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The year of decision : 1846 by Bernard…

The year of decision : 1846 (1943)

by Bernard DeVoto

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Denny Gray gave me a copy; I passed it on to another. LO Library has copies. ( )
  MarkHammer | Sep 15, 2010 |
Where to start? It's brilliant. It's engaging. It's unique. It's beautifully written. DeVoto is an inconoclast and loves knocking off the pedestal heroes like Zachary Taylor and John C. Fremont. And he loves the West, particularly the mountains. And he loves the Mountain Men.

This is not a chronological history book. It weaves together a number of stories: The Mexican American War, The Mormon migration, the migrations to Oregon and California (including the Donner party) and the ultimate creation of a continental American empire.

DeVoto asserts the creation of that empire doomed the idea of a loose affiliation of states, an affiliation the allowed slavery, the country's central contradiction. Once we became an empire, with stronger centralized government, confronting slavery was inevitable.

Maybe my favorite part of all DeVoto's books is the clear love, and fear, he has of the mountains. And equally for those people who are able to survive in that environment, and/or tame it. He writes, "Remember that the yield of a hard country is a love deeper than a fat and easy land inspires, that throughout the arid West the Americans have found a secret treasure." Maybe you have to have grown up in the mountains to understand.

If you like history, read this book. If you like literature, read this book. ( )
1 vote jmcilree | Jan 16, 2009 |
2199 The Year of Decision:1846, by Bernard DeVoto (read 23 Mar 1989) When this book was published in 1942 I really wanted to read it but I have not till now. It certainly wasn't what I thought. It has no source footnotes and no bibliography. It tells in a kind of literary way a lot about the Donner party, while acknowledging George Stewart's book as the authority thereon, and a lot about the Mormons' journey to Utah, and some about the Mexican War and James K. Polk and Francis Parkman. But it is all kind of a mish-mash, and not history told as I like it. I definitely did not care for the book, even though it tells of interesting things. He sure has nothing but bad to say for Zachary Taylor and John C. Fremont. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jun 29, 2008 |
Bernard DeVoto is a forgotten great. Most people have never heard of him. This is my favorite of all his books. It is a close examination of what happened in 1846...a more important year than most would think.

A must read. ( )
  Mdshrk1 | Jun 9, 2008 |
Told in a friendly, accessible style, 1846 is a comprehensive look at the dynamics of the western migrations and the inner mood of a young, vigorous nationalism. I was hardly surprised to learn of the all too familiar ways of cunning politicians like James K. Polk and Senator Thomas Hart Benton, a primary mojo behind the aggressive push west termed 'Manifest Destiny'. DeVoto's love of detail bring the journey alive. The tribulations of the Mormons, the Donner Party, and Polk's War with Mexico are just a few of the major events covered in this fine book. The reader is introduced to all the major players in the country. Besides colorful tableaus of stars like Emerson, Whitman, and Thoreau we witness countless, humble pioneers, as well as famous mountain men like Jim Clyman, Jim Bridger and Jedediah Smith. The enormity of the journey and the mysterious natural history of a region famous for roaming bands of Indians, great herds of buffalo, endless deserts and impassable mountains, provide a majestic backdrop for strong leaders like Brigham Young or Stephen Kearney on the one hand and pathetic glory seekers like like John C. Fremont and General Taylor, who both deserve a wider, more critical exposure.

DeVoto throws light on that shadowy period between Cherokee removal and the Civil War. He is one of those few authors who makes me want to read more of his work. . ( )
  Ogmin | Dec 23, 2007 |
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Dear Kate:
While I was writing this book you sometimes asked me what it was about. Reading it now, you will see that, though it is about a good many things, one theme that recurs is the basic courage and honor in the face of adversity which we call gallantry. It is always good to remember human gallantry, and it is especially good in times like the present. So I want to dedicate a book about the American past written in a time of national danger to a very gallant woman,
Katharine Grant Sterne
Yours, Benny
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The purpose of this book as stated in the opening pages is a literary purpose: to realize the pre-Civil War, Far Western frontier as personal experience.
When I go out of the house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither I will bend my steps, and submit myself to my instinct to decide for me, I find, strange and whimsical as it may seem, that I finally and inevitably settle southwest, toward some particular word or meadow or deserted pasture or hill in that direction....

Henry Thoreau
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312267940, Paperback)

Year of Decision 1846 tells many fascinating stories of the U.S. explorers who began the western march from the Mississippi to the Pacific, from Canada to the annexation of Texas, California, and the southwest lands from Mexico. It is the penultimate book of a trilogy which includes Across the Wide Missouri (for which DeVoto won both the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes) and The Course of Empire. DeVoto's narrative covers the expanding Western frontier, the Mormons, the Donner party, Fremont's exploration, the Army of the West, and takes readers into Native American tribal life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:28 -0400)

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