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Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West Paperback – October 9, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Although delivering little in the way of new information, Sides, an Outside magazine editor-at-large and bestselling author (Ghost Soldiers), eloquently paints the landscape and history of the 19th-century Southwest, combining Larry McMurtry's lyricism with the historian's attachment to facts. Inevitably, Sides's main focus is the virtual decimation of the Navajo nation from the 1820s to the late 1860s. Sides depicts the complex role of whites in the subjugation of the Navajos through his portrait of Kit Carson—an illiterate trapper, soldier and scout who knew the Native Americans intimately, married two of them and, without blinking, participated in the Indians' slaughter. Books about Carson have been numerous, but Sides is better than most Carson biographers in setting his exploits against a larger backdrop: the unstoppable idea of manifest destiny. Of course, as counterpoint to the progress of Carson and other whites, Sides details the fierce but doomed defense mounted by the Navajos over long decades. This culminated in their final, desperate "stand" during 1863 at Canyon de Chelly, more than a decade after a contingent of federal troops—operating under a commander whose last name of "Washington" seems ironic in this context—killed their great leader, Narbona. (Oct. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Hampton Sides's Blood and Thunder is more ambitious in its sweep than his acclaimed Ghost Wars (2001), a World War II history. His recounting of harsh frontier life and the violent clashes among the Navajo, the Spanish (Mexican), and the U.S. Army offers a gripping epic while enlivening many of the era's remarkable figures, from soldiers to trappers, farmers, Indians, and pioneer women. Critics especially praised Sides's nuanced discussions of the Navajo and other Native American tribes, as well as his inclusion of maps that chart key routes and conquests. A few critics cited some factual errors, tangential discussions, and omissions of some key historical figures, but overall it's clear that "Sides knows how to tell a good story" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Based on Hampton Sides research, I found Kit Carson's life quite incredible. Here is a man that couldn't read or write, yet could speak Spanish and seven different indian languages. He lived as a frontiersman, trapper, indian fighter, guide, and as a Colonel in the Union Army. He had the innate ability to see right from wrong, act with bravery, honor, and commitment. During his lifetime, he was married three times and had eight children. His first wife was Arapaho, the second was Cheyenne and the third wife, Josefa was Spanish. He had meetings with President Polk, he was a friend of General William Tecumseh Sherman, Navajo leader Narbona, Senator Thomas Benton, John C. Fremont, and General Stephen Watts Kearny, the father of the American cavalry. The escapades written about Kit gave me the feeling that he was truly a American hero. This book was worth reading just to discover what a miraculous life he led during a dangerous period in the history of America's Southwest. Yet, the author sites incidents where Kit Carson gunned down people in cold blood, because he was ordered to do it by a superior officer, or someone he respected. Go figure!
The inane killing of Navajo leader Narbona by a drunken Union soldier over a stolen horse caused his son- in-law, Manuelito to declare war against America! While the Union Army were fighting the Confederates from Texas during the Civil War, The Navajo had carte blanche to murder emigrates and steel their cattle and sheep. After the Civil War ended, the U.S.A. realized that the Navajo had to be stopped, or else the move westward couldn't continue. Enter General James H. Carleton! He prodded Col. Kit Carson to prosecute the Navajo, burn their food supply and force them to accept a reservation life far from their natural boundaries. Many Navajo were killed, while the survivors were in a state of starvation. The rest of the book deals with the ' Long Walk ' of the Navajos from New Mexico to the Bosque Redondo ( Round Forest ) Reservation, where infectious corn crops, dysentery, syphilis and Comanche attacks almost destroyed the Navajo people. If you want to know how they survived, you will have to read this wonderful book.
As a child I watched 'The Adventures of Kit Carson' , staring Bill Williams on television, thinking he wasn't a real person. Wow, now I know better! His T.V. sidekick, El Toro doesn't show up in this book. I also watched 'The Great Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok' ! These cowboys were real heroes from the 1800's and need to be studied. I find myself searching for books about old western characters that helped shape America in it's early years. Hampton Sides did a yeoman's job in his research and storytelling. While it's not non-fiction that reads like fiction, it is very close. I guess that's why I felt that I wasn't reading a history book, but a good old western! I give this palatable book my highest rating.
Have read other books about the settlement of the Ohio valley 100 years earlier, same theme; unavoidable havoc between settlers and Native American tribes.
So, I have read several biographies of Kit Carson, an extraordinary man. He scouted the west, twice crossed the country by horse, fought Indians and fought for them. He participated in massacres as a young man and fought several battles as commander of US Cavalry. He was illiterate his whole life. He was liked and respected by almost everyone who met him and was noted for being laconic.
Despite his wars with the Navajo, he came to see beyond the savagery and in the end, did his best to make the US Government fulfill its promises.
Sides does a fine job of telling a remarkable story. It's tough to write about a truly noble man because we find it hard to believe. So, this is a book well worth reading, well told.
A man i wish I could have met.