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Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History Paperback – 7 Jul 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Constable (7 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849017034
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849017039
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"In "Empire of the Summer Moon", Sam Swynne has given us a rich, vividly detailed rendering of an important era in our history and of two great men, Quanah Parker and Ranald Slidel Mackenzie, whose struggles did much to define it."-Larry McMurtry

Book Description

The New York Times bestselling history of the Comanches in the tradition of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 70 people found the following review helpful By David Wineberg TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 21 July 2010
Format: Hardcover
Although Quanah Parker doesn't really come into his own until the last 40 pages, Empire of the Summer Moon is a fascinating compendium of everybody's sins - from the bloodthirsty hunter-gatherers to the incompetent armed forces and xenophobic, hypocritical settlers in between.

From time to time, we in the 21st century need to be reminded that buffalo roamed the endless plains, in herds seventy miles long and five miles wide, That tribes of natives lived off them and commanded huge tracts of land - as any self respecting hunter-gatherer from bald eagle to mountain lion must to survive. That everyone was brutal, thoughtless and cruel comes with the territory. The totality of this makes the book continually compelling.

What I liked best was that over the course of 250 pages, I got used to the idea of the endless plains (a few thousand Comanches unfathomably controlling more than 120 million acres), the criminally brutal weather, and constant movement of people, to fight and to survive. And then in one brief sentence, not highlighted or separated, Gwynne takes it all away again:

"Within a few years, barbed wire would stretch the length and breadth of the plains" (p. 276)

It put everything in perspective, and made the decline and fall of the Comanche bands all that more inevitable, necessary, and tragic.

Extraordinarily well documented, well written and well laid out, this is a fine read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stuart W. Mirsky on 6 Nov. 2011
Format: Hardcover
A very fine narrative concerning the history (both the rise and fall) of the Native American people known today as the Comanche (from a Ute word meaning those who like to fight or who fight a lot). An unsophisticated group of stone age hunter-gatherers who had eked out a living on the edges of better territory dominated by larger and more formidable Native American peoples than themselves, the Comanche eventually discovered the horse, left to run wild and multiply in North America after the Spanish had retreated south in the face of rebellions against them. The Comanche soon realized that horses were good for more than just eating or dragging tent poles behind them when the bands moved camp and became the most effective mounted warriors in North America and, Gwynne suggests, maybe in the world. A small, stocky people well suited for riding, they rapidly came to dominate the central and southern plains of North America, placing them directly in the path of the expanding American Republic as it moved westward via new settler migration and war with Mexico over the western territories held by that country.

Gwynne intersperses his tale of the rise of the Comanche and their fierce war with other Indian tribal nations (including Apaches and Tonkawas, both of whom would develop an undying hatred of their foes and align themselves with the incoming whites to eventually bring the Comanche down) with an account of the background, birth and rise of Quanah Parker, the half white war chief of the Comanche nation who would lead them in their final struggle with white civilization. In the interim, the Republic of Texas broke away from Mexico to become the Comanche's most dangerous enemy. But not at first.
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87 of 92 people found the following review helpful By amateur historian on 9 Aug. 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a truly excellent book that is well researched, easy to read, and that pulls no punches about the expansion of the Commanche empire and its inevitable collision with the expending United States in the mid 19th century.

If you believe that the Native Americans/Indians/Human Beings/The People were the lentil eating 'hippies' that they have been protrayed as for the past forty years you won't be comfortable with this book. The Commanches murdered, gang raped and stole from Anglos, Hispanics and their fellow Native Amercicans without fear or favour for approximately 200 years. In the process they created a massive empire across what is now Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas displacing thousands of their fellow Native Americans to less hospitable lands in the process. S C Gywnne documents this about as thoroughly as we now can. He then moves on to their relations with the Spanish, Mexicans and Americans. This era is better documented and Gynne relates a war that was red in tooth and claw on both sides, culminating in a series of treaties which neither side seems to have had any intention of adhering to.

Interwoven with this narrative are the stories of Cynthia Ann and Quanah Parker. Cynthia Ann was abducted by the Commanches at the age of nine and became fully assimilated into their culture. So much so that one she was 'rescued' with her daughter 23 years later she wasunable to re-enter white society and both mother and daughter died within a few years. The fact that they were both treated as a 19th centuruy freak show seems to have accelerated this procress. Son Quanah on the other hand was far more successful. Born a Commanche he wasa successful war chief and after the collapse of their culture became asuccessful businessman, philanthropist and politicician.

An excellent book. Buy it!
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Aidan J. McQuade on 12 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a facinating look at the rise and fall of the Commanche nation. Its intensely exciting and sympathetic to Native Americans in general and the Commanche in particular. However it is also intensely violent, taking a clear sighted, almost forensic, look at the practices of Commanche war-making, particularly their routine use of rape and torture.

(Speaking as a Celt myself) the author draws a not unreasonable comparison of Comanche warfare to Celtic warfare of a bygone era to undermine any racist presumptions about the origins of warriors cruelty. He also notes the intensely political purpose behind Comanche terrorism on settlers and buffalo hunters, and that Texan warfare was itself brutal and racist. However while he spends time describing Comanche violence in some detail, he frequently skates across comparable white violence - explictly avoiding a deep discussion of the Sand Creek massacre for example.

The author appears to like and admire Quanah, particularly the Quanah of later years who struggled to lead his people in peace after years of violence. Quanah described himself as having been a "bad man" but in later life he appears to have become a warm and generous one with little animosity to whites. However the author's real hero in this book seems to be the enigmatic Col MacKenzie, Quanah's nemisis, rather than Quanah himself. One should be grateful to the author for bringing this fascinating man and his role in the violence of the era to greater public attention: for all his crankiness he stands in a much more positive light that the strange, and more infamous, figure of Custer.
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