Cover image for Empire of the summer moon : Quanah Parker and the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history
Title:
Empire of the summer moon : Quanah Parker and the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history
Edition:
1st Scribner hardcover ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Scribner, 2010.
ISBN:
9781416591054

9781416591061
Physical Description:
x, 371 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., map ; 24 cm.
Language:
English
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.
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Summary

Summary

Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
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.


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist Gwynne tracks one of the U.S.'s longest-running military conflicts in this gripping history of the war against the Comanche Indians on the high plains of Texas and Colorado. The Comanches stood for decades as the single most effective military force on the southern plains; their mastery of horseback warfare and their intimate knowledge of the trackless desert of the plains stymied the armies of Spain and Mexico, and blocked American westward expansion for 40 years. Gwynne's account orbits around Quanah Parker (ca. 1852-1911), the brilliant war chief whose resistance raged even as the Comanche, increasingly demoralized by the loss of the buffalo and the American military's policy of total annihilation, retreated into the reservation. Rigorously researched and evenhanded, the book paints both the Comanches and Americans in their glory and shame, bravery and savagery. The author's narrative prowess is marred only by his fondness for outdated anthropological terminology ("low barbarian," "premoral" culture). That aside, the book combines rich historical detail with a keen sense of adventure and of the humanity of its protagonists. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Booklist Review

The vast, semi-arid grasslands of the southern Great Plains could be dominated by hunters and warriors on horseback. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the Comanches, often referred to as lords of the Plains, were the single most powerful military force in the region, to the frustration of both the Mexican and U.S. governments. In this engrossing chronicle, award-winning journalist Gwynne traces the rise of the Comanche people from their roots as primitive bands of hunter-gatherers to their mastery of the horse and emergence as the feared power brokers of the area. At the center of the narrative is the charismatic Quanah Parker, who skillfully navigated the gaps between his traditional culture and the emerging, settled culture of the late-nineteenth century. Quanah was the son of a Comanche warrior and a woman named Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped at the age of nine and chose to stay with the Comanches. Quanah was a brilliant, feared war chief who guided his people in adapting to new realities after their final suppression by the U.S. Calvary. An outstanding addition to western-history collections.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2010 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

Why does Custer persist? Nearly 134 years after his last stand, a military debacle that cost the lives of all 210 men under his immediate command, George Armstrong Custer remains such an iconic figure in the American pageant that mere mention of his name evokes an entirely overromanticized era in the American West. By all rights he should be a footnote. That he enjoys the glory of single-name recognition is a testament to the power of personality, show business and savvy public relations. Custer wasn't just an Indian fighter. He was one of the first self-made American celebrities. In "The Last Stand," Nathaniel Philbrick, the author of the popular histories "Mayflower" and "In the Heart of the Sea," offers an account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn that gives appropriate space to Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Maj. Marcus Reno and others who fought that day. But really, Custer steals the show. How could he not? The man was a spectacular piece of work. Ambitious and charismatic, he graduated last in his West Point class but first in socializing. During the Civil War, he emerged as one of the best cavalry officers in the Union Army. His gallant Gettysburg charge ("Come on, you Wolverines!" he shouted to his Michigan volunteers) helped change the course of the battle that turned the tide of the war. Even as a young officer Custer cultivated a flamboyant public persona. He fought at Gettysburg in a black velvet uniform (of his own design) embroidered with gaudy gold lace coils. After the war, when he turned his energies to fighting Indians on the Great Plains, he outfitted himself in fringed white buckskin and wore his hair long. He was a gambler, a probable adulterer, a braggart, a petulant boss and an impulsive blabbermouth. His eccentricity tilted toward stupidity. He once divided up his regiment according to color. Horse color. As you might expect, he wasn't especially beloved by the troops. "I had known General Custer ... for a long time," one of his officers once testified, "and I had no confidence in his ability as a soldier." What he did have was boldness and fortune on his side, up to a point. A force of fate that he himself called "Custer luck" propelled him up the ranks, and his risktaking strategies secured an important victory over the Cheyenne in 1868. Custer imagined the 1876 campaign against Sitting Bull's Lakota Sioux as the capstone to his brilliant military career. If all went well he hoped to ride back East as the hero Indian fighter in time for the nation's July 4, 1876, centennial celebration and a scheduled lecture tour. Custer, then 36, entertained serious notions of running for president one day. Given his personal charisma and genius for publicity, he might well have won. All did not go well, of course. The Lakota conflict began with an old-fashioned land grab inflamed by Custer himself. The Black Hills in present-day South Dakota were declared Indian land in the late 1860s, but white settlers began encroaching by the early 1870s. Custer, sent to investigate, instead escalated things by discovering gold in the Black Hills. News of his find flooded the region with 15,000 white prospectors. At this point, "Custer luck" starts to look more like "Clouseau luck," and it's hard not to imagine the commander in chief, President Ulysses S. Grant, going all eye-twitchy like Herbert Lom in the old Pink Panther movies. Grant tried to defuse the situation by offering to buy the Black Hills from the Lakota, but Sitting Bull wouldn't sell. Faced with a choice between the Indians or the miners, Grant chose to drive off the Indians. And - cue the eye twitch - he sent Custer to help carry out the job. Many books have been written about battlefield strategy at Little Big Horn, a grassland of shallow folding ravines in southeastern Montana, but it boils down to this: Custer was overwhelmingly outnumbered and chose recklessness over prudence. The paradox is that moments before the first shot was fired, Sitting Bull was ready to make peace. He and his followers escaped into Canada a few months after the battle, and ultimately returned to live on the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota. Custer's defeat shocked the nation, and there was little doubt even in 1876 that Little Big Horn represented an ignoble moment in American military history. So how did a monumental disaster turn into a courageous "last stand"? Philbrick's answer: A widow's spin and show business. After her husband's death, Elizabeth Custer, known as Libbie, embarked on a one-woman crusade to rehabilitate her beloved's reputation through books and speaking engagements. Buffalo Bill Cody took the myth nationwide by ending his wildly popular Wild West Show with a Little Big Horn re-enactment and a call to avenge Custer's glorious death. But really there was nothing to avenge but the poor judgment of a dangerously ambitious officer. The Battle of the Little Bighorn -the military engagement - was a foolish and entirely avoidable defeat. Custer's last stand - the myth - was simply good show "business. IF Custer illustrates how the spotlight of history sometimes shines on the wrong actor, Quanah Parker exemplifies the more deserving who get left in the shadows. One hopes a better fate awaits "Empire of the Summer Moon," S. C. Gwynne's transcendent history of Parker and the Comanche nation he led in the mid- to late 1800s. Born the son of an Indian warrior and his white wife (who had been captured at the age of 9 during a raid on a Texas ranch), Parker grew up to become the last and greatest chief of the Comanche, the tribe that ruled the Great Plains for most of the 19th century. That's his one sentence biography. The deeper, richer story that unfolds in "Empire of the Summer Moon" is nothing short of a revelation. Gwynne, a former editor at Time and Texas Monthly, 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. Lots and lots of arrows. This book will leave dust and blood on your jeans. Gwynne opens with the May 1836 Comanche raid on the Parker homestead. The Parkers were a clan of Illinois pioneers working 16,100 acres near present day Dallas. In 1836 they represented the leading edge of white westward expansion into Comanche territory, which the tribe didn't like one bit. They expressed their displeasure by killing the Parker men (though a few escaped) and taking two women and three children captive. The term "Indian raid" glosses over the atrocities. Men and babies were killed as a matter of course. Mutilation, rape and torture were common. The lucky died quickly. "This was the actual, and often quite grim, reality of the frontier," Gwynne writes. "This treatment was not reserved for whites or Mexicans; it was practiced just as energetically on rival Indian tribes." The Comanche weren't merely one of many tribes steamrolled by Manifest Destiny. They were a Native American superpower, a thesis put forth in Pekka Hamalainen's Bancroft Prize-winning study, "The Comanche Empire," oddly not cited here. Gwynne presents the Great Plains wars of the mid-19th century as the clash of three empires: the United States, Mexico and the Comanche nation, which controlled most of modern-day Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma. "They held sway over some 20 different tribes who had been either conquered, driven off or reduced to vassal status," Gwynne writes. "Such imperial dominance was no accident of geography. It was the product of over 150 years of deliberate, sustained combat against a series of enemies over a singular piece of land that contained the country's largest buffalo herds." At the height of their power in the late 1830s, the Comanche contemplated a full-scale invasion of Texas and Mexico. Native American tribes weren't - and still aren't - static entities. They waxed, they waned. Some gained power and territory, others lost it. The rise of the Comanche was the kind of case study of timing and technology that Jared Diamond described in "Guns, Germs, and Steel." They came from Wyoming; short, squat-legged, with little of the social or cultural development of neighboring tribes. Then everything changed. "What happened to the tribe between roughly 1625 and 1750 was one of the great social and military transformations in history," Gwynne writes. What happened was the horse. Spanish conquistadors introduced the animals to Mexico in the 16th century, and they quickly dispersed northward. The Comanche adapted to this transformative technology more quickly and completely than any other Plains tribe. "No one could outride them or outshoot them from the back of a horse," Gwynne relates. The key was a Comanche warrior's ability to attack and shoot arrows while at full gallop, a skill few others could master. On the Great Plains this was the equivalent of attacking from tanks, and the Comanche used their military advantage to become wealthy traders in horses and buffalo hides. Which brings us back to the raid on the Parker ranch. The Comanche didn't raid for sport. They had specific political and economic ends in mind. The political goal was to drive the white settlers (squatters and land thieves, from the tribe's point of view) out of Comanche territory. To that end, death, terror and torture proved to be effective. By the 1860s the Comanche were actually rolling the frontier backward in Texas. The economics of raiding were equally straightforward. Young Cynthia Ann Parker was captured and not killed partly because the Comanche needed women to keep their buffalo economy humming. The men killed the bison, but the women, Gwynne writes, "did all the value-added work: preparing the hides and decorating the robes." The more captives and wives - as with Cynthia Parker, the former sometimes became the latter - the more product a man could produce. Parker had a son named Quanah. Quanah grew up quickly. When he was 12, his father was killed in battle and his mother was captured by white troops. (They saw it as a rescue, but Parker was forever trying to escape back to the Comanche.) A vengeful Quanah began raiding white settlements. He was good at it, too. But skill in battle wasn't his problem. Timing was. He happened to rise as a leader just as the whites acquired their own transformative technology: the railroad and the repeating firearm. The railroad could cheaply transport valuable buffalo hides to Eastern markets, which made it profitable for men like Buffalo Bill to massacre the great herds. Between 1868 and 1881, 31 million buffalo were slaughtered, destroying the source of Comanche wealth and food. Meanwhile, the nimble Colt revolver and the powerful Sharps .50-caliber rifle countered the Comanche's once-superior weaponry. The empire crumbled. Quanah Parker's second act was, if anything, more remarkable than his first. Resigned to reservation life, he transformed himself from a death-dealing warrior to a prosperous cattleman and a hard-bargaining politician who earned the respect and friendship of Teddy Roosevelt. He played a leading role in establishing the Native American Church and its practice of peyotism, the use of hallucinogenic peyote cactus in religious ritual. "The white man goes into his church and talks about Jesus," Parker once said, "but the Indian goes into his tipi and talks to Jesus." In a 370-page biography, Gwynne devotes but a single paragraph to Parker and peyote. There are simply too many other good stories to tell. WE may never shake Custer's place in the American story. He's just too colorful a character, and "The Last Stand" will introduce him to a generation too young to have encountered him in Evan S. Connell's classic biography, "Son of the Morning Star," or the movie "Little Big Man." But thanks to Gwynne, the story of Quanah Parker may assume a more fittingly prominent role in the history of the American West. "Empire of the Summer Moon" isn't just a biography. It's a forceful argument about the place of Native American tribes in geopolitical history.The word ¿nation¿ is sometimes used today to refer to a specific tribe, and it can be confusing to non-Indians. Does it mean a belonging, like Red Sox nation? Or state power, like Germany? The Comanche of the 1800s were truly a nation more like Germany. And you crossed them at your peril.


Kirkus Review

An appropriately fast-paced life of Comanche leader Quanah Parker and his band, the last Native free riders on the plains. Former Time editor and correspondent Gwynne (The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride into the Secret Heart of BCCI, 1993, etc.) approaches Parker's life as news, opening with an intriguing gambitnamely, that Parker, who died in 1911, had an Anglo mother who, as he said, "love Indian and wild life so well, no want to go back to white folks." Where his mixed blood might have been a demerit in other Indian groupsand certainly in white society of the timeParker rose quickly to the leadership of the Quahadi band of Comanches as a young man of perhaps only 20. As Gwynne notes, the Comanches kept the Spanish empire from spreading onto the plains beyond Texas, making even the Apaches farther west seem a mild threat by comparison. The Quahadi band, whom he characterizes as "magnificently aloof," were the toughest of the lot. When Americans entered the picture in the 1830s and beyond, the Quahadis fought them so hard that by the 1870s whole counties formerly settled by Texas ranchers and farmers were depopulated. Parker's tough leadership eventually proved no match for the combined weight of Texas Rangers, the U.S. Army and other heavily armed enemies, who finally broke the Quahadi resistance after removing other Comanche bands to reservations and reducing their number to no more than 2,000. After surrender, Parker continued to insist on preserving Comanche ways, particularly an illegal peyote cult. Gwynne considers Parker alongside Geronimo, the better-known Apache leader, and finds the latter wanting in the comparison. 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 as a wild Indian now tamed. "I no monkey," he insisted. A welcome contribution to the history of Texas, Westward expansion and Native America. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

Texas-based journalist Gwynne's first book is a fascinating, lively account of Quanah Parker, the son of the Comanche chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker, a white woman whose abduction at a young age by the Comanche Indians and eventual love of her captors cast her as a pivotal figure in the 40-year battle between the Comanches and white settlers for control of the American West. Veteran actor David Drummond effectively narrates Gwynne's evenhanded coverage of atrocities committed on both sides in this unforgettable story of the Comanches. Highly recommended for all audiences, especially those interested in Native American history. [The New York Times best-selling Scribner hc was described as being "at its best as a Texas-centric militaristic interpretation of the 19th-century Comanche wars of the southern Plains," LJ 2/15/10.-Ed.]-Deb West, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

One A NEW KIND OF WAR CAVALRYMEN REMEMBER SUCH moments: dust swirling behind the pack mules, regimental bugles shattering the air, horses snorting and riders' tack creaking through the ranks, their old company song rising on the wind: "Come home, John! Don't stay long. Come home soon to your own chick-a-biddy!"1 The date was October 3, 1871. Six hundred soldiers and twenty Tonkawa scouts had bivouacked on a lovely bend of the Clear Fork of the Brazos, in a rolling, scarred prairie of grama grass, scrub oak, sage, and chaparral, about one hundred fifty miles west of Fort Worth, Texas. Now they were breaking camp, moving out in a long, snaking line through the high cutbanks and quicksand streams. Though they did not know it at the time--the idea would have seemed preposterous--the sounding of "boots and saddle" that morning marked the beginning of the end of the Indian wars in America, of fully two hundred fifty years of bloody combat that had begun almost with the first landing of the first ship on the first fatal shore in Virginia. The final destruction of the last of the hostile tribes would not take place for a few more years. Time would be yet required to round them all up, or starve them out, or exterminate their sources of food, or run them to ground in shallow canyons, or kill them outright. For the moment the question was one of hard, unalloyed will. There had been brief spasms of official vengeance and retribution before: J. M. Chivington's and George Armstrong Custer's savage massacres of Cheyennes in 1864 and 1868 were examples. But in those days there was no real attempt to destroy the tribes on a larger scale, no stomach for it. That had changed, and on October 3, the change assumed the form of an order, barked out through the lines of command to the men of the Fourth Cavalry and Eleventh Infantry, to go forth and kill Comanches. It was the end of anything like tolerance, the beginning of the final solution. The white men were grunts, bluecoats, cavalry, and dragoons; mostly veterans of the War Between the States who now found themselves at the edge of the known universe, ascending to the turreted rock towers that gated the fabled Llano Estacado--Coronado's term for it, meaning "palisaded plains" of West Texas , a country populated exclusively by the most hostile Indians on the continent, where few U.S. soldiers had ever gone before. The llano was a place of extreme desolation, a vast, trackless, and featureless ocean of grass where white men became lost and disoriented and died of thirst; a place where the imperial Spanish had once marched confidently forth to hunt Comanches, only to find that they themselves were the hunted, the ones to be slaughtered. In 1864, Kit Carson had led a large force of federal troops from Santa Fe and attacked a Comanche band at a trading post called Adobe Walls, north of modern-day Amarillo. He had survived it, but had come within a whisker of watching his three companies of cavalry and infantry destroyed.2 The troops were now going back, because enough was enough, because President Grant's vaunted "Peace Policy" toward the remaining Indians, run by his gentle Quaker appointees, had failed utterly to bring peace, and finally because the exasperated general in chief of the army, William Tecumseh Sherman, had ordered it so. Sherman's chosen agent of destruction was a civil war hero named Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, a difficult, moody, and implacable young man who had graduated first in his class from West Point in 1862 and had finished the Civil War, remarkably, as a brevet brigadier general. Because his hand was gruesomely disfigured from war wounds, the Indians called him No-Finger Chief, or Bad Hand. A complex destiny awaited him. Within four years he would prove himself the most brutally effective Indian fighter in American history. In roughly that same time period, while General George Armstrong Custer achieved world fame in failure and catastrophe, Mackenzie would become obscure in victory. But it was Mackenzie, not Custer, who would teach the rest of the army how to fight Indians. As he moved his men across the broken, stream-crossed country, past immense herds of buffalo and prairie-dog towns that stretched to the horizon, Colonel Mackenzie did not have a clear idea of what he was doing, where precisely he was going, or how to fight Plains Indians in their homelands. Neither did he have the faintest idea that he would be the one largely responsible for defeating the last of the hostile Indians. He was new to this sort of Indian fighting, and would make many mistakes in the coming weeks. He would learn from them. For now, Mackenzie was the instrument of retribution. He had been dispatched to kill Comanches in their Great Plains fastness because, six years after the end of the Civil War, the western frontier was an open and bleeding wound, a smoking ruin littered with corpses and charred chimneys, a place where anarchy and torture killings had replaced the rule of law, where Indians and especially Comanches raided at will. Victorious in war, unchallenged by foreign foes in North America for the first time in its history, the Union now found itself unable to deal with the handful of remaining Indian tribes that had not been destroyed, assimilated, or forced to retreat meekly onto reservations where they quickly learned the meaning of abject subjugation and starvation. The hostiles were all residents of the Great Plains; all were mounted, well armed, and driven now by a mixture of vengeance and political desperation. They were Comanches, Kiowas, Arapahoes, Cheyennes, and Western Sioux. For Mackenzie on the southern plains, Comanches were the obvious target: No tribe in the history of the Spanish, French, Mexican, Texan, and American occupations of this land had ever caused so much havoc and death. None was even a close second. Just how bad things were in 1871 along this razor edge of civilization could be seen in the numbers of settlers who had abandoned their lands. The frontier, carried westward with so much sweat and blood and toil, was now rolling backward, retreating. Colonel Randolph Marcy, who accompanied Sherman on a western tour in the spring, and who had known the country intimately for decades, had been shocked to find that in many places there were fewer people than eighteen years before. "If the Indian marauders are not punished," he wrote, "the whole country seems in a fair way of becoming totally depopulated."3 This phenomenon was not entirely unknown in the history of the New World. The Comanches had also stopped cold the northward advance of the Spanish empire in the eighteenth century--an empire that had, up to that point, easily subdued and killed millions of Indians in Mexico and moved at will through the continent. Now, after more than a century of relentless westward movement, they were rolling back civilization's advance again, only on a much larger scale. Whole areas of the borderlands were simply emptying out, melting back eastward toward the safety of the forests. One county--Wise--had seen its population drop from 3,160 in the year 1860 to 1,450 in 1870. In some places the line of settlements had been driven back a hundred miles.4 If General Sherman wondered about the cause--as he once did--his tour with Marcy relieved him of his doubts. That spring they had narrowly missed being killed themselves by a party of raiding Indians. The Indians, mostly Kiowas, passed them over because of a shaman's superstitions and had instead attacked a nearby wagon train. What happened was typical of the savage, revenge-driven attacks by Comanches and Kiowas in Texas in the postwar years. What was not typical was Sherman's proximity and his own very personal and mortal sense that he might have been a victim, too. Because of that the raid became famous, known to history as the Salt Creek Massacre.5 Seven men were killed in the raid, though that does not begin to describe the horror of what Mackenzie found at the scene. According to Captain Robert G. Carter, Mackenzie's subordinate, who witnessed its aftermath, the victims were stripped, scalped, and mutilated. Some had been beheaded and others had their brains scooped out. "Their fingers, toes and private parts had been cut off and stuck in their mouths," wrote Carter, "and their bodies, now lying in several inches of water and swollen or bloated beyond all chance of recognition, were filled full of arrows, which made them resemble porcupines." They had clearly been tortured, too. "Upon each exposed abdomen had been placed a mass of live coals. . . . One wretched man, Samuel Elliott, who, fighting hard to the last, had evidently been wounded, was found chained between two wagon wheels and, a fire having been made from the wagon pole, he had been slowly roasted to death--'burnt to a crisp.' "6 Thus the settlers' headlong flight eastward, especially on the Texas frontier, where such raiding was at its worst. After so many long and successful wars of conquest and dominion, it seemed implausible that the westward rush of Anglo-European civilization would stall in the prairies of central Texas. No tribe had ever managed to resist for very long the surge of nascent American civilization with its harquebuses and blunderbusses and muskets and eventually lethal repeating weapons and its endless stocks of eager, land-greedy settlers, its elegant moral double standards and its complete disregard for native interests. Beginning with the subjection of the Atlantic coastal tribes (Pequots, Penobscots, Pamunkeys, Wampanoags, et al), hundreds of tribes and bands had either perished from the earth, been driven west into territories, or forcibly assimilated. This included the Iroquois and their enormous, warlike confederation that ruled the area of present-day New York; the once powerful Delawares, driven west into the lands of their enemies; the Iroquois, then yet farther west into even more murderous foes on the plains. The Shawnees of the Ohio Country had fought a desperate rearguard action starting in the 1750s. The great nations of the south--Chicasaw, Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, and Choctaw--saw their reservation lands expropriated in spite of a string of treaties; they were coerced westward into lands given them in yet more treaties that were violated before they were even signed; hounded along a trail of tears until they, too, landed in "Indian Territory" (present-day Oklahoma), a land controlled by Comanches, Kiowas, Araphoes, and Cheyennes. Even stranger was that the Comanches' stunning success was happening amid phenomenal technological and social changes in the west. In 1869 the Transcontinental Railroad was completed, linking the industrializing east with the developing west and rendering the old trails--Oregon, Santa Fe, and tributaries--instantly obsolete. With the rails came cattle, herded northward in epic drives to railheads by Texans who could make fast fortunes getting them to Chicago markets. With the rails, too, came buffalo hunters carrying deadly accurate .50-caliber Sharps rifles that could kill effectively at extreme range--grim, violent, opportunistic men blessed now by both a market in the east for buffalo leather and the means of getting it there. In 1871 the buffalo still roamed the plains: Earlier that year a herd of four million had been spotted near the Arkansas River in present-day southern Kansas. The main body was fifty miles deep and twenty-five miles wide.7 But the slaughter had already begun. It would soon become the greatest mass destruction of warm-blooded animals in human history. In Kansas alone the bones of thirty-one million buffalo were sold for fertilizer between 1868 and 1881.8 All of these profound changes were under way as Mackenzie's Raiders departed their camps on the Clear Fork. The nation was booming; a railroad had finally stitched it together. There was only this one obstacle left: the warlike and unreconstructed Indian tribes who inhabited the physical wastes of the Great Plains. Of those, the most remote, primitive, and irredeemably hostile were a band of Comanches known as the Quahadis. Like all Plains Indians, they were nomadic. They hunted primarily the southernmost part of the high plains, a place known to the Spanish, who had been abjectly driven from it, as Comancheria. The Llano Estacado, located within Comancheria, was a dead-flat tableland larger than New England and rising, in its highest elevations, to more than five thousand feet. For Europeans, the land was like a bad hallucination. "Although I traveled over them for more than 300 leagues," wrote Coronado in a letter to the king of Spain on October 20, 1541, "[there were] no more landmarks than if we had been swallowed up by the sea . . . there was not a stone, nor a bit of rising ground, nor a tree, nor a shrub, nor anything to go by."9 The Canadian River formed its northern boundary. In the east was the precipitous Caprock Escarpment, a cliff rising somewhere between two hundred and one thousand feet that demarcates the high plains from the lower Permian Plains below, giving the Quahadis something that approximated a gigantic, nearly impregnable fortress. Unlike almost all of the other tribal bands on the plains, the Quahadis had always shunned contact with Anglos. They would not even trade with them, as a general principle, preferring the Mexican traders from Santa Fe, known as Comancheros . So aloof were they that in the numerous Indian ethnographies compiled from 1758 onward chronicling the various Comanche bands (there were as many as thirteen), they do not even show up until 1872.10 For this reason they had largely avoided the cholera plagues of 1816 and 1849 that had ravaged western tribes and had destroyed fully half of all Comanches. Virtually alone among all bands of all tribes in North America, they never signed a treaty. Quahadis were the hardest, fiercest, least yielding component of a tribe that had long had the reputation as the most violent and warlike on the continent; if they ran low on water, they were known to drink the contents of a dead horse's stomach, something even the toughest Texas Ranger would not do. Even other Comanches feared them. They were the richest of all plains bands in the currency by which Indians measured wealth--horses--and in the years after the Civil War managed a herd of some fifteen thousand. They also owned "Texas cattle without number."11 On that clear autumn day in 1871, Mackenzie's troops were hunting Quahadis. Because they were nomadic, it was not possible to fix their location. One could know only their general ranges, their hunting grounds, perhaps old camp locations. They were known to hunt the Llano Estacado; they liked to camp in the depths of Palo Duro Canyon, the second-largest canyon in North America after the Grand Canyon; they often stayed near the head waters of the Pease River and McClellan's Creek; and in Blanco Canyon, all within a roughly hundred-mile ambit of present-day Amarillo in the upper Texas Panhandle. If you were pursuing them, as Mackenzie was, you had your Tonkawa scouts fan out far in advance of the column. The Tonks, as they were called, members of an occasionally cannibalistic Indian tribe that had nearly been exterminated by Comanches and whose remaining members lusted for vengeance, would look for signs, try to cut trails, then follow the trails to the lodges. Without them the army would never have had the shadow of a chance against these or any Indians on the open plains. By the afternoon of the second day, the Tonks had found a trail. They reported to Mackenzie that they were tracking a Quahadi band under the leadership of a brilliant young war chief named Quanah--a Comanche word that meant "odor" or "fragrance." The idea was to find and destroy Quanah's village. Mackenzie had a certain advantage in that no white man had ever dared try such a thing before; not in the panhandle plains, not against the Quahadis. Mackenzie and his men did not know much about Quanah. No one did. Though there is an intimacy of information on the frontier--opposing sides often had a surprisingly detailed understanding of one another, in spite of the enormous physical distances between them and the fact that they were trying to kill one another--Quanah was simply too young for anyone to know much about him yet, where he had been, or what he had done. Though no one would be able to even estimate the date of his birth until many years later, it was mostly likely in 1848, making him twenty-three that year and eight years younger than Mackenzie, who was also so young that few people in Texas, Indian or white, knew much about him at the time. Both men achieved their fame only in the final, brutal Indian wars of the mid-1870s. Quanah was exceptionally young to be a chief. He was reputed to be ruthless, clever, and fearless in battle. But there was something else about Quanah, too. He was a half-breed, the son of a Comanche chief and a white woman. People on the Texas frontier would soon learn this about him, partly because the fact was so exceptional. Comanche warriors had for centuries taken female captives--Indian, French, English, Spanish, Mexican, and American--and fathered children by them who were raised as Comanches. But there is no record of any prominent half-white Comanche war chief. By the time Mackenzie was hunting him in 1871, Quanah's mother had long been famous. She was the best known of all Indian captives of the era, discussed in drawing rooms in New York and London as "the white squaw" because she had refused on repeated occasions to return to her people, thus challenging one of the most fundamental of the Eurocentric assumptions about Indian ways: that given the choice between the sophisticated, industrialized, Christian culture of Europe and the savage, bloody, and morally backward ways of the Indians, no sane person would ever choose the latter. Few, other than Quanah's mother, did. Her name was Cynthia Ann Parker. She was the daughter of one of early Texas's most prominent families, one that included Texas Ranger captains, politicians, and prominent Baptists who founded the state's first Protestant church. In 1836, at the age of nine, she had been kidnapped in a Comanche raid at Parker's Fort, ninety miles south of present Dallas. She soon forgot her mother tongue, learned Indian ways, and became a full member of the tribe. She married Peta Nocona, a prominent war chief, and had three children by him, of whom Quanah was the eldest. In 1860, when Quanah was twelve, Cynthia Ann was recaptured during an attack by Texas Rangers on her village, during which everyone but her and her infant daughter, Prairie Flower, were killed. Mackenzie and his soldiers most likely knew the story of Cynthia Ann Parker--most everyone on the frontier did--but they had no idea that her blood ran in Quanah's veins. They would not learn this until 1875. For now they knew only that he was the target of the largest anti-Indian expedition mounted since 1865, one of the largest ever undertaken. Mackenzie's Fourth Cavalry, which he would soon build into a grimly efficient mobile assault force, for the moment consisted largely of timeservers who were unprepared to encounter the likes of Quanah and his hardened plains warriors. The soldiers were operating well beyond the ranges of civilization, beyond anything like a trail they could follow or any landmarks they could possibly have recognized. They were dismayed to learn that their principal water sources were buffalo wallow holes that, according to Carter, were "stagnant, warm, nauseating, odorous with smells, and covered with green slime that had to be pushed aside."12 Their inexperience was evident during their first night on the trail. Sometime around midnight, above the din of a West Texas windstorm, the men heard "a tremendous tramping and an unmistakable snorting and bellowing."13 That sound, as they soon discovered, was made by stampeding buffalo. The soldiers had made the horrendous mistake of making camp between a large herd of buffalo and its water source. Panicked, the men emerged from their tents in darkness, screaming and waving blankets and trying desperately to turn the stampeding animals. They succeeded, but by the smallest of margins. "The immense herds of brown monsters were caromed off and they stampeded to our left at breakneck speed," wrote Carter, "rushing and jostling but flushing only the edge of one of our horse herds. . . . one could hardly repress a shudder of what might have been the result of this nocturnal visit, for although the horses were strongly 'lariated out,' 'staked,' or 'picketed,' nothing could have saved them from the terror which this headlong charge would have inevitably created, had we not heard them just in time to turn the leading herds."14 Miraculously spared the consequences of their own ignorance, the bluecoats rounded up the stray horses, broke camp at dawn, and spent the day riding westward over a rolling mesquite prairie pocked with prairie-dog towns. The latter were common in the Texas Panhandle and extremely dangerous to horses and mules. Think of enormous anthills populated by oversized rodents, stretching for miles. The troopers passed more herds of buffalo, vast and odorous, and rivers whose gypsum-infused water was impossible to drink. They passed curious-looking trading stations, abandoned now, consisting of caves built into the sides of cliffs and reinforced with poles that looked like prison bars. On the second day they ran into more trouble. Mackenzie ordered a night march, hoping to surprise the enemy in its camps. His men struggled through steep terrain, dense brush, ravines, and arroyos. After hours of what Carter described as "trials and tribulations and much hard talk verging on profanity" and "many rather comical scenes," they fetched up bruised and battered in the dead end of a small canyon and had to wait until daybreak to find their way out. A few hours later they reached the Freshwater Fork of the Brazos, deep in Indian territory, in a broad, shallow thirty-mile-long valley that averaged fifteen hundred feet in width and was cut by smaller side canyons. The place was known as Blanco Canyon and was located just to the east of present-day Lubbock, one of the Quahadis' favorite campgrounds. Whatever surprise Mackenzie had hoped for was gone. On the third day the Tonkawa scouts realized they were being shadowed by a group of four Comanche warriors, who had been watching their every move, presumably including what must have seemed to them the comical blunders of the night march. The Tonks gave chase, but "the hostiles being better mounted soon distanced their pursuers and vanished into the hills." This was not surprising: In two hundred years of enmity, the Tonkawas had never been close to matching the horsemanship of the Comanches. They always lost. The result was that, while the cavalrymen and dragoons had no idea where the Comanches were camped, Quanah knew precisely what Mackenzie was doing and where he was. The next night Mackenzie compounded the error by allowing the men the indulgence of campfires, tantamount to painting a large arrow in the canyon pointing to their camp. Some of the companies blundered yet again by failing to place "sleeping parties" among the horses. At around midnight, the regiment was awakened by a succession of unearthly, high-pitched yells. Those were followed by shots, and more yells, and suddenly the camp was alive with Comanches riding at full gallop. Exactly what the Indians were doing was soon apparent: Mingled with the screams and gunshots and general mayhem of the camp was another sound, only barely audible at first, then rising quickly to something like rolling thunder. The men quickly realized, to their horror, that it was the sound of stampeding horses. Their horses. Amid shouts of "Every man to his lariat!" six hundred panicked horses tore loose through the camp, rearing, jumping, and plunging at full speed. Lariats snapped with the sound of pistol shots; iron picket pins that a few minutes before had been used to secure the horses now whirled and snapped about their necks like airborne sabres. Men tried to grab them and were thrown to the ground and dragged among the horses, their hands lacerated and bleeding. When it was all over, the soldiers discovered that Quanah and his warriors had made off with seventy of their best horses and mules, including Colonel Mackenzie's magnificent gray pacer. In west Texas in 1871, stealing someone's horse was often equivalent to a death sentence. It was an old Indian tactic, especially on the high plains, to simply steal white men's horses and leave them to die of thirst or starvation. Comanches had used it to lethal effect against the Spanish in the early eighteenth century. In any case, an unmounted army regular stood little chance against a mounted Comanche. This midnight raid was Quanah's calling card, a clear message that hunting him and his Comanche warriors in their homeland was going to be a difficult and treacherous business. Thus began what would become known to history as the Battle of Blanco Canyon, which was in turn the opening salvo in a bloody Indian war in the highlands of west Texas that would last four years and culminate in the final destruction of the Comanche nation. Blanco Canyon would also provide the U.S. Army with its first look at Quanah. Captain Carter, who would win the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in Blanco Canyon, offered this description of the young war chief in battle on the day after the midnight stampede: A large and powerfully built chief led the bunch, on a coal black racing pony. Leaning forward upon his mane, his heels nervously working in the animal's side, with six-shooter poised in the air, he seemed the incarnation of savage, brutal joy. His face was smeared with black warpaint, which gave his features a satanic look. . . . A full-length headdress or war bonnet of eagle's feathers, spreading out as he rode, and descending from his forehead, over head and back, to his pony's tail, almost swept the ground. Large brass hoops were in his ears; he was naked to the waist, wearing simply leggings, moccasins and a breechclout. A necklace of beare's claws hung about his neck. . . . Bells jingled as he rode at headlong speed, followed by the leading warriors, all eager to outstrip him in the race. It was Quanah, principal warchief of the Qua-ha-das.15 Moments later, Quanah wheeled his horse in the direction of an unfortunate private named Seander Gregg and, as Carter and his men watched, blew Gregg's brains out. © 2010 S. C. Gwynne Excerpted from 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 All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

1 A New Kind of Warp. 1
2 A Lethal Paradisep. 12
3 Worlds in Collisionp. 23
4 High Lonesomep. 36
5 The Wolf's Howlp. 53
6 Blood and Smokep. 73
7 Dream Visions and Apocalypsep. 89
8 White Squawp. 102
9 Chasing the Windp. 119
10 Death's Innocent Facep. 128
11 War to the Knifep. 151
12 White Queen of the Comanchesp. 173
13 The Rise of Quanahp. 194
14 Uncivil Warsp. 207
15 Peace, and Other Horrorsp. 222
16 The Anti-Custerp. 235
17 Mackenzie Unboundp. 250
18 The Hide Men and the Messiahp. 258
19 The Red River Warp. 274
20 Forward, In Defeatp. 288
21 This was a Manp. 308
22 Resting Here Until Day Breaksp. 316
Notesp. 321
Bibliographyp. 343
Indexp. 356