Monday, August 27, 2007
Blood and Thunder, An Epic of the American West, by Hampton Sides is a relatively new book (copyright 2006) that details the histories of both the Navajo Indians and Christopher, “Kit” Carson from the 1840s to the 1860s. The book describes in well documented and fascinating terms how both were inexorably intertwined.
Kit Carson spent the majority of his life in the New Mexico/Colorado area and was intimately familiar with the Navajo. He was probably the most important non-Indian figure in the history of the Navajo. He both fought and made peace with them. He saw them as a powerful and fearful nation and later as a pitiful group of destitute “natives”.
I found the description of Kit’s last days particularly poignant. Here was an almost mythical personality who was known throughout the civilized world for his amazing accomplishments in an uncivilized world. Near death himself, he held his young wife in his arms as she died from complications of childbirth. He would suffer an agonizing death himself not one month later, leaving seven children as orphans.
In this book, Hampton Sides presents an immense amount of historical fact in an ever so easy read. He educates the reader in the history and leaders of the Navajo nation in an even handed way. He also shows Carson as a man and not the man-myth that many authors have described.
The American West of the 1840-1860 period is a fascinating place. If you want to explore it, this book is a good place to begin.