Manifest Destiny and the Fate of the Comanche
Stranger and more riveting than popular myth, Empire of the Summer Moon provides a corrective lens for our vision of how the West was won.
Ingeniously, this well-researched and imminently readable history develops the saga from the blood-curdling mid-19th century backstory of the birth of a “half breed” who becomes history’s most powerful Comanche War Chief to the last days of the frontier in which the once fierce warrior, Quanah Parker, becomes a movie actor, rancher, school board chairman, and friend of Teddy Roosevelt.
In the interim the reader learns how it happened that what had been a stone-age level hunter-gather society became a force able not only to prevent Spain and later Mexico from ever establishing more than a toehold north of the Rio Grande, but also to stave off—even roll back—for many years U.S. efforts to settle lands beyond the 98th meridian, the eastern flank of the Camoncheria, where what we think of as the Old West begins.
in the wild ride to the book’s denouement at the dawn of the 20th century, readers encounter an amazing variety of fascinating characters such as Quanah’s mother, Cynthia Anne Parker, the “White Squaw,” and Isa-tai, a magician/shaman whose claim of possessing a medicine that would make the Comanche impervious to bullets occasions a heart-renting tragedy of wishful thinking.
Another of the book’s fascinating story lines involves Ranald (Bad Hand) Mackenzie, the iconic Indian fighter and commander of a renowned regiment of Buffalo or Black Soldiers who eventually befriends War Chief Parker. Moreover, Civil War Generals. William Tecumseh Sherman and Philp Henry Sheridan figure in the narrative, as do Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Grover Cleveland.
Remarkably, Chief Parker lived so close to our own timed that he came to own a car and had one of the first residential telephones in Oklahoma. My one quibble with the author is his occasional resort to such highly charged and imprecise terms as “low barbarians,” “pre-moral” and “civilized,” as they undermine his obviously concerted effort to present the unvarnished truth.