Empire of the Summer Moon

Empire of the Summer Moon

Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

Book - 2010
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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.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, 2010
Edition: First Scribner hardcover edition
ISBN: 9781416591054
Characteristics: viii, 371 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 24 cm


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Jun 28, 2018

A brutal history, brilliantly told. This book describes the clash of two cultures, that could never coexist, where one or the other had to prevail to survive. We know the winner. Here you will get a fuller account of who the Plains people were, and how the coming of the settlers ultimately led to the end of their way of life.

I recommend this book. Also, "News of the World" and "The Captured".

May 25, 2018

wish this had been shared in my high school class .
amazing story !

Nov 28, 2017

The most realistic account of the demise of the Indian nations and how the "whites" ultimately won the battle. Horrific battles and raids on families on both sides of the fence depicted with unflinching reality; there are some accounts that go so far into unimaginable brutality one will find their breath swept away. You think I'm using hyperbole? Ha. Tell me that after you read it.

Jul 05, 2017


May 09, 2017

Beautifully presented, one of my all-time best reads.

Feb 27, 2017

Not a history major? This might be difficult to get through. But it's an amazing story.

ArapahoeLesley Nov 23, 2016

S.C. Gwynne writes an entertaining and comprehensive book about an amazing and tragic piece of American history previously unknown to me. Highly recommended.

Sep 16, 2016

There are some excellent comments below and each has nuggets of truth as well as misinterpretations of what the author is saying. Bottom line is that this book is extremely enlightening and while describing the violent nature of the Comanche, the author is still very sympathetic to them for the loss of their land and way of life. The author is an historian; the book is well researched and contains pages of footnotes. Don't let the overly politically correct reviewers below dissuade you from reading this book. You can still be sympathetic to First Nations without ignoring the barbaric nature of some of their customs. European history is full of barbarism and war.

Jul 05, 2016

Great book and truly enlightening. Amazing what the old west was like during the pioneer days

Jun 24, 2016

I valued reading this book immensely as it greatly changed my perspective on the history and subject of the American West. I am also greatly impressed by the military accomplishments of the Comanche Tribe from the before 1800 till the end of their Empire around 1880. It is thanks to them that Spain's conquistadors were halted, no annihilated. The missions in Comanche territory were abandoned. At the same time I was deeply angered by the accounts of torture to the death of captives, which included women and children, and infants! In one word, this is unspeakable; and even it was in European Pioneer culture of the 1800's. It was very accepted among many native American tribes, and they did it also to other native American tribes. The accounts in this book helped me to understand the hatred most pioneers had for Comanche and other tribes. A side that is not often illustrated or sympathized with. The book is obviously from the Euro-American perspective as the writer is true to his own. I did not find the book to be biased or racist, though. S.C. Gwynne has meticulously researched his historical facts, and it is a very truthful and accurate account of events. In all, this book sets the record straight and improves our understanding of both sides of the frontier.

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