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Oh What a Slaughter: Massacres in the American West: 1846--1890 Kindle Edition

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Length: 196 pages
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist McMurtry (Lonesome Dove) recounts six Western frontier massacres in this meandering mixture of memoir, literary criticism, jeremiad and history. "In most cases," McMurtry acknowledges, "the only undisputed fact about a given massacre is the date on which it occurred." Rightly enough, such disputes don't keep him from approaching these subjects with strong opinions. "Whites killed whites" at Mountain Meadows (1857); "a camp of one hundred percent peaceful Indians" was attacked at Sand Creek (1864). At Marias River (1870), Blackfeet Indians "dying anyway" of smallpox were slaughtered, and at Camp Grant (1871) "all the people killed—excepting one old man and a 'well-grown' boy—were women and children." McMurtry's easygoing voice and hop-and-skip pace leave comprehensiveness to the many books to which he refers, but his own volume would have been stronger, and more accessible to readers unfamiliar with frontier history, if it had been organized more systematically. As is, the book feels tossed off, and his passing references to contemporary massacres—in Rwanda, New York and Iraq, for example—don't add much resonance.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A recurring theme in McMurtry's works, both fiction and nonfiction, is the difficulty in bridging the gap between myth and reality in comprehending the settlement of the West. Here, he utilizes a healthy skepticism, sharp analytical skills, and a strong sense of moral outrage to examine six massacres in the trans-Mississippi West. Five involved the slaughter of Native Americans by whites, and one involved the slaughter of whites by other whites. Several, including the Sand Creek, Mountain Meadows, and Wounded Knee massacres, are well known to aficionados of western history. Others, while more obscure, are equally as gripping in their carnage and brutality. But McMurtry is no bleeding heart out to trash white settlers or soldiers. His accounts are balanced and scrupulously fair. Although acknowledging that the truth regarding some essential details will never be known, he leaves us with the inescapable reality of the rotting corpses of men, women, and children and a gnawing sense of justice denied. This is, of course, a deeply disturbing work; however, these things happened and are part of our history. This book will make an outstanding addition to western history collections. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 2203 KB
  • Print Length: 196 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 074325077X
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 24, 2010)
  • Publication Date: June 1, 2010
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003NE6HDY
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #404,412 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-nine novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove. His other works include two collections of essays, three memoirs, and more than thirty screenplays, including the coauthorship of Brokeback Mountain, for which he received an Academy Award. His most recent novel, When the Light Goes, is available from Simon & Schuster. He lives in Archer City, Texas.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By lordhoot on November 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Larry McMurty in his latest book, retell the stories of several unknown "massacre" incidents that took place in the Americna West during the years of 1846 to 1890. The six massacres were Sacramento River in 1846 where whites wiped out whole host of California Indians, Camp Grant where hundreds of Apache Indians were wiped out in 1871, Marias River in 1871 where whole lot of Blackfeet Indians were wiped out, Sand Creek in 1864 where hundreds of Cheyenne Indians were killed off and finally Mountain Meadow where 130 whites were wiped out by other whites. There is also a coverage on Wounded Knee as well.

The author avoided the more popular and well known massacres such as Custer's Last Stand, Fetterman Massacre or the Alamo. This is a short book. I think the author intent was give an introductionary look at some these incidents and hoping that the readers will move on into greater study. Some of the massacres he wrote about, like the ones at Camp Grant, Sacramento and Marias Rivers remain relatively unknown even to this day. Their description are short. The two more well known one, Sand Creek and Wounded Knee are given bit more closer study but the book seem to be dominated by the author's coverage of Mountain Meadow Massacre where white Mormons cold-heartedly murdered 130 or so white Arkansans and looted their wagon train. This seem to interest the author the most, probably because in all other massacres, there was a common racial motivation between whites and Indians. But in Mountain Meadow, there were theology, greed, revenge and murder in the hearts of the Mormons who took part of the massacre. Author's coverage into this incident will probably incite many of the readers who are not familiar with Mountain Meadow to read deeper in other books.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M Quigg VINE VOICE on January 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A previous reviewer stated this correctly--this is a slight history. There is not much meat in this book, although it describes the massacres as meat shops. This is sad because the author is accomplished and this is a subject that many Americans are not familiar with. The author could have made this a better book but maybe he didn't think it was worth the time or money.

The subject of the book are six massacres in the American West. Five of these massacres had Indians as the victims and one was against a wagon train of immigrants. Who was responsible--the American settlers of the West and the American government. The author gives a very BRIEF history of each incident, and then tells us how horrible it was. I believe these were horrible events and that is why they need a more thorough research than what the author provided. That is where there needs to be a more telling story line.

This could have been a great book, but as such it is just a mere summary of some very troubled periods in the history of the American West.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Monty Rainey VINE VOICE on April 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Prolific fiction novelist Larry McMurtry takes a break from his usual venue with a look into some of the American West's' more infamous massacres with OH WHAT A SLAUGHTER: MASSACRES IN THE AMERICAN WEST 1846 - 1890. This is a slight work at under 200 pages, but is good, easy reading that might serve to promote further examination by the reader on the subject matter covered. And of course, as always, McMurtry's writing style is its usual prize winning form.

McMurtry begins by putting the legendary massacres of the old west into perspective by first defining what might constitute a massacre. Here, he has focused only upon massacres with over 100 victims. All totaled, massacres of this caliber in the American West equal far less than the number of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. When considering the 2002 vicious mutilation of over 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda, it makes the killing fields of North America look like a playground. These facts alone, at so early an entry in the book, will undoubtedly turn away revisionists from giving credibility to the work, but the facts do indeed, speak for themselves.

McMurtry lends a degree of balance to his work by presenting the subject matter (massacres) for what they are and avoids, as some reviewers have indicated, making it a "white man - bad, red man - good" politically correct portrayal. His first presentation is that of the Mountain Meadow massacre, in which, Mormons and Paiute Indians slaughtered somewhere around 125 - 140 whites of the Francher party whose families were in covered wagons traveling through southern Utah.

Each of the other massacres involve white on red atrocities. Some might ask why McMurtry did not include the annihilation of Custer and the 7th at Little Big Horn.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Douglas S. Wood on June 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Adopting a conversational tone McMurtry briefly (161 pages) explores six 'big massacres' of the Old West: Sacramento River, Mountain Meadows, Sand Creek, Marias River, Camp Grant, and Wounded Knee. He also briefly considers the Fetterman and Custer defeats.

McMurtry's treatment is even-handed. That even-handedness allows his observation of the essential fairness of General Crook, which the Indian leaders acknowledged, as demonstrated by his observation that the Sioux should take the money for the Black Hills because the whites were surely going to take them. Evenhandedness also required inclusion of the observation by Red Cloud that the whites had made many promises but only kept one: "They said they would take our land and they took it."

He develops the idea that the ever present 'apprehension' of violence was felt both by whites and Indians and that the apprehension all too often led to the actuality. Moreover, in general white frontiersmen wanted the Indians' land and were going to have it. Whites had the numbers and the technology. In all of the massacres with the exception of Wounded Knee the whites set out with the purpose of killing all the Indians they could lay hands on. As McMurtry relates civilized society often quickly disowned these deeds as 'simple murder'.

Mountain Meadows stands out an as exception in that Mormons led some Paiutes to attack and virtually wipe out a white wagon train.

The stories of these massacres are told in more detail elsewhere, but McMurtry's book is an interesting addition to the Western library that considers all of them within the confines of one short work.
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