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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
Gwynne, S. C. (Book - 2010 )
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Empire of the Summer Moon


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In the tradition of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a stunningly vivid historical account of the forty-year battle between Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West, centering on Quanah, the greatest Comanche chief of them all. S. C. Gwynne's Empire of the Summer Moon spans two astonishing stories. The first traces the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history. The second entails one of the most remarkable narratives ever to come out of the Old West: the epic saga of the pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches. Although readers may be more familiar with the tribal names Apache and Sioux, it was in fact the legendary fighting ability of the Comanches that determined just how and when the American West opened up. Comanche boys became adept bareback riders by age six; full Comanche braves were considered the best horsemen who ever rode. They were so masterful at war and so skillful with their arrows and lances that they stopped the northern drive of colonial Spain from Mexico and halted the French expansion westward from Louisiana. White settlers arriving in Texas from the eastern United States were surprised to find the frontier being rolled backward by Comanches incensed by the invasion of their tribal lands. So effective were the Comanches that they forced the creation of the Texas Rangers and account for the advent of the new weapon specifically designed to fight them: the six-gun. The war with the Comanches lasted four decades, in effect holding up the development of the new American nation. Gwynne's exhilarating account delivers a sweeping narrative that encompasses Spanish colonialism, the Civil War, the destruction of the buffalo herds, and the arrival of the railroads-a historical feast for anyone interested in how the United States came into being. Against this backdrop Gwynne presents the compelling drama of Cynthia Ann Parker, a lovely nine-year-old girl with cornflower-blue eyes who was kidnapped by Comanches from the far Texas frontier in 1836. She grew to love her captors and became infamous as the "White Squaw" who refused to return until her tragic capture by Texas Rangers in 1860. More famous still was her son Quanah, a warrior who was never defeated and whose guerrilla wars in the Texas Panhandle made him a legend. S. C. Gwynne's account of these events is meticulously researched, intellectually provocative, and, above all, thrillingly told. Empire of the Summer Moon announces him as a major new writer of American history.
Authors: Gwynne, S. C. (Samuel C.), 1953-
Title: Empire of the summer moon
Quanah Parker and the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history
Publisher: New York :, Scribner,, 2010.
Edition: 1st Scribner hardcover ed.
Characteristics: viii, 371 p., [8] p. of plates :,ill., map, ports. ;,24 cm.
Contents: A new kind of war
A lethal paradise
Worlds in collision
High lonesome
The wolf's howl
Blood and smoke
Dream visions and Apocalypse
White squaw
Chasing the wind
Death's innocent face
War to the knife
White queen of the Comanches
The rise of Quanah
Uncivil wars
Peace and other horrors
The anti-Custer
Mackenzie unbound
The hide men and the messiah
The Red River War
Forward, in defeat
This was a man
Resting here until day breaks.
ISBN: 9781416591054
1416591052
9781416591061
1416591060
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Comment by: m2 Report This Jan 21, 2011

Wow! Maybe the best history book I ever read. Reads like a novel, but the research is fabulous. Made me understand the history of this country in a new way. I have given this one as a gift. A must read for anyone interested in Native American issues. 2010 was a truly fortuitous year, in which BOTH Empire of the Summer Moon and The Warmth of Other Suns came out. Is sorrow always the song of history? Read it. Now.

Comment by: DesPlainesReaders Report This Oct 31, 2011

This book filled a huge hole in my view of North American history. The story of the Comanche people is not well-known, but our world would not be what it is today without this fierce and highly-skilled horse tribe. An extremely accessible and interesting history, this is very highly recommended for just about any non-fiction reader. - WeAreSpartacus/notTom


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Report This Apr 15, 2014
  • JCLGreggW rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

An amazingly readable, absolutely absorbing history of the Comanche tribe of Native Americans. The author doesn't approach them as a tribe, but as an empire. The book takes us from the start as a lowly group of outcasts as they become one of the first Americans to fully master the arrival of the horse from the Spanish and quickly emerge in a few generations as some of the fiercest warriors on the planet. Gwynne is both poetic and brutal as he pulls no punches with facts - those with sensitive stomachs may be disturbed with the passages dealing with atrocities done to Comanches and by them - but this is masterful stuff and worth a read. If you enjoyed this, check out the fiction selection THE SON by Philipp Meyer, about a boy taken in and raised by Comanches.

Report This Sep 27, 2013
  • zenmark29 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I was never a big fan of history. Too dry, too many dates, nothing really human about the stories. Until now. This book fascinated and captivated me. It is an amazing and human story about two cultures in conflict and the individual human lives that are impacted by it. Gwynne introduces us to these two worlds in a way that really takes you there. The brutal reality in which the people lived out their lives during this time is tough to get through, but the story was impossible for me to put down. This isn't a made up of story of daring and adventure. It was real life daring and adventure. Real people's lives hung in the balance and the endings were frequently not happy. The strength and endurance of the individuals involved is a testament to the human spirit. It is well worth the read.

Report This May 17, 2013
  • DeltaQueen50 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This Pulitzer Prize finalist, Empire of the Summer Moon is a fantastic book, one I literally couldn’t put it down. Top notch writing makes this epic narrative of how the Texas frontier was settled both an exciting and engaging read. Empire of the Summer Moon is a book that any fan of western fiction would find a great addition to their reading.

Report This Apr 25, 2013
  • bjessima rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

I was ultimately disappointed by this book. While there are a number of excellent insights gained, it ended up to me being an apologia for the usurpation of a nations territory by an invading civilization. I was sometimes offended by blatant demonization of the Comanche war practices (which do appear to have been quite extreme). In one particularly egregious example, the author documents in quite gruesome detail the torture and mutilation engaged in by Comanche raiders on while females. Only a few pages later, when whites attacked an Indian village, he indicates that they engaged in some extreme behavior that "wasn't worth detailing here". There are other examples of the same. This book does detail a part of history that I had little understanding of, but I kept returning to the thought that here was a Texan trying to justify a historical genocide.

Report This Sep 01, 2012
  • SpyderGT rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I picked up this book because it was on the NYT bestseller list, not because I had any particular interest the westward expansion of the US and ensuing Indian wars of the 1870's. It turned out to be one of the most fascinating books I've read this year. The author is balanced in his assessments and descriptions of the participants and the events. Both sides had captured or sought to capture land from earlier peoples, both sides had their moments of honor, and both sides had their moments of brutality. A compelling read.

Report This Jul 24, 2012
  • StuDick rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Carefully documented yet poetically told, this story says a lot about human actions, cultures and history. Changed my ideas about Native Americans and the settlement of the West.

Report This Jun 10, 2012
  • smichal rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I couldn't get into it... I read blurbs here and there in the book. In school I never learned about the brutality on both sides of the battles... so it is a shock to read about native people kidnapping, raping, enslaving women and dismembering their babies. Gosh.

Report This Dec 09, 2011
  • canary35 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Absolutely fascinating book about the rise and fall of the Comanche nation, the consequences of manifest destiny, and the harm that can be done by a misguided peace policy. No one comes off innocent in this one, and that’s what makes it important. Mr. Gwynne built the book around the story of Quanah Parker, whose mother was kidnapped at age 9, assimilated into the Penatakes band of Southern Comanche. His father was the great war chief, Peta Nacona. Other characters include gun fighters, Texas Rangers, Baptist ministers, well-meaning eastern liberals, pioneers, Indian hunters, Spanish colonialists, priests, treasure hunters, horses, buffalo, and absolutely bone-chilling accounts of Comanche guerilla war parties. The thing about this book for me is that this is us, and it always has been, from time immemorial. Worth reading and well deserving of the Pulitzer Prize, for which it was a finalist.

Report This Oct 31, 2011
  • DesPlainesReaders rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This book filled a huge hole in my view of North American history. The story of the Comanche people is not well-known, but our world would not be what it is today without this fierce and highly-skilled horse tribe. An extremely accessible and interesting history, this is very highly recommended for just about any non-fiction reader. - WeAreSpartacus/notTom

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