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Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History Hardcover – November 20, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

On April 30, 1871, a posse of Americans, Mexicans and Tohono O'odham Indians descended upon an Apache camp in Arizona and massacred some 150 of its sleeping inhabitants, mostly women and children. Jacoby (Crimes Against Nature), an associate professor of history at Brown University, re-examines what happened in the notorious Camp Grant Massacre and its aftermath in an original way. An unusual wealth of documents about this raid allow him to narrate from four different angles, each centering on a community involved in the massacre, thereby offering a view of the histories, fears and motivations of each group. Some readers might prefer a more conventional and chronological narrative, but Jacoby's structure succeeds in leading readers toward a deeper revisioning of the American past. Jacoby wants readers to consider the West not just as the seat of America's Manifest Destiny, but as an extension of the Mexican north and... the homeland of a complex array of Indian communities. For buffs more accustomed to traditional tales of Custer and Wounded Knee, this telling might prove an unexpected delight. Illus. (Nov. 24)
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From Booklist

Historian Jacoby makes an important contribution to the scholarship of the American West with this balanced portrait of the brutal Camp Grant massacre in Arizona. On April 30, 1871, more than 50 Apache Indians—mostly women and children—were massacred by a group of vigilantes made up of Americans, Mexicans, and Tohono O’odham Indians. What made the atrocity even more unbelievable to the general public was the fact that the Apaches were living under the protection of the U.S. Army on a government-sponsored tract of land. Recounting the story from four divergent points of view, Jacoby sheds insight into the social, political, and economic complexities that characterized the nineteenth-century frontier. In addition, he also places the massacre and the federal investigation that followed firmly into historical context by providing a concise history of the highly charged cultural conflicts that plagued the territory for several preceding centuries. --Margaret Flanagan

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (November 20, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594201935
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594201936
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,085,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jonathan Brandt on December 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am a big fan of William Manchester, Alison Weir, and David McCullough; historians whose writings, for me, engage the reader by combining depth of research with deftness of narrative. I greatly enjoyed Karl Jacoby's first book, "Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation", largely for that reason.

"Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History" pivots on a sensational-but-forgotten crime. In this book, Jacoby presents four distinct, often counterpoised narratives. His aim is to give equal voice to each of the four peoples represented by participants at the book's titular event. Not just for that pin-point in time, but for the decades preceding and following it as well.

I think this approach succeeds wonderfully. And it leaves me, at least, fascinated by the fluid relationships among these peoples throughout those times. Their interactions, at once conflicting and intimate, challenge many of the persistent, mainstream notions of settlers and Indians in the Wild West.

There is a subtle, fifth voice in this book, however. And it makes Jacoby's work especially compelling. Alongside the Papago, the Vecino, the Americano, and the Apache; I could hear the Historian - Jacoby himself - conveying his veneration for these peoples and for the historian's calling to curate their memories.
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Format: Paperback
For all the apologies and disclaimers at the beginning of the book, about how historians are SUPPOSED to weave together all the threads of the story to make one account, and how historians are NOT SUPPOSED to do what this book does (which is leave those strands separate)... despite all that, this book could not have been done better.

Take a look at one historical event (a massacre of Apaches in Aravaipa Canyon) in the context of four cultures - the Apaches themselves, their traditional enemies the O'odham people, plus the old settlers of northern Mexico that remained on the land after it was purchased by America, and the new American folks.

The historical record is shaky, because the O'odham and the Apache did not consider themselves to be homogenous nation-groups with clear agreement on oral record-keeping. Instead, the scattered and fragmented nature of these Native American peoples led to disjointed accounts. (How Karl Jacoby teased the information out of the scattered oral accounts would be excellent subject matter for another book.) In addition, there are all sorts of overlaps between the heritage of people who nobly led the massacre in order to protect their families and then were elected to public office on the strength of their determination and prestige, while keeping their participation quiet in order to avoid condemnation and sanction. The book also takes into account the give-and-take relationship of the purported peace-keping US military forces in the area.

Reading it, you get the impression that the only way for Progress to come to Arizona was for the native peoples to cease to exist. Whether through assimilation or annihilation or imprisonment on reservations, their way of life was over.
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Format: Hardcover
With this original approach to a single event, tracing its origins and aftermath through the four cultural groups involved, Karl Jacoby joins a small but growing group of younger historians of the North American borderlands who have abandoned the tired formulas of the past, looked at the past with fresh eyes, taking care not to see everything from an Anglo-American perspective, and begun an era of fresh interpretation of very difficult aspects of our common (and sometimes separated) past. To boot, he writes very well. I recommend this to anyone interested in not just the borderlands or the struggles between Indians and others, but to anyone who wants a further understanding of the history of this continent.
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Format: Hardcover
Karl Jacoby has quickly become one of the great names in history working today. Shadows at Dawn is simply one of the most innovative and brilliantly conceived books I've ever read. It's contributions to the enormous literature on the American West are certainly great, but more than helping us to understand this single episode, he has provided a model that future studies should hope to emulate. By carefully recreating the numerous perspectives of the divergent groups caught up in the notorious Camp Grant Massacre, Jacoby has provided a measure of insight that is truly rare. I don't think i have ever felt so "there" while reading a work of history. I read two or three books a week on average, but rarely does history stick with me like this one did...as I found myself pondering it's subject for days afterwords. I really can't recommend this highly enough, and am eager to hear what Dr. Jacoby is working on next.

FYI: Do yourself a favor and pick up his first book: _Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation_ - it's depth hints at the approach he chose with Shadows at Dawn, and similarly provides fascinating insight into an under appreciated facet of Western History.
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