story of the Parker clan in Texas is epic and staggering in its combination of brutality, ignorance, naivety and power. Who, today, hasn’t heard mention of the Parker Center in LA (police headquarters in so many films). James A Michener’s book, ‘Texas’ is a fictionalised history of the state and does touch upon the Parker clan (a superb book by the way), but a proper treatment of the story of this family would be incredible. Even within the limited time frame of this book, Cynthia Ann Parker’s father, James Parker and her brother, John Richard Parker have their stories told, in clinical terms, yet both are such fascinating characters that they could, individually, warrant a whole book or movie. James Parker was so extreme in his dishonesty, honour, bravery, stupidity, power, wealth and poverty (yes, all of those contradictions) that a new definition of ‘incredible’ is needed to describe him. A ‘cleaned up’ version of him is the basis for John Wayne’s character in ‘The Searchers’. His son, and Cynthia’s brother, John Richard Parker is equally compelling. Kidnapped in the same Comanche raid as his sister and raised as an Indian, he was, in 1813 and at the age of 13 re-captured (actually ransomed) and brought back to the Parker family, speaking no English and not really wanted. He went on several expeditions to find his sister (he did but she refused to leave her tribe), fought with the Texas Rifles in the Civil War and went on to die in, it’s thought, 10915 as a successful rancher.Then there is John Coffee Hays who was known as ‘Jack. A real ‘action man’, he established the Texas Rangers and was a famed Indian fighter. He worked for a couple of years as a land surveyor on the frontier and, in 1838, that was listed as the most dangerous job in America. The Indians considered that the settlers couldn’t claim land without that land being defined by a surveyor, so they actively hunted the surveyors to kill them, preventing their surveys. Jack Hays was one of the first to learn how the hardiest of the Plains Indians, the Comanche, lived and fought and adopted their own ways, but in even more extreme fashion, to fight them.Before I read this book, I had no idea that Comancheria was an actual place. It was, in fact, the vast tract of land covering almost the entire western half of the USA, in the 19th century and the Comanche were undisputed masters of the entire area, though a mixture of warfare (with other tribes), treaties, trading and general intimidation; think The Mafia on a huge scale. I also had little appreciation of the difference between the tribes of the eastern coast and the much more warlike western tribes. The eastern tribes were far more quickly subsumed into the white man’s world, partly at least because they lived in densely wooded areas, almost entirely on foot. The western tribes had discovered the power of the horse and had vast tracts of open prairie in which to maneuver and hide. So, while famed warrior tribes such as the Apache, Black Feet and Crow were, indeed, fierce, they all payed homage to the sheer brutality of the Comanche. The Comanche empire ran on fear.This book makes repeated reference to the Indians, and particularly the Comanche, living a stone age existence, without metal or agriculture; a nomadic, foraging,, aggressive existence and I hadn’t thought of it in those terms before. Also, my image had been of a warrior with his doughty pony when, in fact, as the wealth of prairie Indians was measured in horse flesh, warriors had hundreds of horses and there were thousands in a single tribe. The coldly clinical telling of the shooting of thousands of Indian ponies by the army, as a tactical move to deny the Indians their primary tool is shocking. The image of a high pass blocked by a mountain of bleached bones for many years following the shooting of thousands of horses by the soldiers is a brutal image.I learned so much from this book that it will remain with me for a very long time. It has changed my entire perception of America, both then and now. And when I consider that many of the people whose incredible tales are told here lived in an age that my grandparents knew, history comes very close indeed. This was just yesterday. I loved this book and I commend SC Gwynne for his treatment of his subject. It won’t be to everyone’s taste; it’s long, a bit repetitive and requires a degree of attention and commitment, but for many, just like me, this is a truly wonderful book.
  • I heard about this book from the podcast with the author.Alwasy have been fascinated by history of the wars of 20 century in Europe and never before have read anything on other continents. I must say it’s a viscous encounter with native Americans by European arrivals. On one hand ( due to their extinction) you condone their fights over their land and on the other you are shocked by their brutality and unprecedented attacks.Still reading this book but I can say it’s a very fascinating thought provoking story.Love it!
  • The book itself is not, in my opinion, on Quanah Parker, but rather on Comanches in general with a prominent role for Quanah’s mother, father and himself. It talks with enough detail and in a pleasant narrative about Comanches in the 1700s and 1800s, with detours on American social and political developments during the period.For me, not too much of Quanah emerges – the idea I still have is that of a brave “kod” that was courageousand took part in a few battles but that’s it. No Geronimo, no Crazy Horse, no Red Cloud. Sure, his integration in white society probably was his greatest legacy, rather than his war efforts, but still – it’s sometimes hard to shift from a strictly war-like interpretation of the word “chief”.A final note: in my perception the author is sometimes blunt in his views of the Natives. Examples: he seems to say how they are usually romanticized, but on the contrary were assassins, cruel and overall just barbarians because of their raids and killings of whites. Or, he seems to justify Lamar’s (2nd president of the Texas republic) politics of extermination or explusion of Natives as “candid”, compared to other politicians that would have said something different and more politically correct, but ending up doing the same.
  • I have read several of the “Lonesome Dove” series of books which feature the Comanche Indians quite prominently . This prompted my interest in this book .It is a fascinating history of the Comanche nation , and focuses on one particular leader ,Quanah Parker. The son of a captured white settler who assimilated into the Comanche tribe .Her story is interesting as well.The Comanches lived by their own quite brutal rules and war became part of their culture , whether with other tribes, the Spanish or white settlers. The book does not gloss over their standard practice of torture of enemies , which was incredibly brutal . But it shows this in the context of their way of life as “Lords of the plains ” and their refusal to submit to the encroachment by the white settlers.Almost reads like a novel .Highly recommended.
  • Very absorbing, thoroughly researched and pretty balanced account of the conflict between the Comanche tribe of Texas and their Texan and American antagonists. Gwynne’s account, while clearly sympathetic to the Comanches, steers clear of the rose-tinted descriptions of Native American culture which inherits the idealised ‘noble savage’ narratives of the East Coast writers (who had long since ethnically cleansed their own native populations. Instead, Gwynne gives a full and unbiased account of the Comanches, describing their proficiency and skill at surviving in their own hostile environment, and the cheerfulness and simplicity of their culture, while not shying away from the barbaric, indeed often sadistic, treatment meted out to their enemies, both white and Native. Gwynne also deals at some length with the story of the famous ‘White Squaw’ Cynthia Ann Parker, abducted in a raid where many of her relatives were tortured, raped and killed, only to become the wife of a famous chief and the mother of the last effective leader of Comanche resistance to US encroachment. If I have a criticism of this book, it lies here: Gwynne leans to the belief that Cynthia Ann was attached to her tribe, even after her recapture and reunion with her white blood relatives, out of love both for her captors and their way of life; given that the first days of her captivity involved savage beatings for herself, repeated gang rape of her aunts and the murder of other Parker children captured at the same time, I wonder that Gwynne did not consider the possibility that she was ‘broken’ much as a wild mustang would have been, and that she had a bad case of Stockholm syndrome. That aside, this is an interesting and absorbing book, well worth the money.
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