Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches
By S. C. Gwynne
This reviewer who thought he had a fairly decent background in Texas history learned more in the first hundred pages of this book than he learned in two years of Texas History in college. Every paragraph presented something new and every event was well documented.
There are names like Cynthia Parker and the Parker Clan; Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamar and Sam Houston, Rip Ford and John Coffee Hays and Sul Ross; Nocona, Buffalo Hump, Natdah; the Comanche, Kiowa, Apache Kiowa, and Lakota Sioux; Tonkawah, Caddo, Athens, San Antonio, Santa Fe, and San Angelo; the Colorado, Red River, Rio Trampas; Ranald Slidell (Three Finger Jack) Mackensie and George Armstrong Custer.
There is an understanding why both Indians and Whites killed not only men but women and children and why the same occurred a hundred years later in a place called Vietnam; why Mexicans and Indians feared the Texas Rangers at the time of the Mexican War; why Comanches stole books when raiding; and what constituted wealth in a Comanche band.
It took a transplanted Yankee from New York who now lives in Austin to write a history of nineteenth century Texas with a balance view and understanding of why the Plains Indians acted the way they did, why Texans, Texicans, and soldiers did what they did, and why Washington politicians and Easterners far from the scene reacted the way they did.
Page after page brings forth interesting facts in the easy style of this former senior editor of Time Magazine and executive editor of Texas Monthly. The author shows how the Colt six-shooter evolved from the five-shot hand gun Samuel Colt had sold to the Texas Rangers. When awarded a contract for one hundred of the guns by the US army after they saw how successfully the Rangers had made use of them, Samuel Colt did not even have a copy of the original five-shot and could find no one to sell him one. There are episodes which include the development of the Texas Rangers, the military genius of Ranald Mackensie who graduated number one in his class at West Point and who is barely known and the impetuousness and ineptness of George Custer who graduated last in his class but is remembered for the massacre at Little Big Horn.
This historical book is not what most readers would consider in strict chronological order. It has a more subject-matter orientation which may present a problem for someone who has difficulty with the time frame. Another problem which may arise the great number of names of people, White, Mexican, and Indian, who took part in the Western drama of nineteenth century Texas.
The reviewer loves history. That is why he became interested in genealogy. He wanted to know and understand the world in which his grandparents, great-grandparents, and great- great-grandparents lived. No history book has done this better than Empire of the Summer Moon. It is one he can recommend to everyone regardless from where his or her family came.