Among my summer reads, I'm especially enjoying S. C. Gwynne's new book, Empire of the Summer Moon. As readers have learned to expect, it's the subtitle that tells you what this one is about: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History.
It's like David McCullough wrote a book about the Comanches. It's that good.
But the book isn't just about Quanah Parker and his father's tribe. It also relates a good bit about other Indian tribes, the Spanish in the American Southwest, and the early days of Texas. The following passage is a good sample and relates something that I think is very important about the history and culture of the Lone Star State:
Texas was never supposed to be its own sovereign country. After their victory at San Jacinto the vast majority of Texans believed that their territory would be immediately annexed by the United States. There were a few would-be empire builders like Mirabeau Lamar and James Parker (who volunteered to fulfill Lamar's grandiose vision by conquering New Mexico) who had other ideas. But mostly everyone else wanted statehood. They were soon disappointed. There were two main reasons it did not happen. First, Mexico had never recognized the Independence of its renegade northern province. If the United States added Texas it risked war with Mexico, something that, in 1836, it was not prepared to do. Nor could it easily admit a slave territory.
Texas was thus left alone, broke and militarily punchless, for ten years to confront two implacable enemies: Mexico on the south, and the Comanche nation on the west and north. The fledgling country would never know peace. Mexican incursions persisted; the city of San Antonio was captured twice by large Mexican armies in 1842. Raids were constant, as was the the predation of itinerant bandits from across the border. And Texas's western frontier was the scene of continuous attacks by Comanches. It is interesting to note Texas's peculiar position here: Neither of these enemies would have accepted peace on the terms the new republic would have offered them. Even more remarkably, neither would accept surrender. The Mexican army consistently gave no quarter, most famously at the Alamo. All Texan combatants were summarily shot. The Nermernuh, [i.e., Comanches] meanwhile, did not even have a word for surrender. In plains warfare there was never any such thing; it was always a fight to the death. In this sense, the Texans did not have the usual range of diplomatic options. They had to fight. (p. 131, emphasis is original).
One of many priceless passages.