Blood and Thunder

Blood and Thunder

An Epic of the American West

Book - 2006
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Random House, Inc.
In the fall of 1846 the venerable Navajo warrior Narbona, greatest of his people’s chieftains, looked down upon the small town of Santa Fe, the stronghold of the Mexican settlers he had been fighting his whole long life. He had come to see if the rumors were true—if an army of blue-suited soldiers had swept in from the East and utterly defeated his ancestral enemies. As Narbona gazed down on the battlements and cannons of a mighty fort the invaders had built, he realized his foes had been vanquished—but what did the arrival of these “New Men” portend for the Navajo?

Narbona could not have known that “The Army of the West,” in the midst of the longest march in American military history, was merely the vanguard of an inexorable tide fueled by a self-righteous ideology now known as “Manifest Destiny.” For twenty years the Navajo, elusive lords of a huge swath of mountainous desert and pasturelands, would ferociously resist the flood of soldiers and settlers who wished to change their ancient way of life or destroy them.

Hampton Sides’s extraordinary book brings the history of the American conquest of the West to ringing life. It is a tale with many heroes and villains, but as is found in the best history, the same person might be both. At the center of it all stands the remarkable figure of Kit Carson—the legendary trapper, scout, and soldier who embodies all the contradictions and ambiguities of the American experience in the West. Brave and clever, beloved by his contemporaries, Carson was an illiterate mountain man who twice married Indian women and understood and respected the tribes better than any other American alive. Yet he was also a cold-blooded killer who willingly followed orders tantamount to massacre. Carson’s almost unimaginable exploits made him a household name when they were written up in pulp novels known as “blood-and-thunders,” but now that name is a bitter curse for contemporary Navajo, who cannot forget his role in the travails of their ancestors.

Baker & Taylor
The author of Ghost Soldiers examines the real-life story of America's Manifest Destiny and westward expansion, describing the forcible subjugation of Native American tribes that stood in the way, including the fierce and bloody battles against the Navajo, which ended with a brutal siege at Canyon de Chelly and "the Long Walk" migration. (History -- United States)

Publisher: New York : Random House Large Print, c2006
Edition: 1st large print ed
ISBN: 9780739326725
0739326724
Characteristics: xiii, 861 p. (large print) ; 24 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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