Blood and Thunder

Blood and Thunder

An Epic of the American West

Book - 2007
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A magnificent history of the American conquest of the West; "a story full of authority and color, truth and prophecy" ( The New York Times Book Review ) .

In the summer of 1846, the Army of the West marched through Santa Fe, en route to invade and occupy the Western territories claimed by Mexico. Fueled by the new ideology of "Manifest Destiny," this land grab would lead to a decades-long battle between the United States and the Navajos, the fiercely resistant rulers of a huge swath of mountainous desert wilderness.

At the center of this sweeping tale is Kit Carson, the trapper, scout, and soldier whose adventures made him a legend. Sides shows us how this illiterate mountain man understood and respected the Western tribes better than any other American, yet willingly followed orders that would ultimately devastate the Navajo nation. Rich in detail and spanning more than three decades, this is an essential addition to our understanding of how the West was really won.

Publisher: New York : Anchor Books, 2007, ©2006
Edition: First Anchor Books edition
ISBN: 9781400031108
1400031109
Branch Call Number: 978.02 Si
Characteristics: xi, 575 pages : illustrations, maps ; 21 cm

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denisekelleher
Jan 08, 2016

Lots of information and well written. Enjoyed the book overall and learned a great deal. Very interesting and detailed

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danielestes
Aug 12, 2014

Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides is actually comprised of two main, concurrent narratives. One is a biography of the near-mythical American West pioneer Christopher "Kit" Carson. The other, in severe contrast, is the U.S. government-instigated decline of the Navajo Indian tribe. There's an additional, less obvious narrative in the form of a place instead of a person, and it's the focal point of the entire book: The territory of New Mexico.

Kit Carson was barely a young man of 16 when he bid goodbye to his apprenticeship life in Franklin, Missouri and "jumped off" along the Santa Fe Trail, westward bound toward adventure. This was in the mid 1820's. Once settled in Taos, New Mexico, at the southern end of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, he learned the fur trapping trade from a local explorer, and consequently became fluent in the languages of Spanish, Navajo, Apache, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Paiute, Shoshone, and Ute. He achieved this feat despite being illiterate. For the next several decades, Carson's work would send him back and forth all across the American continent though he would always think of Taos as his home. From California to Washington, D.C., he had a knack for being in the right place at the right time in some of the country's most noteworthy events of the westward expansion era. As word spread, the legend of Kit Carson grew.

One anecdote from the book, a favorite of mine on Carson's burgeoning fame, tells of a chance encounter with a traveler upon the Oregon Trail. "I say, stranger, are you Kit Carson?" the man asked. Carson responded yes, but the man remained doubtful given the stories he had heard back home. "Look 'ere, you ain't the kind of Kit Carson I'm looking for."

My interest in American history is a recent one. Back in school the subject bored me into a stupor—by far my least favorite. It took a little traveling and a lot of growing up before my attitude changed. The key moment was I believe when I learned that our collective notion of The Ol' West is largely made up. It's a mythology born out of our love for stories positioned at the intersection of the wild frontier and the progress of man. I love a good western, but armed with this new discovery I now desire to understand real history, to separate fable from fact. Blood and Thunder is exactly this kind of book.

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