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Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West

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Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West   Cover

ISBN13: 9781400031108
ISBN10: 1400031109
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. Were you familiar with the Navajo wars before reading Blood and Thunder? How do the books historical details compare with what you previously believed about the West?

2. The contradictions in Kit Carsons personality make him an alluring figure. How was Carson able to embrace so many aspects of Native American culture, even marrying two Indian women, but nonetheless lead campaigns that crippled them? To whom (or what) was he most loyal?

3. What was John Fremonts essential quest in exploring the West? What spurs all explorers to pursue risky journeys?

4. What do the biographical details in chapter six indicate about James K. Polk? What might have stoked his determination to claim the West? How did he manage to keep military leaders motivated, despite Polks ambiguous leadership style?

5. Is American literatures love of the “noble savage,” inspired by characters such as Fremont and his pathfinder Carson (chapter nine), a thing of the past? Who are the heroes in new fiction of the twenty-first century?

6. How did the post-colonial unrest in Mexico affect U.S. attempts to purchase and conquer the West? What racial hierarchies were in place among Hispanic and Indian populations there? What is the current legacy of these conflicts?

7. Is the underlying concept of Manifest Destiny still used to justify violence around the world? What did Carsons words and actions reveal about his understanding of divine will?

8. What does Carsons illiteracy, paired with his knowledge of numerous languages, say about him? What distinguishes the power of the written word from the power of the spoken word, as evidenced by Carsons enthusiasm for an epic poem by Lord Byron? Is a society truly literate if its members are not versed in more than one language?

9. Did the Texas Confederates believe they were different from (or even superior to) the Confederates fighting closer to the Mason-Dixon line? What were the stakes for both sides as the Civil War played out in the West? How did the reasons for this war compare to the reasons behind Native American warfare and raids (such as the Comanche raids on dwindling Pecos resources at the end of chapter seventeen)?

10. Why was Carson able to scorn generalizations and see Native Americans as individuals? What made him resistant to the hubris of men like General Carleton? How would you have responded if you had been a witness to both the death of Navajo chief Narbona (which closes chapter thirty-two) and the brutalization of Ann White (depicted in chapter thirty-five)?

11. In what way was the landscape a “warrior” in Blood and Thunder (as in the Washington Expeditions encounter with Canyon de Chelly, depicted in chapter thirty-four)? How have various populations perceived the landscape of the West, from ancient populations to modern-day tourists?

12. Discuss the promises that were made to Mexicans and Indians by Americans such as General Kearny. Why did so many of the treaties and pacifist proclamations prove to be hollow? How was this lack of concern for credibility justified?

13. What did Carson seek in a wife? What prevented him from being more involved in the lives of his children? Did his first child, Adaline, fare better or worse than his other children, who were raised with less structure?

14. How did you react to the scorched-earth tactics that forced the Navajos to begin their doomed migration? How would you categorize these tactics of war? Why has the Navajos Long Walk, until now, been less well-known than the Cherokees Trail of Tears?

15. The books title is derived from the rousing “blood-and-thunder” pulp novels that made Kit Carson a caricature. Were fictionalized versions of his life harmful? Is exaggerated storytelling a necessary component of most cultures? Why have some Native Americans rejected historical and linguistic evidence for their global migrations, preferring to maintain dramatic myths instead?

16. Why did Kit Carson die in poverty? What does it say about Carson that his estate comprised considerable debt–owed to him by others? What are the appropriate means of measuring a lifes accomplishments?

17. What was the ultimate fallout of the history contained in Blood and Thunder? Where do Indian and American identities now stand in response to each other?

18. How would Kit Carson advise contemporary America on diplomacy and fighting terrorism? How did he balance the need to win allies with the need to be perceived as a fearsome warrior?

19. How did Kit Carsons ideas about American Indians evolve over the course of his life?

20. Do Americans still have an emotional investment in believing that the “winning” of the West was a glorious, even heroic endeavor? How does the real story of Western conquest differ from the one we were taught in grade school?

21. During its first war of foreign aggression, the United States seized many thousands of square miles of territory from Mexico. How should this historical fact shape the current debate over Mexican immigration–especially considering that the states most keenly affected by the immigration controversy (California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas) are the very states the United States appropriated from Mexico?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

charles davis, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by charles davis)
Blood and Thunder is the best history book I have read in over a decade. Hampton Sides is a wonderful narrative story teller, he just happens to write history. This is the type book that can make people love reading ,it should be recommended by history teachers everywhere instead of the pedantic nonsense that most phds. scribble and call a book. Great books takes you to places you could never go and places you in a time sequence that makes it so enjoyabe.
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yellowrose, July 7, 2008 (view all comments by yellowrose)
I was assigned this book as a text on a course I took during the summer about the American West. Little did I realize at the time that this was not a typical college text. This multi-storied, many-faceted, fast-paced book instead proved to be one of the most gripping novels I had ever read. An excellent offering of the compexities, nuances, and quirks of fate of history, humans, and heroism.
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(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
PETER TEIMAN CLARK, November 19, 2007 (view all comments by PETER TEIMAN CLARK)
Hi,PETER TEIMAN CLARK here,
A raw look at how the west waqs won.
Thanks,
PETER TEIMAN CLARK
Sweden

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(10 of 20 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781400031108
Author:
Sides, Hampton
Publisher:
Anchor Books
Author:
Egan, Timothy
Subject:
United States - 19th Century/Old West
Subject:
United States - State & Local - General
Subject:
Indians of north america
Subject:
Frontier and pioneer life
Subject:
Frontier and pioneer life -- West (U.S.)
Subject:
West (U.S.) History 19th century.
Subject:
United States - General
Subject:
US History-19th Century
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20071031
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
16 PP. BandW/2 MAPS
Pages:
384
Dimensions:
8 x 5.31 in 0.67 lb

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Americana » Western States
History and Social Science » Military » US Military » General
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » US History » 19th Century

Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.95 In Stock
Product details 384 pages Anchor Books - English 9781400031108 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "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)
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "This work will be an excellent addition to collections on western history."
"Review" by , "[Sides'] fascinating work delivers...pulpy pleasures as it recounts America's expansionist war against Mexico in the 19th century. (Grade: A-)"
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Sides works material well-known to historians...into an unchallenging but informative narrative."
"Synopsis" by , How a lone 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#8212; and the driven, brilliant man who made them.

"Synopsis" by ,

andldquo;A vivid exploration of one man's lifelong obsession with an idea . . . Eganandrsquo;s spirited biography might just bring [Curtis] the recognition that eluded him in life.andrdquo; andmdash; Washington Post

Edward Curtis was charismatic, handsome, a passionate mountaineer, and a famous portrait photographer, the Annie Leibovitz of his time. He moved in rarefied circles, a friend to presidents, vaudeville stars, leading thinkers. But when he was thirty-two years old, in 1900, he gave it all up to pursue his Great Idea: to capture on film the continentandrsquo;s original inhabitants before the old ways disappeared.

Curtis spent the next three decades documenting the stories and rituals of more than eighty North American tribes. It took tremendous perseverance andmdash; ten years alone to persuade the Hopi to allow him to observe their Snake Dance ceremony. And the undertaking changed him profoundly, from detached observer to outraged advocate. Curtis would amass more than 40,000 photographs and 10,000 audio recordings, and he 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.

andldquo;A darn good yarn. Egan is a muscular storyteller and his book is a rollicking page-turner with a colorfully drawn hero.andrdquo; andmdash; San Francisco Chronicle

andquot;A riveting biography of an American original.andquot; andndash; Boston Globe

"Synopsis" by , 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.In Blood and Thunder, Hampton Sides gives us a magnificent history of the American conquest of the West. 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.
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