Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

by S. C. Gwynne

Paperback, 2011

Call number

970 GWY



Scribner (2011), 371 pages


History. Nonfiction. HTML:*Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award* *A New York Times Notable Book* *Winner of the Texas Book Award and the Oklahoma Book Award* This New York Times bestseller and stunning historical account of the forty-year battle between Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West "is nothing short of a revelation...will leave dust and blood on your jeans" (The New York Times Book Review). 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 and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches. Although readers may be more familiar with the tribal names Apache and Sioux, 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 and so skillful with their arrows and lances 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, and 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, S. C. Gwynne's account of these events is meticulously researched, intellectually provocative, and, above all, thrillingly told. Empire of the Summer Moon announces him as a major new writer of American histo… (more)

Media reviews

Empire of the Summer Moon is a skillfully told, brutally truthful, history.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member JeffPgh
Tells the (ultimately sad) tale over several centuries of the rise and fall of the Comanche tribe. At the same time it focuses on one woman who was kidnapped by the Comanches as a child in the 1800s and became the mother of (arguably) the last key chief of the tribe in their final years of freedom
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before being defeated and sent to the reservation. I found it to be very interesting and insightful, and the quality of writing (with extensive citations etc) to be high.
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LibraryThing member brenzi
Empire of the Summer Moon tells two important stories in the history of the U. S.: the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history and the saga of American pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker, who was captured by raiding Comanches in 1839 at the age of nine and
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remained as a willing member of the tribe, married to a Comanche chief and the mother of three children until her “rescue” by American soldiers in 1860. The story continued with the saga of Quanah, Cynthia’s son, the last and greatest Comanche chief in history. After his life on the Great plains came to an end, with the simultaneous end of the buffalo herds, he adjusted quickly to the life of the white man and went on to be a frequent speaker to groups and important to the cause of Indian affairs.

Blanketing this story with so many human interest factors enabled S. C. Gwynne to leap from dry factual history to riveting human interest story. The book covers four decades of American history on the Great Plains in a narrative sweep that includes the arrival of the railroads, Spanish colonialism, the Civil War, the destruction of the buffalo herds, the corruption rampant in the Indian Affairs Office, as well as the abduction and later life of Cynthia Ann Parker. Her story was the highlight of the book as far as I am concerned. During her captivity, she adapted to the Comanche way of life, learning the language, spending her time learning to ride, handle a bow, and do all the work that Comanche women ordinarily did including the arduous preparation of buffalo skins. When she was “rescued” in a daring attempt by the U. S. Army, she saw her husband, Comanche chief Peta Nocona, killed and lost her two sons in the fray. After the government reunited her with her (extended) family, she never made the adjustment back to American life and tried several times to escape and get back to the plains. She and her baby daughter became oddities that throngs of gawking people would line up to see. In the end, her life was so very sad and when her daughter died in 1864 of pneumonia, Cynthia, who had spent the intervening years pining for her lost sons, could not face life any longer. Six years later she finally succumbed to influenza, complicated by self-starvation.

”Who was she in the end? A white woman by birth, yes, but also a relic of old Comancheria, of the fading empire of high grass and fat summer moons and buffalo herds that blackened the horizon. She had seen all of that death and glory. She had been a chief’s wife. She had lived free on the high, infinite plains as her adopted race had in the very last place in the North American continent where anyone would ever live or run free. She had died in deep pine woods where there was no horizon, where you could see nothing at all. The woods were just a prison. As far as we know, she died without the slightest comprehension of what larger forces had conspired to take her away from her old life.” (Page 193)

I really enjoyed learning a bit of history from this author, adding to the sad history of other Native American tribes. Telling it through the eyes of people who were actually there at the time really brought the narrative to life. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member DavidWineberg
Although Quanah Parker doesn't really come into his own until the last 40 pages, Empire of the Summer Moon is a fascinating compendium of everybody's sins - from the bloodthirsty hunter-gatherers to the incompetent armed forces and xenophobic, hypocritical settlers in between.

From time to time, we
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in the 21st century need to be reminded that buffalo roamed the endless plains, in herds seventy miles long and five miles wide, That tribes of natives lived off them and commanded huge tracts of land - as any self respecting hunter-gatherer from bald eagle to mountain lion must to survive. That everyone was brutal, thoughtless and cruel comes with the territory. The totality of this makes the book continually compelling.

What I liked best was that over the course of 250 pages, I got used to the idea of the endless plains, the criminally brutal weather, and constant movement of people, to fight and to survive. And then in one brief sentence, not highlighted or separated, Gwynne takes it all away again:

"Within a few years, barbed wire would stretch the length and breadth of the plains" (p. 276)

It put everything in perspective, and made the decline and fall of the Comanche bands all that more inevitable, necessary, and tragic.

Extraordinarily well documented, well written and well laid out, this is a fine read.
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LibraryThing member Laurenbdavis
Although the subject matter intrigued me, I was less impressed by the actual book that I hoped I'd be. It's solid, and often interesting, but there is far less in it about Quanah Parker -- son of captured white woman Cynthia Ann Parker and a Comanche chief -- than the sub-title leads one to
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believe. Rather, Gwynne focuses on the Comanche's prowess as warriors -- albeit, in his words, pagan, stone-age warriors -- and their decades-long war against the encroaching whites. He also spends a good deal of time on how the Comanches were the first of the Aboriginal people of America to master the horses first introduced by the Spanish.

Gwynne certainly exposes the brutal violence of all sides in the Plains warfare. There are no moral heroes here. And, while I am glad this isn't another book about First Nations peoples that reduces them to the equivalent of happy little wilderness elves, I was made slightly uncomfortable with the in-depth descriptions of Comanche torture methods as recounted by white survivors. The problem is not that these things did not occur, but that there is no balancing voice from the other side. I can't help but wonder what a survivor of the U.S. Army raids, or the Texas Ranger raids, or any of the ad hoc raids that took place might have revealed about the depth of white savagery, which I can help but suspect was equal. The problem is twofold: of course, neither the Comanches nor the other nations left written reports, on one hand; and on the other, there were virtually no survivors to spread tales even if they had. Still, what Gwynne does tell us is enough to make the reader shudder.

I'm saying only that it is virtually impossible to give a truly balanced view in light of the paucity of Native accounts. No matter how well-researched a book is -- and this is very well researched -- the writer is at the mercy of what's available.

There is also perhaps some unintended irony here, which I mention only because of how obvious I found it: If the settlers/ranchers/pioneers could not be held back by the US government from seeping into Comancheria, then the way present day Texans complain about border crossers seems risible. Even if, as Gwynne suggests, the government had no intention of stopping them, seeing their inexorable march westward as part of Manifest Destiny, it's still a huge boulder of irony.

As I said in the beginning, there is surprisingly little about the Parker family here. Their story becomes a framing device for the rest of the book, which is a mind-numbing recitation of battles, raids and atrocities on both sides, yet it is in these sections (and there are a few more scattered throughout) that I felt most engaged. Cynthia Anne is a remarkable figure and her life is tragic in many ways. Particularly poignant are the sections when Gwynne describes her grief at being 'rescued', torn from her Comanche loved ones and returned to a society she never adjusted to. Then, too, given what Gwynne does tell us in the last few pages of the book about Quanah Parker and his life on a reservation after the destruction of the Comanche nation, and the buffalo (a heart-wrenching section), I was left wanting more. Quanah lives in a large house, is unusually generous and obviously brilliant, even earning the admiration of President Teddy Roosevelt. In the final analysis, it was the human story, and not the battle-litany, which moved me.
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LibraryThing member msf59
Cynthia Ann Parker, age nine, was kidnapped by a Comanche war band, from a fort in north central Texas. She spent twenty-four years with this group, marrying a Comanche chief and raising a family, including a boy, named Quanah, who became one of the fiercest warriors in Native American
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Cynthia Ann and Quanah are perfect bookends in this brilliant, sweeping epic of the American West. It explores the origins of the Comanche people, their introduction to the horse, which transformed them into the most formidable and ruthless tribe on the Great Plains.
Gwynne also looks into the birth of Texas and the strong, tenacious people that were responsible for it’s creation. There is the Texas Rangers and the US Calvary. The heart-rending demise of the sacred buffalo and the persistent pursuit of the white population to conquer it all. The narrative is fast, informative and well-balanced and I can’t recommend it high enough. Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year.
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LibraryThing member HistReader
If you have read various reviews of Empire of the Summer Moon which proclaim this is a I-could-not-put-it-down sort of book, they are truthful! I too read this book in just a few days, easily captivated by the history and even-handedness of S.C. Gwynne's writing.

In the beginning of the book, Mr.
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Gwynne explains he will not excuse or idolize the Native Americans, as has been customary for the past few decades out of guilt by modern day Americans. Many biographers or historians have reasoned the torturous actions of American Indians as them being forced to committing them or just simply ignoring what they did as to not raise the ire of modern sensibilities. When it comes to raids and battles, S.C. Gwynne provides enough candid detail without being gratuitously gory in describing the reality of the plains and clashes between "Westerners" and the Native Americans. However, I did get a sense that the author was vaguely admonishing the white settlers and subtly giving a pass to the Indians when discussing atrocities committed by either side. Yet, overall, it is a fact of life that both sides carried out horrific activities - maybe not widely accepted in the eighteenth and nineteenth century America, but they highlight either the cultural or revenge aspect of life on the frontier.

I don't think the understanding I gleaned from this book was the intention of Mr. Gwynne's biography and ethnography. Human nature is the underlying theme of his book. "Greed" and status are bemoaned in today's society; the disdain for money and those who have it is palpable. Well, in the world of the nomadic plains Indians, horses were their gold. Men would steal horses to amass the largest amount they could, for personal gain and affluence. (Not only would they stampede hundreds of steads during a raid, they would normally decimate the homestead, village or town in the process. Those they did not torture and kill were taken for slaves or ransom.)

The Comanche are the subject of this book, they had "race hatred" as well. As early as the 1400s, they migrated down from around the Canadian border, killing and enslaving "agrarian" tribes as they went. Comancheria, as the vast Midwest was known, was not dominated by the five Comanche nations due to passivity or their benevolence; they spent their time attempting to exterminate other tribes they deemed enemies.

The man on the cover of this book, Quanah Parker, was nearly excommunicated from the tribe after he became an orphan. Why? On page 199 Quanah is quoted from a distant interview as saying: "I at last learned that I was more cruelly treated than the other orphans on account of my white blood."

And in an almost ironic turn of events, after most of the Indians acquiesced to reside on reservations, the Civil War started. Texas, where this book documents the Comanche, was desiring to be a slave state. Many of the tribes were relocated Eastern US nations. These tribes were self-separated into Confederate, slave-holding peoples and Union non-slave owning peoples. As mentioned earlier, those not killed during raids (prior to the Reservations years) were kidnapped for slave labor.

What would be considered "war crimes" now, were regular occurrences for the plains Indians. The first-hand accounts of the torture and rapes that were perpetrated by the Indians during raids and battles are recounted tactfully in this book. And to blame the actions of the Comanche on the "white man" would be to deny them their culture. Another notion I culled from the book was that, long before the Revolutionary War and Americans had any access to land west of the Mississippi River, the Mexicans and plains Indians were killing each other. Both sides operated on the idea of providing "no quarter." Kill or be killed was the way battles were fought.

In short, S.C. Gwynne writes, "[t]he notion that the trouble with Plains Indians was entirely due to white men was spectacularly wrongheaded." [pg 224] Believe what you will about America's Manifest Destiny and how early Americans dealt with the Native Americans. This book will definitely jar some emotions and have you cheering for both sides. What it won't do is perpetrate the ideal that a serene and docile race of people were drinking tea around a tribal fire and slaughtered in an unarmed contest.

Empire of the Summer Moon is a great book and a fast read. It does a superb job of chronicling the general nomadic culture of the Comanche as well as the encounters between the first white settlers up until they were nearly wiped out. Despite how little this book skirts discussion of the lifestyle aside from the war culture, it does provide a window into the hierarchy-less Comanche people.
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LibraryThing member EBT1002
This well-written nonfiction narrative tells the story of the last years of the Comanche tribe's reign over the high plains of Texas, Oklahoma, and surrounding territory through the vehicle of Cynthia Ann Parker and her son, Quanah. Cynthia Ann, a while girl, was kidnapped by the Comanches during a
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raid when she was nine years old. After what Gwynne unflinchingly suggests was a harrowing few days, watching her mother and aunt being tortured and murdered, Cynthia Ann was integrated into and became a member of the tribe. Years later, she was "rescued;" by then she no longer spoke English and her habits and tastes were deeply Comanche. She cried daily to return to her two sons. One of those sons was Quanah, who later became the leader of the Comanches, both in the last throes of resistance to white subjugation and invasion, and in their assimilation into the white conquerers' culture.

That story line is interesting but what is best, and most pervasive throughout the narrative, is the story of the Comanche tribe. The Comanches had successfully repelled invasive efforts by the Mexicans and, later, the Texans. Their territory, the high plains and canyons of Texas and Oklahoma, lands of tall grasses and huge Buffalo herds, seemed impenetrable, largely because of their effective war tactics. Gwynne describes this bellicose tribe with respect and compassion, but he also tells the truth about their culture. They were warriors. They were talented and wise warriors, especially on horseback, but they were also brutal and unsentimental warriors. Of course, their murderous tendencies fed their reputation among white settlers and fueled the fear and hatred that eventually culminated in the near extermination of the Comanches. The subjugation was no small achievement and, without the development of repeating firearms, would likely not have succeeded.

The book ends with a couple of chapters truly about Quanah as he demanded faithful negotiations from the U.S. government and fair compensation for the lands his people were relinquishing and, later, as he assimilated and integrated into the newly developing frontier culture. An amazing warrior, he was also an excellent negotiator and representative of the south plains tribes. He was charming and politically savvy. But in the end, he was a native American up against a juggernaut that was the white invaders and their belief in manifest destiny.
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LibraryThing member revslick
Captivating history! It would be easy to say this was savage history in a savage land, but the story is far more complex. Gwynne writes history that makes you yearn for more all the while fleshing out complexities like a master wordsmith. This is a tale of what happens when the Native American
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holocaust perpetrated by the US government meets the Comanche. Gwynne is brutally honest on both sides both the horrors committed by the US and the atrocities committed by the Comanche in response to the constant encroachment.
At times he repeats himself, but he is artfully reconnecting the intriguing story of Quanah, half Indian half white Comanche hero who balances both worlds in each half of his life.
recommended reading
One of the more ironic moments was when Gwynne mentioned the one group that were able to gain control of the Comanche at the fort were the Quakers. Also, one of the funnier native American names was Coyote Va****.
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LibraryThing member lamour
A finalist for the Pulitzer prize, this is a look at the powerful Comanche nation and its most fascinating and powerful chief. While the Comanche never had an over all chief but rather were organized around who ever could command the confidence of enough warriors to go on a raid would lead the
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raid. Quanah Parker who ironically was born of a white captive mother became in the Comanche Reservation years the overall chief of the Comanches.

While the focus of the book is Quanah Parker and the Comanches, the reader will also learn much about the early history of Texas including the wars with Mexico, the development of the Texas Rangers, the rise of the cattle ranchers such as Charlie Goodnight, the destruction of the buffalo herds, the fate of settlers when attacked by Indians, the fate of men & women captives of Comanches, the many other tribes who competed with the Comanches for horses and territory and a lesson in the geography of Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado.

A fascinating, readable account of the early history of the western America.
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LibraryThing member mattries37315
European-Americans in the southern Great Plains feared them, other Native Americans quickly learned to get out of their way, and eventually the United States army would have to learn to be like them to defeat them. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the
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Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne gives a general history of the Comanche nation from their rise as a power on the Plains thanks to the introduction of the horse and their fall with the near extinction of the bison mainly through the lives of Quanah Parker and his mother.

Gwynne’s dual history of the Comanche nation and the Parker family so closely linked with them for most of the 19th Century, are two different books combined in one that separately would have been good but together is just okay. While the subtitle implies that Quanah Parker plays a larger role in the history of the Comanche, his prominence is in the closing days of the Comanche’s pre-reservation years and attempt to help his people once on the reservation by essentially calling duplicitous government efforts to take away reservation land. One of the biggest issues throughout is Gwynne’s use of civilization and barbarism in relation to the Comanche and Euro-Americans they encountered, along with related words like savage when not in the context of a quote, is haphazard at best and problematic at worst that should have been taken care of in the editing process.

Empire of the Summer Moon is a very good general history of the Comanche as well as very good family drama in a clash of cultures only if the two were separated as together they are an okay combination. While S.C. Gwynne shows the complicated interactions between Native tribes and the ever-expanding tide of Anglo-American settlement well, his terminology is questionable and distracting.
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LibraryThing member ginger.hewitt
I both loved this book and cringed while reading it. Very well-written, it depicted life on the open plains in vivid color. Having Indian ancestors, I found lots of personal connections in the pages. Great historical read!
LibraryThing member mariacfox
Let's just say....do not read this book if you have any background in anthropology whatsoever. I couldn't come close to finishing it. Racist, ethnocentric language permeated the whole book and I was disgusted with the way individuals and groups were portrayed. The Comanches obviously had a
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different, war-centered culture, but it is still not okay to call them uncivilized savages. You have to have an understanding for the way others live.
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LibraryThing member UberButter
Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S. C. Gwynne

★★★ ½

As this book states, it’s about the rise and fall of the Comanche Indian Tribe in the United States. But it was about so much more, it
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was about the struggle between two races and the many battles the erupted over it, especially in the Texas area in the mid to late 1800s. It was a brutal time in history and this book goes into all the gory details, which means if you aren’t into or can’t handle the overly graphic gore, this may be a book to skip or at least a lot of skimming through the book.

This book personally hit me because on my mother’s side, half is from Texas – for many generations – and the other half? Native American. So it was interesting for me to see both sides to my very only family. And even more my great-great grandfather is the founder of Comanche, Oklahoma – named specifically for his passion for the tribe and their lives. So perhaps this book kept my interest even further thanks to what I feel is my very personal connection to these people.

On a non-personal level I found this to be an interesting and well-researched history. As the author points out, much of it is from first-hand accounts because the Native American tribes weren’t always big on record keeping, which was fine with me – it gave it a more personal feeling. There are A LOT of battles mentioned and at times they just started sounding like the same thing over and over and over again, making me lose interest at times. And while the subtitle includes Quanah Parker in it, it seems like he’s rarely mentioned until the last part of the book, along with his famous mother – Cynthia Parker. I wish the Parker family was focused on a bit more but I feel that the author did the best he could with so little resources to go with on the subject. Overall a good, educational book on an important part of American history.
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LibraryThing member froxgirl
This excellent narrative will leave the reader flush with new knowledge and massive sorrow, and, in my case, a thirst for knowledge about the varied Native American tribes and their natures and histories. The writing is so vivid that I truly felt I could view the minds of the horse Indians and the
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troops that pursued them relentlessly until they came down from the Plains and into ruin. Quanah Parker's life is exemplary and fascinating, but so is the complete change of lifestyle forced on the entire Comanche Nation (not that there really was one - the various bands were too independent, but all suffered the same dismal fate) by striving settlers and satanically greedy buffalo hunters. It's like being invited to join the most knowledgeable raconteur on the subject when he's lazing around the campfire in a gregarious mood - just a complete pleasure to read and an overwhelming tragedy to behold.
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LibraryThing member DougGoodman
As a West Texan, I loved this book. It taught me a lot about Mackenzie and the Commanches that I never knew...
LibraryThing member madamepince
Engrossing and I'm not a fan of books that detail battle scenes. I understand why Texas requires students study the State's history.
LibraryThing member Brian55
This was an incredibly interesting story, very well written. I thought Gwynne did a very unbiased report, as best the facts could be gleaned from various sources. He pointed out several myths and misconceptions and did his best to provided evidence to the contrary. He didn't go out with the mission
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to uncover misconceptions, but when he found facts to the contrary, he would list several sources to support his belief. It's interesting to note that old western movies with the Calvary coming to the rescue was all "Hollywood". He cited several sources that the Calvary many stayed at the fort outposts, and only ventured out in response to Indian raids on settlers, which by that time the Indians had withdrawn and were many miles away before the Calvary left the fort's gates. Also the early Calvary was trained to shoot from a standing position, not from mounted horseback. In actual encounters, the Indians were mounted and highly skilled in shooting from horseback, while the soldiers were at a disadvantage from a fairly immobile standing position. The personal story of Quanah Parker is truly incredible. He was highly regarded by his tribe as a smart, skilled and fierce warrior. He was also very smart in his timing for surrender of him and his tribe to a reservation. He was very savvy in his negotiating the land and benefits that would be given to his people. He also adapted very well to the "white man's" ways, and used this to the benefit of him and his people.
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LibraryThing member nmele
Part biography, part history and all very sympathetic to injustices done to Native Americans, Gwynne does not pretty up the facts about the Comanches' cruel treatment of their enemies, primitive lifestyle, or sudden rise to power in the seventeenth century. He does, however, place it in context,
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including as well the less savory facts about the European settlement of Texas and the plains states.
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LibraryThing member bianca.sayan
I really wanted to read a solid, revealing book about North American Indian history. This is exactly what I needed: fascinating, balanced, effusive, detailed. I learned so much about the Comanches and American plains culture, politics, technology and military tactics. Honestly, I think it is very
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difficult to write an truly engaging history book and Gwynne did an amazing job.
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LibraryThing member Crazymamie
For those of you who were doubtful that I would ever finish Empire of the Summer Moon, you can relax, it's in the bag. I gave it 4.5 stars and already I am thinking that maybe I need to bump that up because very few books have ever had me rereading the chapters before I have finished with the book.
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It is very well done and filled with so many amazing facts. It is not just about Quanah Parker or the rise and fall of the Comanche Nation, it is about how the Texas Rangers got their start, about the evolution of the Colt revolver, about how we are doomed to repeat the past over and over again if we cannot learn from it. Originally, I had this book out from the library, but it became more than a book for me; it became a journey. It would not let me read it quickly or take it lightly; it has depths that beg to be explored and passages that cry out to be pondered. I ended up buying the ebook version because then I could also buy the audiobook for just a few dollars more, and this, for me, became the perfect way to explore this book.

"Few historians would argue that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which a defeated Mexican republic signed on February 2, 1848, in the wake of the lopsided war, was as momentous an event in American history as the signing, seventeen years later, of the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. Yet in its own way it was quite as definitive. Appomattox stitched the nation back together....But Guadalupe Hidalgo created the physical nation itself. Before the treaty the American West consisted of the old Louisiana Purchase lands that rose in ladderlike fashion from the mouth of the Mississippi, climbed the courses of the Missouri, and touched the rocky, fog-shrouded shores of the Northwest. It was a tentative, partial fulfillment of the national myth. Guadalupe Hidalgo, in which Mexico gave up its claims north of the Rio Grande, made the dream suddenly, and completely, real. It added the old Spanish lands that lay, enormous and sun-drenched, athwart the Southwest. They included the modern states of Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, California, and Nevada. There was Texas, too, in a sense, though it had been subsumed in 1845. U.S. annexation of Texas was what the war with Mexico was about, and the American victory settled the question forever. In all, the United States of America acquired 1.2 million square miles of real estate, an instant 66 percent increase in its total landmass. In the terms of land gained, on a percentage basis, it was as though France had acquired Germany. Thus was the nation entirely recast. Its singularity of purpose, its raw and conquistador-like desires to possess and dominate all lands it touched and to dispossess or destroy all of its aboriginal peoples, its burgeoning will to power could now stretch, untrammeled, from sea to shining sea. It was manifest destiny made manifest."

I chose the above passage to represent the book because it speaks to everything that amazed me about the narrative of this incredible piece of nonfiction. It is beautifully and eloquently written. It takes what could be confusing and dry sets of statistics and makes them accessible and interesting. It sets the story that it tells firmly within parameters that are well defined and clearly explained. And it gives you the big picture while also delivering the smaller ones that make the story stunning and personal. It is a book worthy of your time if you are at all interested in the subject matter.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
I have long been a fan of western literature and my reading has often brought me to the Staked Plains of Texas, the Comanche and, in particular, the fabled myths of Cynthia Parker and her son Quanah. In the Pulitzer nominated Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne we can now read the facts that
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are the core to the myth that surround both these places and people. Empire of the Summer Moon is the story of the half-breed Comanche who was a fierce warrior, the son of the famous captive Cynthia Parker, who became known as the “white squaw’ when it became clear that she had no interest in returning to her white roots preferring instead the life of a wild Comanche. This book also defines the end of a civilization as the life of the nomad North American Indian, in this case the Comanche is brought to a close.

The Comanche were the most feared tribe of the North American plains, and their depredations were extreme and exceedingly cruel, but they were making a last stand trying to stem the white immigration that was pushing them slowly off their land and taking away their way of life.

The author clearly lays out both sides of this conflict and does so with a complete lack of sentimentality, he sticks to the facts and the story unfolds in a direct, understandable fashion. When the government steals from, and breaks promises made to the Indians, it is so noted. Also he makes no excuses for the cruel tortures the Indian inflict upon their captives, and at times this unflinching look is very difficult to read about.

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 read.
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LibraryThing member branjohb
Very entertaining book about the development of the Comanche empire and then its ultimate destruction. This book was less about Quanah than it was about the Comanches in general and the flood of settlers encroaching on the Comanche's land. Two thumbs up.
LibraryThing member herbcat
Although the research and history behind this book may be flawless, I thought that the endless statistics became mind-numbing and the graphic violence was gut wrenching, both by whites and Indians. The cover promised more about Quanah Parker and his mother than it actually delivered.
LibraryThing member dale-in-queens
I very much enjoyed this book; however, I'm giving it 4 stars based on it being a history of the Comanche people, rather than of Quanah Parker. I think the title and the marketing suggest a different book--a book that I'm not certain could be written. I think that Gwynne does an excellent job of
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giving readers not familiar with Comanche people and history insights into them, by using comparisons with other, similar cultures at different times in history. You don't have to be familiar with US history to be able to read and learn from this book.
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LibraryThing member br77rino
A great look at the Comanche culture, and their central role in the history of the western U.S. What really struck me was their incredible transformation following the introduction of horses to America by the Spanish in Mexico: the Comanches took to horses like ducks to water, and went from being a
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poor, backwards people to the most powerful in the land. What better evidence could there be of their being the descendants of the horse people of the Asian steppes?
Another big plus, it doesn't buy into the politically correct myth of angelic natives and demonic whites. The cruelty of the Comanches is on full display.
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Pulitzer Prize (Finalist — General Non-Fiction — 2011)
National Book Critics Circle Award (Finalist — Nonfiction — 2010)
Oklahoma Book Award (Winner — Non-Fiction — 2011)




1416591060 / 9781416591061
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