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Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and…

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the… (2010)

by S. C. Gwynne

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1,620814,477 (4.03)158
Recently added byprivate library, taxtorpedo, jeane, zzshupinga, Benue, le3657, MarjorieDT, Bibliodiction, larryerick
  1. 10
    The Comanche Empire by Pekka Hamalainen (Muscogulus)
    Muscogulus: Gwynne's book captured all the hype, but Hämäläinen's book is the one that revolutionized the history of the Comanche people. It deserves more attention.
  2. 00
    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown (Cecrow)
  3. 00
    Comanche Sundown by Jan Reid (SRPetty)
    SRPetty: These books cover similar territory but one is solidly researched fiction, the other solidly researched non-fiction. To read them together will enhance your experience of this troubled time in our history.

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Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
This is a fabulous book. I haven't enjoyed a book as much as this in years. The history of plains Indians, the Spanish in Mexico, Texans, and people of the United States makes for fascinating reading, and the author's style makes it all the more enjoyable. I look forward to reading more of Mr. Gwynne's books, and more about Native American history. ( )
  baobab | May 10, 2018 |
Solid book of history that details the history of the Comanche Indian Tribe. The cover of the book is a bit deceiving as the reader is led to believe that the story will focus on Quanah Parker. The story covers the entire history of the Comanche people, and the story of Parker is only discusses at length more than two-thirds of the way through the book.

I really enjoyed the parts of the book that trace the culture of the Comanche and the influence that geography had on their lifestyle. Fascinating information about their use of horses, buffalo, and the environment they lived in. As a history teacher, I will be using much of the information I learned in my classes.

My issues with the book focus on two areas. First, the middle third of the book, while tracing the history chronologically, seems to cover the same story over and over again of fighting, retreating, and horrific stories of torture and killings. Second, the author seems to try and both excuse and persecute the torture and killings of both the Comanche and the white settlers. I am not sure how else the author could have played the controversy, but I felt like he hedged his bets one too many times. ( )
  msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
Meticulous research and impartial writing made this book a pleasure to read. Provides an entertaining and educational summary of the tragic history of the Comanches and their interactions with the Spanish, Mexicans and Americans as well as their Indian allies and enemies. So many Comanche and American figures come to life and we understand the lifestyle and driving forces behind the Indian warriors, and particularly the Quahadis, last to be brought into the white man's world. The story of Cynthia Ann Parker, one of the most famous persons captured by the Indians is retold here and the last third of the book details the extraordinary life of her son, Quanah Parker. A must read for anyone wanting a deeper understanding of the forces at play bringing about the end of freedom for the Plains Indians. ( )
  Zumbanista | Apr 4, 2018 |
Great story; very interesting read and I learned a lot of things. It was also somewhat sad to see the times change. ( )
  xerosigns | Mar 22, 2018 |
Settlers in Texas were terrorized by Comanches who raped, killed, and took survivors captive. Comanches were terrorized by Texans who raped, killed, and usually ensured there weren’t any survivors. The scariest time was during the full moon in summer, still called a “Comanche Moon” in Texas. Although author S.C. Gwynne is a journalist he does a pretty good job being even-handed; this is one of the cases where the journalistic practice of telling both sides of a story actually works, because there really are two sides to the story.

The focus is Quanah Parker. On May 19, 1836, a band of Comanche showed up at “Parker’s Fort”, roughly halfway between Houston and Dallas (neither of which existed at the time, of course). The “fort” was a wood palisade surrounding a group of houses. It would have been eminently defensible against horsemen, except nobody was defending it when the Comanche showed up; ten of the sixteen men in the Parker clan were out farming; the remaining six and the eight women and six children at the fort had left the gate open and didn’t have weapons to hand. After a short initial parley, the Comanche attacked, killing and scalping five men, leaving two women for dead, and taking two women and three children captive. One of the women was nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker.

Cynthia’s older sister, Rachel, was eventually ransomed, but Cynthia disappeared into the Great Plains. Her relatives repeatedly searched for her (which story was made into the John Ford movie, The Searchers, with the names changed and the events moved from 1836 to 1868). She eventually became the wife of Comanche “chief” Peta Nocona under the Comanche name Nautdah; she had three children, the boys Quanah and “Peanuts”, and the girl Prairie Flower. In 1860, Texas Rangers under Sul Ross and troopers from the U.S Second Cavalry attacked a Comanche camp near the Pease River; most of the male Comanche had already left for winter quarters, leaving the women and old men to pack up buffalo meat and tipis and follow. However, Peta Nocona had also remained behind and was killed in a running fight (Ross allowed the multiple wounded Comanche to sing his death song before having a Mexican boy “end his misery with a charge of buckshot”). Another Comanche was captured; this turned out to be a woman and when the grease and dirt was cleaned off proved to have pale skin, blue eyes, and a baby; this was Nautdah/Cynthia Ann Parker and Prairie Flower. Two Comanche boys escaped – these were Quanah and “Peanuts”.

Cynthia was returned to her family – her white family – and didn’t do very well. She had only dim memories of her pre-Comanche life and no longer remembered any English. She was passed around among various relatives; although everybody acknowledged she was the best buffalo robe tanner they had ever seen, she made repeated escape attempts and had to be watched; this wasn’t that much of a problem because she was something of a tourist attraction. Prairie Flower and Cynthia both died within a few years of their “rescue”.

In the meantime, twelve-year-old Quanah and his ten-year-old brother rode for three days in the dead of winter to another Comanche camp. The Comanche lifestyle was not kind to orphans; “Peanuts” died relatively quickly. Quanah, on the other hand, found out that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and grew up to be six feet tall and strongly built. The 1860s were a good time to be a young brave in the West; Federal soldiers were withdrawn to fight in the Civil War and stayed to enforce Reconstruction, and Quanah acquired a reputation as a war leader. A lot of the warfare was Indian-on-Indian and essentially undocumented, but there was plenty of raiding of white settlements as well. (Quanah pointedly never talked about that in later years).

After various attempts at treaties, which both sides broke as soon as they were written, and the establishment of a Comanche reservation in Oklahoma, which the Comanche used as a convenient base between raids, the US Government eventually assigned Ranald Mackenzie the job of ending the Comanche menace. Gwynne calls Mackenzie the “AntiCuster”; like Custer he had become a brevet brigadier general at a very young age for Civil War heroism; unlike Custer he was a competent Indian fighter. Mackenzie was helped by the elimination of the buffalo; it became increasingly difficult for the Comanche to subsist off the reservation; however Mackenzie also trained his cavalry troopers to be as tough and self-reliant as the Comanche (he’d lost two fingers during the Civil War, which lead to his Comanche name, “Bad Hand”). Unlike Custer, Mackenzie had no interest in self-promotion (or perhaps just no equivalent of Libby Custer).

Mackenzie was helped by the arrival of a Comanche prophet, Isatai, who insisted that his “medicine” would make warriors invulnerable to bullets; this turned out not to be the case.

The eventual end for the Comanche came with the “Red River War”; Mackenzie chased them to their previous refuge in Palo Duro Canyon. Only four Comanche were killed in the battle, but all their lodges and stockpiled food was burned and Mackenzie, having learned that Comanche could retake captured horses almost at will, had all the ponies shot (the canyon is reportedly haunted by a phantom herd). The Comanche survivors trickled back to the reservation, and Quanah Parker decided to walk the white man’s road.

He turned out to be a shrewd businessman. He and cattleman Charles Goodnight had formed a friendship after a somewhat tense encounter, and Quanah began leasing his allotment land to Goodnight and other ranchers. He eventually became wealthy enough to build the famous Star House, with enough rooms for his eight wives (one of whom commented that his most salient accomplishment was keeping his wives from fighting). There’s a photograph of the Parker family on the front porch of Star House; the wives are all dressed in white clothes, in both senses of the word; Quanah looks quite handsome in a suit and tie but still wears his hair long. He had changed from a man who had (presumably; he never admitted it) scalped people alive to one who owned a car, appeared in a silent movie, and entertained President Teddy Roosevelt at dinner. He was remembered as unfailingly generous to all, white or native, and his funeral was attended by a huge crowd, many of whom had ridden for miles to attend. (There was some difficulty figuring out the inheritance among the wives and children).

A good read. Even handed, as mentioned; Gwynne does a good job of being politically incorrect in pointing out that the Comanche were not noble savages; savage, yes (well, OK, Quanah Parker ended up meeting even a pretty stringent definition of “noble”). He also says much the same of the Texans, with particularly harsh words for Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, who invited Comanches to a parley and then tried to hold them hostage. Along the line Gwynne explains something I never knew about the Texas Rangers. The Rangers were funded by annual budget appropriations; that meant they were frequently disbanded when the money ran out and recruited anew when there was another threat. That meant their performance was very uneven; sometimes they were efficient professionals; sometimes they were brutal thugs (which didn’t preclude them being effective Indian fighters); and sometimes they were just useless losers.

Photographs of the principals; an adequate map of the campaign. Well endnoted, and a thorough bibliography. Recommended. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 7, 2017 |
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Empire of the Summer Moon is a skillfully told, brutally truthful, history.

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The desert wind would salt their ruins and there would be nothing, no ghost or scribe, to tell any pilgrim in his passing how it was that people had lived in this place and in this place had died.
--Cormac McCarthy
To Katie and Maisie
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Cavalrymen remember such moments: dust swirling behind the pack mules, regimental bugles shattering the air, horses snorting and riders' tack creaking through the ranks, their old company song rising on the wind: "Come home, John! . ..."
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Empire of the Summer Moon spans two astonishing stories.
the first traces the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history.
The second entails one of the most remarkable narratives ever to come out of the Old West: the epic saga of the pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped by Comanches as a nine-year-old girl, and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches.
Although readers may be more familiar with the Apache and Sioux [LaKota], it was in fact the legendary fighting ability of the Comanches that determined when the American West opened up. Comanche boys became adept bareback riders by age six; full Comanche braves were considered the best horsemen who ever rode. they were so masterful at war that they stopped the northern drive of colonial Spain from Mexico and halted the french expansion westward from Louisiana. White settlers arriving in Texas from the eastern United States were surprised to find the frontier being rolled backward by Comanches incensed by the invasion of their tribal lands.
The war with the Comanches lasted four decades, in effect holding up the development of the new American nation. Gwynne's exhilarating account delivers a sweeping narrative that encompasses Spanish colonialism, the Civil War, the destruction of the buffalo herds, the arrival of the railroads, and the amazing story of Cynthia Ann Parker and her son Quanah - a historical feast for anyone interested in how the United States came into being.

Hailed by critics, Empire of the Summer Moon announces S.C. Gwynne as a major new writer of American History
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Describes the actions of both whites and Comanches during a 40-year war over territory, in a story that begins with the kidnapping of a white girl, who grew up to marry a Comanche chief and have a son, Quanah, who became a great warrior.

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