on January 5, 2013
This a teriffic book and I use it as a reference, on the Army's Topographical Corps exploration of the area West of the Missippi river. I live in what was the Gadsden Purchase in the late 1840's. Except for our success in completing the purchase of additional land from Mexico, I would be living in Mexico today. I read parts of this book more than 50 years after its first publicaion using it as a reference. It covers more than the Gadsden Purchase of course, it covers almost exclusively the activities of the Army's Topographical Corps in the Western continental U. S. from Mexico to Canada and west of Mississippi West to the Pacific.
It appears to me that the Topographical Corps was formed to locate and describe the lands of the Western U.S. principly the Louisiana Purchase. Part of these efforts was to determine what is contained out there, to help pioneers to locate in the area and to describe it for building railroads and hi-ways for traveling to different areas. As part of this, it was to be able to locate specific land features and waterways, to find areas that were capable of supporting pioneers and businesses due to natural resources.
This is not a novel in any way but a factual interpretation of documents of that time to build an accurate account of what happened and when, in the wild west.
This includes an evaluation of the then "native American" populations and their resistance to American pioneers presence in the area. It describes the locations of Army forts for supplies and protection of the pioneers as well as the surveys for building railroads from the East out to the Pacific coast.
One particularly interesting section of the book to me was the reconnaissance of the Colorado River from the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) up to the Grand Canyon to determine its navagability as a supply route into the Great Basin area. At that time it was determined navagable to just below Las Vegas in Black Canyon. This is a fascinating story and well covered by Dr Goetzmann. The entire book of 489 pages is a research paper from available documentation and published by the Yale University Press.
I rate it as 4 star instead of 5 star because I was looking for more detail in some areas but it does include all of his reference sources so that a student might be able to read the original documents--a monumental job.