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Bent's Fort [Paperback]

David Lavender

Price: 15.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

25 Mar 1972
Bent's Fort was a landmark of the American frontier, a huge private fort on the upper Arkansas River in present southeastern Colorado. Established by the adventurers Charles and William Bent, it stood until 1849 as the center of the Indian trade of the central plains. David Lavender's chronicle of these men and their part in the opening of the West has been conceded a place beside the works of Parkman and Prescott. Lewis Gannett reviewing the book in the "New York Herald Tribune", wrote: "There have been many, and many good, books about the old Santa Fe trail, the trappers and the traders and the 'mountain men' who preceded them, but none to match the blend of narrative power, pictorial sense, scrupulous scholarship and awareness of the great American melodrama that mark Bent's Fort."

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"There have been many, and many good, books about the old Santa Fe trail, the trappers and the traders and the 'mountain men' who preceded them, but none to match the blend of narrative power, pictorial sense, scrupulous scholarship and awareness of the great American melodrama that mark Bent's Fort."--Lewis Gannett, "New York Herald Tribune"--Lewis Gannett "New York Herald Tribune "

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must for Old west buffs 10 Jan 2001
By Pete Agren - Published on
I flew through Bent's Fort in a week after it was recommended to me by a friend. I wasn't all that interested in the topic but I decided to read a few chapters and give it a try. I instantly became hooked. Bent's fort gives the reader an inside look into the West BEFORE it became the stuff of lore (i.e. Lincoln County War, Pat Garrett, Custer, etc.). Lavender starts with the mountain men roaming the Missouri and Rockies and their relationship with the Plains indians. His knowledge of the Indians (specifically the Cheyenne tribe), really brings the sometimes forgotten native people, down to a personal level. Most of the book centers around the Bent family and its fort located in SE Colorado between 1820 - 1870. With the Bent's into trading, much is also written about St. Louis, Santa Fe, Taos and the Arkansas and Cimarron Rivers . What I really liked about the book is the personal level Lavender gets the Old west characters down to. It feels like you know William Bent, Kit Carson and Yellow Wolf. A great deal of the book also deals with Mexico and the trader's relationship with the country up to the Mexican War and after the US gained possession of the territory. One thing that really surprised me was the amount of small, sporadic fights that went on between the Indians, the Mexicans and the whites. Lavender writes about all the small skirmishes, what precipitated them, and how things cooled off into a peaceful state again. If you do plan to read Bent's Fort, I suggest you do so with an atlas handy. Lavender writes about hundreds of places in the Southwest and it's hard to get a gauge as to where the events occurred unless you have an atlas. Also, if you are reading this book for reference material, do not plan to cite dates of events. Because the Bent's did not keep journals, many of the years listed for when things happened are just educated guesses. It's fine for the reader but if you're working on a college paper, it could be a headache. I recommend this book to any history buff who wants to know what the West was like when it was first discovered by whites and how their relationships were with the Indians and Mexicans. Lavender also gives the reader a feeling on how it was to venture out to an unknown land and what chores were needed to do daily to survive. Just remember you atlas before starting!
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprising 1 Sep 2003
By Michael E. Fitzgerald - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Despite all we read, this is the first book that made me realize that there were two Old Wests. The first really starts with the fur trade; the second starts with the flood tide of white immigration. Somewhere along this continuum, Native Americans effectively disappear as economic units and as cultures. The focus of this book is on the first West, including its transition into the second.
This then is the story of the early west, when the first white emigration was necessarily in balance not only with the aboriginal inhabitants but also with the valid claims of Spain, Mexico, Great Britain and Russia. It is a story of intense competition, the story of a hugely successful commercial empire that really opened this vast section of the American West. It is the story of the Santa Fe Trail, the main route of commerce between St. Louis and Santa Fe, and the people who sought to control it. It is the story of men and women, of the lives and fortunes of those who developed and experienced this commercial thoroughfare.
As a history it is mesmerizing. As a yarn it is eye popping. As a series of events it is unbelievable. A critical part of the Nation's Manifest Destiny, it is the story of human endurance, of culture clash, war, survival, success and failure. But mostly it is the story of a very logical, continual development, a transition, one that will make you proud to be an American.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The pivot point and pivotal moment in the history of the southwest 10 Sep 2013
By Sanson Corrasco - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Bent brothers, George, Charles, William, and Robert, were in at the start of trade route development between St. Louis and Santa Fe. They were private traders and mountain men who became key agents for the expansionist United States during the Mexican War. Charles Bent was the first colonial governor of New Mexico after the war. The sons of William Bent were half Cheyenne and fought alongside the Cheyenne, Sioux and Arapaho against the soldiers, settlers, telegraphs and railroads in the 1870s. At anytime between 1830 and 1880 some member of the Bent family was making history in Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

David Lavender's family were early settler/ranchers in the Four Corners area of southwest Colorado. In Canyon Lands National Park Lavender Canyon is named after his ancestor who ranched there. He became an historian, a friend and colleague of Bernard De Voto, and an excellent storyteller. His book (one of several), Bent's Fort, was source material for James Michener's Centennial. In places it looks as if Michener did little more than change the names and disconnect the characters from their historical context.

If you're interested in the fur trade, mountain men, the Mexican War, Santa Fe, Taos, the Taos Rebellion, the plains indians, Kit Carson, Uncle Dick Wooten, Old Bill Williams, Brokenhand Fitzpatrick, Stephan Watts Kearney, George Crook you'll be fascinated by this book. I've bought it five or six times. I keep lending it and not getting it back. What can I say? My friends are as taken with it as I am, and maybe (probably) I told them they could keep it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great tale of trade and business in the Old West 25 Aug 2011
By Efrem Sepulveda - Published on
The hearty souls that were part of this book are long gone. Jedidiah Smith, William Bent, Ceran St. Vrain and various players from the Old West are part of this menangerie that is brought together by brilliant author David Lanvender who passed away several years ago. The book is 395 pages of sorrow, courage, ruggedness and entreprneurialship that starts with the arrival of the Bents from the Old World, From here, their decendants emmigrated to Missouri where William Bent and his brother George were born. The story tells of early adventures of the Bents trapping for beavers for their fur which came at great physical cost to the trapping parties, the fomration of a fur company to rival competitors incuding Astor's company and the grand establishment of Bent's Fort on the Santa Fe Trail which served as a way station for traders, both white and indian, to exhange goods and money. The old fort lasted from 1833 to 1849 when William Bent decided that the rising conflicts on the Great Plains between the Indians and the white men would hinder trade. The great cholera outbreak among the Southern Cheyenne in 1849 which wiped out half of the tribe further reduced trade potential and was another factor in its closure. Having lost his brothers to disease and war and was not willing for anybody to use his fort, he demolished the fort to erase it from his memory and set up a new fort further east. His new fort would survive only another decade when he gave it over to the United States Army as part of the Fort Lyon complex when he realized that Indian trade was all but gone and that the Civil War was on the horizon.

The story discusses William Bent's family relationships. He married a Cheyenne woman to show his sincerity to the Indians that he wished to stay in that part of the country for the long haul. His son Charles Bent was known for his depredations of white settlers while one of his other sons George fought for the Confederacy. After he sold his new fort to the U.S. Army, he soldiered in the trade business until he died from pneumonia in 1869. Ceran St. Vrain was his long-time partner who went his separate way to settle down in New Mexico where he died in 1870. On the whole this book was a great read with a substantial end note section which is almost a book to itself and an index. I recommend this book to anybody who wants to know how business and trade was in the Old West.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So Much History, It'll Make Your Head Spin 28 Oct 2011
By The Wretched Reviewer With Malice Aforethought - Published on
Verified Purchase
The best book I've read about the mountain men and the beginnings of the migration to the West. A must read for anyone interested in the history of the USA and exploration and settlement of the Western United States. Highly recommended.
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