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Eagles and Empire: The United States, Mexico, and the Struggle for a Continent Hardcover – July 28, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


“A lively history.”—Kirkus

About the Author

David A. Clary, former chief historian of the US Forest Service, is the author of Adopted Son: Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship That Saved the Revolution. He has been a consultant to government agencies and has taught history at the university level. He lives in Roswell, New Mexico with his wife, Beatriz.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Book Club Edition edition (July 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553806521
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553806526
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 11.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,369,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Pathfinder on July 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
There are several other histories of the Mexican-American War. This is the best, in my opinion. David Clary is the first writer to truly understand the military dimension of it, and that's obviously a pretty big part of the story. And he tells the story dramatically, and what a great story it is. It's so fascinating to watch the young West Point turks such as Grant and Lee win their spurs, along with older commanders like Davis, Taylor, Kearny, and Scott. And there were some good commanders on the Mexican side also, and let's not forget the Napoleon of the West, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna . . . the cast of characters is incredible. Great leaders, great battles--it all adds up to a great story, dramatically told. The author wrote one of my favorite American history books of recent years, Adopted Son (about the touching father-son relationship between Washington and Lafayette), and this one is also top-notch American history.
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32 of 44 people found the following review helpful By S. Rupar on September 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Disappointing and biased account of the US-Mexican War of 1846-1847. The United States armed forces, particularly the volunteer units, are portrayed as constantly harrasing, robbing, raping and pillaging the people of Mexico, leading to, in the author's opinion, the entirely understandable reaction of the populace in entering into guerilla warfare. Much of this may be true but documentation is lacking, and this was probably not as dominant feature of the conflict as is portrayed in the book. Almost all decisions of the United States government and commanders are portrayed as stupid, incompetent or worse. While the morality of the United States efforts can be debated, ulitmately, the war did achieve the goals of the American administration, and the author's stressing of constant incompetence is therefore questionable. The ineffectiveness of the Mexican government is portrayed, but without the condescending attitude the author displays towards every United States initiative. As is too often the case with military history, maps are inadequate, not all battles and campaigns are shown, and some strange selections have been made. For example, there is no campaign level map showing Scott's march to Mexico City, while there is a map of various uprisings against the Mexican government from its inception to long past the Mexican War, even though many of those uprisings are not discussed in the text.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael D. Zeiler on February 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Clary's style is brisque yet engaging, thorough though succinct. It is an amazingly comprehensive treatment of an otherwise extremely complex conflict. Clary's treatment of the Mexican War however produces an unusually balanced perspective seen from both sides, melding them together so as to leave his readers thirsting for more detail. His distinctive approach adroitly and quite successfully illuminates pungent cultural comparisons, significant demographic disparities, and crucial economic contrasts which amply fill the void so long ignored in this important aspect of Westward Movement historiography. Eagles and Empire is the "Go To" source book High School and College faculty should use as their first primer on this subject. Clary's title itself is a double entendre fraught with significance for this one tome that finally brings it all together.
Dr. Michael Zeiler
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert H. Gokey on October 14, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
Good book. Lousy Kindle experience. Small print and faint printing reproduction of maps make following the action frustrating and overly difficult. Buy the hard copy and enjoy the reading experience.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Braslow, Ph.D. on October 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Some of the reviews are gushing in praise. They err. It does not deserve the acclimation, and Clary, at least on the strength of this work, does not deserve to be called "a historian of distinction". (Robert Utley, as cited on dust jacket). It is not "A finely researched work . . ." either. (James MacGregor Burns, as cited on dust jacket). There is no question whatever that he is definitely biased against the US, and that alone seems to resonate with a species of historians who take pleasure in berating the US at every opportunity. Not that the US was perfect, but Clary paints an evil (and inept) portrait of Polk that just is not so. His characterizations of General Taylor are factually even worse. Although he admits that Santa Anna was a genuine scoundrel, he is given far more latitude and comes off looking far better.

There is one aspect that is fairly well done, and that is his narration of the troop movements. Other than that, he misses the military boat badly. Before he inveighs against the US officer corps (in particular the supply corps), really should have acquainted himself far better with the organization and structure of the US Army. He did not, obviously, and that is a huge defect in his presentation. He also completely misses the political nature of the officer corps and the interplay with national politics, thus his (otherwise accurate) denunciation of the political officer appointees is without authority.

He utterly fails to analyze or even discuss Polk's sound reasons for concern with California and New Mexico. Clary makes the rather amateurish, but common, mistake of judging international power politics of the 1840s with the norms of today, and the predictable result is inaccurate and misleading history.
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