A brutal history, brilliantly told. This book describes the clash of two cultures, that could never coexist, where one or the other had to prevail to survive. We know the winner. Here you will get a fuller account of who the Plains people were, and how the coming of the settlers ultimately led to the end of their way of life.
I recommend this book. Also, "News of the World" and "The Captured".
The most realistic account of the demise of the Indian nations and how the "whites" ultimately won the battle. Horrific battles and raids on families on both sides of the fence depicted with unflinching reality; there are some accounts that go so far into unimaginable brutality one will find their breath swept away. You think I'm using hyperbole? Ha. Tell me that after you read it.
Not a history major? This might be difficult to get through. But it's an amazing story.
S.C. Gwynne writes an entertaining and comprehensive book about an amazing and tragic piece of American history previously unknown to me. Highly recommended.
There are some excellent comments below and each has nuggets of truth as well as misinterpretations of what the author is saying. Bottom line is that this book is extremely enlightening and while describing the violent nature of the Comanche, the author is still very sympathetic to them for the loss of their land and way of life. The author is an historian; the book is well researched and contains pages of footnotes. Don't let the overly politically correct reviewers below dissuade you from reading this book. You can still be sympathetic to First Nations without ignoring the barbaric nature of some of their customs. European history is full of barbarism and war.
Great book and truly enlightening. Amazing what the old west was like during the pioneer days
I valued reading this book immensely as it greatly changed my perspective on the history and subject of the American West. I am also greatly impressed by the military accomplishments of the Comanche Tribe from the before 1800 till the end of their Empire around 1880. It is thanks to them that Spain's conquistadors were halted, no annihilated. The missions in Comanche territory were abandoned. At the same time I was deeply angered by the accounts of torture to the death of captives, which included women and children, and infants! In one word, this is unspeakable; and even it was in European Pioneer culture of the 1800's. It was very accepted among many native American tribes, and they did it also to other native American tribes. The accounts in this book helped me to understand the hatred most pioneers had for Comanche and other tribes. A side that is not often illustrated or sympathized with. The book is obviously from the Euro-American perspective as the writer is true to his own. I did not find the book to be biased or racist, though. S.C. Gwynne has meticulously researched his historical facts, and it is a very truthful and accurate account of events. In all, this book sets the record straight and improves our understanding of both sides of the frontier.
One of the reasons I'm enamored with stories of the American West is they share this consistent theme of progress at a terrible cost. For many, much was lost, and for others, much was gained. Once upon a time North America was this vast expanse of wilderness, populated by a multitude of tribes and untouched by the modern world, and then in a relative instant that way of life was whisked away (though some would say consumed) by civilization. This is the unified story of all mankind: The rise and fall of societies while the human race goes on. The story of the Comanches is also part of that larger story—of remembering what once was and no longer is.
The Comanches were, in a word, calamitous. They thrived on primacy; on the destruction of those around them, be it whites, Mexicans or other Indians. They were not the Hopi-like people our idealistic imaginings of life before the Europeans make them out to be. And neither did they just kill for territorial reasons. Sometimes it was for revenge; sometimes it was for the pure sport of it. The tortures they inflicted on a whim would give you nightmares. A warrior's heart indeed.
Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne succeeds in capturing the entire history of the Comanches by relating it through the narrative of two individuals: Cynthia Ann Parker, a young girl captured by the tribe in 1836 and subsequently lived with them for the next 24 years, and her firstborn son, Quanah Parker, one of the Comanches most effective leaders and also its last.
I agree with bjessima 's critique on the book. I found it tremendously informative, but very one-sided. Gwynne has no true understanding of native spiritualism -he calls it religion and keeps referring to the Indians as barbaric stone age tribes. It was tough to swallow. Our 'civilization' is going to bring this world to an end. Natives knew how to sustain life on this planet. As 2gooddogs writes, pay back is a bitch and we are feeling it already. Many more deaths will happen as storms and heat waves will claim the earth back.
I agree with Bjessima's comments down there. The book was informative and new for me, I liked the way the author treated the Comanches as an empire. It made me draw connections to the Mongol empire - lots to think about there. I also could very much feel that the author treated the war crimes of the Comanches differently than he did those of the Rangers or US military. Sometimes his excitement about the "rough and tumble" nature of the Rangers gave away his historical credibility, which makes me think this book is less based in history and more in what's entertaining for people. I'm planning to talk to a friend of mine who is Comanche to give his take on this book. In short, it's entertaining, but is it trustworthy to really LEARN FROM? Not sure.
Most native Indians were warlike and fought with each other a lot, long before Europeans came to these shores. Most people back then were warlike and cruel. I don't think its fair, blaming white people for what happened to the Native Americans. Most Native Americans were warrior tribes who attacked and killed and stole from other Native tribes, the whole world was like that, no matter what the color or origin of Nationality. I am also half Native American and used to be closed minded and angry about the past, but after much study and reading and Soul searching, I have come to understand mankind as a whole, Violence was rampant and normal at the time and is still in the world. Learn to forgive and forget what happened 200 or 300 or 700 years ago, bitterness and hatred are bad, and only hurts the one holding it in their hearts, Hate is Evil, it is the Darkside ! Don't waste any more time being bitter and hateful. I gave it all to GOD and his Son JESUS, and he sent the Holy Spirit to help me LOVE people, They will help you too, if you search for it in the Holy Bible. GOD IS LOVE ! The Devil is Hate !
White man came across the sea, he brought us pain and misery. He killed our tribes and killed our creed, And took our game for his own need. We fought him hard we fought him well, out on the plains we gave him hell! But many came too much the cree, Oh will we ever be set free? Running through dust clouds and barren waste,galloping hard on the plains. Chasing the redskins back to their homes,fighting them at their own game. Selling them whiskey and taking their gold, enslaving the young and destroying the old. We are the most disgsusting violent species on the planet and paybacks gonna be a bee-tyotch!
Anyone who liked this book should also read "The Heart of Everything That Is The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend" By Drury, Bob. Both books are the same story in the same time period. One story took place in the southern US and the other took place in the northern US. The story is about different tribes and different chiefs but both cover the same period of US/Indian history. Both are good books. I have read both and I think "Empire of the Summer Moon" is the best.
An amazingly readable, absolutely absorbing history of the Comanche tribe of Native Americans. The author doesn't approach them as a tribe, but as an empire. The book takes us from the start as a lowly group of outcasts as they become one of the first Americans to fully master the arrival of the horse from the Spanish and quickly emerge in a few generations as some of the fiercest warriors on the planet. Gwynne is both poetic and brutal as he pulls no punches with facts - those with sensitive stomachs may be disturbed with the passages dealing with atrocities done to Comanches and by them - but this is masterful stuff and worth a read. If you enjoyed this, check out the fiction selection THE SON by Philipp Meyer, about a boy taken in and raised by Comanches.
This Pulitzer Prize finalist, Empire of the Summer Moon is a fantastic book, one I literally couldn’t put it down. Top notch writing makes this epic narrative of how the Texas frontier was settled both an exciting and engaging read. Empire of the Summer Moon is a book that any fan of western fiction would find a great addition to their reading.
I was ultimately disappointed by this book. While there are a number of excellent insights gained, it ended up to me being an apologia for the usurpation of a nations territory by an invading civilization. I was sometimes offended by blatant demonization of the Comanche war practices (which do appear to have been quite extreme). In one particularly egregious example, the author documents in quite gruesome detail the torture and mutilation engaged in by Comanche raiders on while females. Only a few pages later, when whites attacked an Indian village, he indicates that they engaged in some extreme behavior that "wasn't worth detailing here". There are other examples of the same. This book does detail a part of history that I had little understanding of, but I kept returning to the thought that here was a Texan trying to justify a historical genocide.
I picked up this book because it was on the NYT bestseller list, not because I had any particular interest the westward expansion of the US and ensuing Indian wars of the 1870's. It turned out to be one of the most fascinating books I've read this year. The author is balanced in his assessments and descriptions of the participants and the events. Both sides had captured or sought to capture land from earlier peoples, both sides had their moments of honor, and both sides had their moments of brutality. A compelling read.
Carefully documented yet poetically told, this story says a lot about human actions, cultures and history. Changed my ideas about Native Americans and the settlement of the West.
I couldn't get into it... I read blurbs here and there in the book. In school I never learned about the brutality on both sides of the battles... so it is a shock to read about native people kidnapping, raping, enslaving women and dismembering their babies. Gosh.