Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History
by S. C. Gwynne
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.
"nothing short of a revelation. Gwynne...doesn't merely retell the story of Parker's life. He pulls his readers through an American frontier roiling with extreme violence, political intrigue, bravery, anguish, corruption, love, knives, rifles and arrows.... This book will leave dust and blood on your jeans." — The New York Times
"Gripping... The Comanches stood for decades as the single most effective military force on the southern plains... Rigorously researched and evenhanded, the book paints both the Comanches and Americans in their glory and shame, bravery and savagery... combines rich historical detail with a keen sense of adventure and ... humanity" — Publishers Weekly
An appropriately fast-paced life of Comanche leader Quanah Parker and his band, the last Native free riders on the plains.... Parker remained a leader of his people to the end, writes the author, one who "looked resolutely forward toward something better" rather than surrendering to embitterment or allowing himself to be put on display ...A welcome contribution" — Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Sam Gwynne is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared extensively in Time, for which he worked as bureau chief, national correspondent and senior editor from 1988 to 2000, and in Texas Monthly, where he was executive editor. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, Harper's, and California Magazine. His previous book Outlaw Bank (co-authored with Jonathan Beaty) detailed the rise and fall of the corrupt global bank BCCI. He attended Princeton and Johns Hopkins and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Katie and daughter Maisie.
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