Edward F., December 20, 2007 (view all comments by Edward F.)
As there has been so many comments about this book I will only say it is a fascinating account not only of Kit Carson's life including his faults but it is also a factual and detailed account of the Mormon's massacre (Mountain Meadows Massacre) of an entire wagon train of immigrants including women and children and then scattering their remains and belonging to make it appear as if it was caused by renegade Indians.
This massacre was denied by Mormon authorities for years until one of their own (an historian of Mormon faith) revealed it for the first time and was almost excommunicated for her efforts. This massacre, as Sides relates, was the brutal and cold blooded killing of hundreds and then denied for decades by the leaders of the Mormon faith.
The author did an outstanding job of presenting dry detailed facts about Indians; their leaders and their superstitions, Carson, individual military leaders and the Mormon faith and many other facets in a “can’t put it down book.” Good job!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (6 of 15 readers found this comment helpful)
Dee Churchill, February 25, 2007 (view all comments by Dee Churchill)
This is what history textbooks should be like in school. Not only does Sides scrupulously present the facts in an even-handed way that shows real people in all their complexity, he has the talent to make those facts fascinating to read. Learning should always be so painless and enjoyable. He has managed to present an overview of an important part of our national history that shows how events braided together in ways we perhaps did not previously recognize. At the same time, he has fleshed out the pattern with realistic portraits of the people who made the events happen. Most importantly, Sides has illustrated how difficult it is to truly understand the differences in cultures and how tragically we impact each other when we fail. Not only worth a read, it's worth a re-read.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (8 of 16 readers found this comment helpful)
Bill Pullmen, October 20, 2006 (view all comments by Bill Pullmen)
This is a beautifully written book that takes epic form in retelling the settling of the American southwest from 1820 through the 1860s. From the Mexican war to the removal of the Navajo from Canyon de Chelly, Hampton Sides writes an engaging account of the results of manifest destiny, showing both sides, warts and all. The white man, while seeming noble in purpose, is shown to have been lacking in honor, and while the Indians were certainly shafted time and again they had many of their own faults. Central to this story is the famous mountain man Kit Carson, a man of many contradictions: though extremely intelligent he was also illiterate; he could speak many of the native languages, understood the Indian ways, and even had Indian wives but he also participated in the slaughter and removal from their lands of these same Indians. The book also includes engaging portraits of many of the important figures of this time period: Stephen Watts Kearny, John Fremont, the Navajo warrior Narbona, and Senator Thomas Benton. Sides is even handed and honest in how he portrays all those involved. At times I felt I was reading fiction but this story is real! For a story about the modern west I have to recommend ?Across the High Lonesome.? I picked it up after seeing a recommendation from Larry McMurty and he was right!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (12 of 22 readers found this comment helpful)
"Review A Day"
by Tyler Cabot, Esquire,
"In the end, once all the land has been cleared, the Indians and Mexicans tamed, the United States united, there is Carson, a grizzled old man whose only want is to go home to his wife and kids. Whether you bemoan his actions or not, it's a truly American story about a soldier who got the job done." (read the entire Esquire review)
by The Oregonian,
"[A]n engaging and exciting book. Sides engages readers with his fast-tempo, almost staccato-like chapters....[T]his great book is the finest telling of Manifest Destiny that has lasting impact on all of us in the American West."
by William Grimes, The New York Times,
"Like a Cinemascope western, Blood and Thunder abounds in colorful characters, bristles with incident and ravishes the eye with long, lingering pan shots of the great Southwest."
by Library Journal,
"Two related but not interdependent epic themes run through this book: the wresting of the Southwest and California away from Mexico to make them a part of the United States and efforts by the Navajo to protect their territory from inroads by Mexico and the United States."
"This work will be an excellent addition to collections on western history."
by Entertainment Weekly,
"[Sides'] fascinating work delivers...pulpy pleasures as it recounts America's expansionist war against Mexico in the 19th century. (Grade: A-)"
by Candice Millard, author of The River of Doubt,
"The story of the American West has seldom been told with such intimacy and immediacy. Legendary figures like Kit Carson leap to life and history moves at a pulse-pounding pace—sweeping the reader along with it. Hampton Sides is a terrific storyteller."
by Seattle Times,
"Sides brings life to this history through his excellent use of stories passed down by the Navajos and of original documents, including soldiers' journals, personal letters and battle reports."
by San Antonio Express-News,
"[E]ngrossing....Sides' keen observations are fresh and fairly impartial, weighing in with the flaws and failures of all sides involved in this pivotal period of America's expansion."
by N. Scott Momaday, The New York Times Book Review,
"Blood and Thunder is a full-blown history, and Sides does every part of it justice....By telling this story, Sides fills a conspicuous void in the history of the American West."
by USA Today,
"Sides offers a beautifully written, mesmerizing account of...the quarter-century-long quest to explore the Western lands and build an American empire that would span sea to shining sea."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"Sides works material well-known to historians...into an unchallenging but informative narrative."
Howand#160;a loneand#160;manand#8217;s epic obsession led to one of Americaand#8217;s greatest cultural treasures: Prize-winning writer Timothy Egan tells the riveting, cinematic story behind the most famous photographs in Native American history — and the driven, brilliant man who made them.
How a lone manand#8217;s epic obsession led to one of Americaand#8217;s greatest cultural treasures: Prizewinning writer Timothy Egan tells the riveting, cinematic story behind the most famous photographs in Native American history and#8212; and the driven, brilliant man who made them.
Edward Curtis was charismatic, handsome, a passionate mountaineer, and a famous photographer, the Annie Leibovitz of his time. He moved in rarefied circles, a friend to presidents, vaudeville stars, leading thinkers. And he was thirty-two years old in 1900 when he gave it all up to pursue his Great Idea: to capture on film the continentand#8217;s original inhabitants before the old ways disappeared.
An Indiana Jones with a camera, Curtis spent the next three decades traveling from the Havasupai at the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the Acoma on a high mesa in New Mexico to the Salish in the rugged Northwest rain forest, documenting the stories and rituals of more than eighty tribes. It took tremendous perseverance and#8212; ten years alone to persuade the Hopi to allow him into their Snake Dance ceremony. And the undertaking changed him profoundly, from detached observer to outraged advocate. Eventually Curtis took more than 40,000 photographs, preserved 10,000 audio recordings, and is credited with making the first narrative documentary film. In the process, the charming rogue with the grade school education created the most definitive archive of the American Indian.
His most powerful backer was Theodore Roosevelt, and his patron was J. P. Morgan. Despite the friends in high places, he was always broke and often disparaged as an upstart in pursuit of an impossible dream. He completed his masterwork in 1930, when he published the last of the twenty volumes. A nation in the grips of the Depression ignored it. But today rare Curtis photogravures bring high prices at auction, and he is hailed as a visionary. In the end he fulfilled his promise: He made the Indians live forever.
by Random House,
Praise for Blood and Thunder
“Kit Carson’s role in the conquest of the Navajo during and after the Civil War remains one of the most dramatic and significant episodes in the history of the American West. Hampton Sides portrays Carson in the larger context of the conquest of the entire West, including his frequent and often lethal encounters with hostile Native Americans. Unusually, Sides gives full voice to Indian leaders themselves about their trials and tribulations in their dealings with the whites. Here is a national hero on the level of Daniel Boone, presented with all of his flaws and virtues, in the context of American people’s belief that it was their Manifest Destiny to occupy the entire West.”
—Howard Lamar, Sterling Professor Emeritus of History, Yale University and editor of The New Encyclopedia of the American West
“The story of the American West has seldom been told with such intimacy and immediacy. Legendary figures like Kit Carson leap to life and history moves at a pulse-pounding pace—sweeping the reader along with it. Hampton Sides is a terrific storyteller.”
—Candice Millard, author of The River of Doubt
“Hampton Sides doesn't just write a book, he transports the reader to another time and place. With his keen sense of drama and his crackling writing style, this master storyteller has bequeathed us a majestic history of the Old West.”
—James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers and Flyboys
“Blood and Thunder is a big-hearted book whose subject is as expansive as they come. Hampton Sides tackles it with naked pleasure and narrative cunning: In his telling, the vast saga of America’s westward push has a logical center. The dusty town of Santa Fe becomes the nexus around which swirl the fortunes and strategies of a mixed set of serious overachievers, from Kit Carson, the original mountain man, to James K. Polk, the enigmatic president whose achievements, in the dreaded name of Manifest Destiny, were almost biblical in scope. Sides is alive to the exuberance and alert to the tragedy of the taking of the West.”
—Russell Shorto, author of Island at the Center of the World
“For a huge percentage of us immigrant Americans (those whose ancestors arrived after 1492), Hampton Sides fills a gaping hole in our knowledge of American history—a vivid account of how ‘The New Men’ swept away the thriving civilizations of the Native Americans in their conquest of the West.”
"BLOOD AND THUNDER is a balanced, thoughtful summary of the American conquistadors in the 19th century Southwest. Hampton Sides has re-created violent events and such inflammatory figures as Kit Carson without bias. Carefully researched, thoroughly enjoyable."
-Evan S. Connell, author of SON OF THE MORNING STAR, CUSTER AND THE LITTLE BIGHORN
A Magnificent History of How the West Was Really Won—a Sweeping Tale of Shame and Glory
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.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.