This was really an exceptional history of the Comanches and their role in delaying the opening of the American West. The Comanches were legendary for their fighting ability and their horsemanship. Long before the whites came into their land, they were fighting with other tribes including the Apaches. They were also known for their bloodthirstiness and torture which they had used on their enemies for centuries. When the whites came along this was also used on them. This book really does not flinch in describing this. They were so skillful with their arrows and lances that they stopped the northern drive of colonial Spain from Mexico as well as the French expansion westward from Louisiana. The Comanches forced the creation of the Texas Rangers but the war with them lasted four decades and held up the development of the American nation.
As part of the back-drop for this history, Gwynne tells the story of the pioneer woman, Cynthia Ann Parker
, who was abducted by the Comanches when she was about ten. She was adopted by the tribe and lived with them for 24 years before being taken back in a raid by Texas Rangers.
She left behind two sons, one of which was Quanah Parker who became the last chief of the Comanches. "Parker rose quickly to the leadership of the Quahadi band of Comanches as a young man of perhaps only 20. 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. 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, one who âlooked resolutely forward toward something betterâ rather than surrendering to embitterment or allowing himself to be put on display as a wild Indian now tamed."
This really engaging history provides a no-holds-barred look at the Comanche people and how they tried to maintain their way of life. This did include a lot of bloodshed and torture but to them there was no other way to survive. With the killing of the buffalo by the hide takers and the outright orders for their extermination by the government, their way of life was doomed.