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The Year of Decision 1846 (Trilogy of the West #2)

4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  181 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
Year of Decision 1846 tells many fascinating stories of the U.S. explorers who began the western march from the Mississippi to the Pacific, from Canada to the annexation of Texas, California, and the southwest lands from Mexico. It is the penultimate book of a trilogy which includes Across the Wide Missouri (for which DeVoto won both the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes) and T ...more
Paperback, 576 pages
Published October 5th 2000 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1943)
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Mar 14, 2015 dianne rated it really liked it
Shelves: mormon
What a fantastic history. The somewhat insane people who sustained a roughly 50% mortality - walking, pushing, dragging all they have across 3000+ mostly hostile miles to land in a totally unknown geography; and at that point not part of a country they knew.
California's written history is about 2 minutes long. My father knew his great grandmother well - distinct and complex memories; she arrived with Sam Brannan in San Francisco in 1846 on the ship Brooklyn whose contents doubled the Euro popula
Lloyd Hughes
Oct 03, 2015 Lloyd Hughes rated it it was amazing
This book and its predecessors 'The Course of Empire' and 'Across the Wide Missouri' are must reads for anybody interested in pre-Civil War American History. The author, Bernard DeVoto, presents profound and astute analysis grounded in in-depth research and encyclopedic knowledge of subject, free from political correctness, in a very readable, straight-forward, and no-nonsense manner. You might agree or disagree with his conclusions but you won't question his integrity.
Jan 11, 2016 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
THE YEAR OF DECISION: 1846. (1942). Bernard DeVoto. ****1/2.
This study of America’s western history is probably my favorite history book. DeVoto wrote a trilogy of books exploring this subject, for one of which he won the Pulitzer Prize. In this volume, he selected the year 1846 as the pivotal year for America’s expansion to the Pacific Ocean. If you have any interest at all in how America won the west, this is a must-read book. He was a superb writer who knew his subject very well, and managed
Feb 06, 2011 Wanda rated it it was amazing
James K. Polk may just be my favorite president. And we did NOT steal it. We won it in a fair fight. Get over it, losers!
Glen Pekin
Aug 03, 2014 Glen Pekin rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This guy could write history. You might think it is out dated but put him on you history shelf.
Katherine Addison
This is a tremendously ambitious and entertaining book. De Voto's project is to examine, explore, and explain what happened to America in A.D. 1846, and he does an excellent job of it, from the politicians in Washington, to the army in Mexico, the Mormons fleeing Missouri, and of course the Donner Party descending to cannibalism on the verge of California. He uses lots and lots of primary sources, has a magnificently entertaining and snarky prose style, and not only explained mid-nineteenth cent ...more
Feb 19, 2011 Jeff rated it it was ok
Sludgy. Great content, fusty prose that kept mucking it up. Great for its time, no doubt, but now a museum piece...
Craig Knott
Jan 24, 2008 Craig Knott rated it it was amazing
It's an amazingly detailed account of one of the most pivotal year in the American History. The book is thick 500 pg read set up in chapters that cover every major player from J.k. Polk to John C. Freemont, to the Donner Party, to the invasion of Mexico by Zach Taylor and W. Scott to Brigham Young and the Saints exodus. The Pulitzer Prize winning author, Bernard Devoto, was actually raised in Ogden in the early 20th century and moved on to be a profeesor at Harvard and one of the Ages most respe ...more
Oct 28, 2012 Clytee rated it really liked it
I found this book in a used book store and it jumped off the shelf at me. Mine is the original published in 1942, a hardback with the dustcover and I just loved it! It is a long read at 500+ pages, but it was so much of so many different histories that I have learned put together. It is about "some people who went west in 1846". It was the year the War with Mexico was started (during which my great-great grandfather spent a year in the Army), tells of the Donner party (I have read a lot about th ...more
Oct 30, 2015 Nooilforpacifists rated it liked it
Shelves: american-history
Useful, but tedious. Read a Polk bio or "Let the Sea Make A Noise", by Walter McDougall.
Feb 12, 2016 Yves rated it really liked it
Shelves: us-history
A must read for those who, like me, did not know much about the Conquest of the West besides the stories brought to us through the lenses of John Ford and Hollywood. This highly detailed account leads us through the making of a nation that began spreading across an entire continent, effectively picking up momentum in 1846, the 'Year of Decision'. It encompasses the military expeditions into New Mexico, Tejas, California, the war with Mexico, and the hardships and woes of Mormons and Gentiles emi ...more
Saran Wolf
Jun 01, 2016 Saran Wolf rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic book - I would give it 5 stars except it can drive you mad with references to things that must have been "what everyone knows about America" in the 1940s, but which I need Google or Wikipedia for nowadays to work out what exactly he is talking about, especially when he quotes from authors such as Thoreau, who to me are half-remembered half-never-known from my studies.

But aside from this, its remarkably readable, it has tremendous scope, it digs deep into the many issues that
Bob H
Dec 04, 2014 Bob H rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Bernard de Voto's prose was brilliant, and not always complementary to his American characters. Note this, which still rings true:
"... nor the creation in newsprint of a great public hero, is an invention of our age, which has not seen any betterment of the technique that erected [John C.] Fremont into a martyr ... That creation was almost enough to wreck the republic. It was enough to convince innumerable people born since the advertising stopped and its proprietors died ... that incompetence i
Richard Diamond
Feb 05, 2015 Richard Diamond rated it it was ok
It might have been a great book 70 years ago, but now it's not. Too opinionated for a good history. Leaves out an important part of the Mormon March into California and too biased with respect to individuals he likes and doesn't like. Not sorry I read it. I needed a good laugh and an understanding of how history was written 70 years ago.
Jan C
Aug 05, 2009 Jan C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this in college. Borrowed my parents' copy from 1943 or some such year.

He was so thorough. Did anything happen in 1846 that he didn't cover? Probably not.

Possibly a little too thorough when it came to the details of the Donner Party. That part was just revolting. To find out real details of what starvation can drive people to. And how stupidity can really put you in danger.

But when, I think it was John Reade, was walking off, determined to get to civilization or freeze in the process, I
Mar 15, 2016 John rated it really liked it
I read this book for book club. It is a challenging read, being that it was written in the 1940s. But it is a very fascinating read, about a time in American history that is not very well known. It was great, for example, to learn about the presidency of Polk. I now know that he was quite a president, and that he did a great deal to affect the future of the United States. In particular, he is the one responsible for obtaining Texas, California and Oregon for the United States. I also learned abo ...more
Jan 10, 2015 Daniel rated it it was amazing
An older style of writing, to be sure... Written during WWII ... But well worth the effort. Get past the writing style and get to the meat of this ... It is a wealth of information, and a fascinating story that begins to make the reasons for the Civil war comprehensible ...
Feb 20, 2016 Marius rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Great review of the migration of 1846 - Covers everything from Childe Harold's imaginary campaigns to the Donner Party's cannibalistic end (which is a gruesome read) DeVoto's humor reminds me a lot of Bukowski. He's kind of a non-drunk Bukowski writing history. Great stuff.
Tim Basuino
Jul 09, 2013 Tim Basuino rated it really liked it
If you're the type of person who likes short stories about heroes of the Old West, this book is not for you. Very detailed discussions about the Donner Party, the Mexican War, and the acts that led to Sowing The Seeds of The Civil War.
Mike Harry
Mar 04, 2016 Mike Harry rated it it was amazing
The last of the DeVoto trilogy. First read 'The Course of Empire' and then 'Across the Wide Missouri'. Anyone interested in the history of the west, indeed the American Empire, should take these on.
Mar 12, 2011 Bruce rated it really liked it
Another good history of the far west, chronicling a year that opened it to US citizens following the Mexican War.
John Nelson
Nov 17, 2013 John Nelson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Volume One of Bernard Devoto's three-volume history of America's westward expansion and Manifest Destiny.
James Valentine
a delightful read of the many facts setting the stage for the coming of the great American Civil War.
Dec 08, 2008 Nomad rated it it was amazing
this is one great is a history book that reads like a great novel....what a year 1846
Jul 03, 2009 Gary rated it it was amazing
The book that gave me the basis for my thesis. I owe it all to this little blue book.
David Gross
Apr 16, 2011 David Gross rated it really liked it
Read this one a long time ago and just started to read it again. Fascinating stuff.
Mar 24, 2008 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very informative and entertaining as well.
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Bernard Augustine DeVoto was an American historian and author who specialized in the history of the American West.
More about Bernard DeVoto...

Other Books in the Series

Trilogy of the West (3 books)
  • Across the Wide Missouri
  • The Course of Empire

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“And by the end of March one of them had already begun his journey. Twenty-two years old, an A.B. and LL.B. of Harvard, Francis Parkman was back from a winter trip to scenes in Pennsylvania and Ohio that would figure in his book and now he started with his cousin, Quincy Adams Shaw, for St. Louis. He was prepared to find it quite as alien to Beacon Hill as the Dakota lands beyond it, whither he was going. He was already an author (a poet and romancer), had already designed the great edifice his books were to build, and already suffered from the mysterious, composite illness that was to make his life a long torture. He hoped, in fact, that a summer on the prairies might relieve or even cure the malady that had impaired his eyes and, he feared, his heart and brain as well. He had done his best to cure it by systematic exercise, hard living in the White Mountains, and a regimen self-imposed in the code of his Puritan ancestors which would excuse no weakness. But more specifically Parkman was going west to study the Indians. He intended to write the history of the conflict between imperial Britain and imperial France, which was in great part a story of Indians. The Conspiracy of Pontiac had already taken shape in his mind; beyond it stretched out the aisles and transepts of what remains the most considerable achievement by an American historian. So he needed to see some uncorrupted Indians in their native state. It was Parkman’s fortune to witness and take part in one of the greatest national experiences, at the moment and site of its occurrence. It is our misfortune that he did not understand the smallest part of it. No other historian, not even Xenophon, has ever had so magnificent an opportunity: Parkman did not even know that it was there, and if his trip to the prairies produced one of the exuberant masterpieces of American literature, it ought instead to have produced a key work of American history. But the other half of his inheritance forbade. It was the Puritan virtues that held him to the ideal of labor and achievement and kept him faithful to his goal in spite of suffering all but unparalleled in literary history. And likewise it was the narrowness, prejudice, and mere snobbery of the Brahmins that insulated him from the coarse, crude folk who were the movement he traveled with, turned him shuddering away from them to rejoice in the ineffabilities of Beacon Hill, and denied our culture a study of the American empire at the moment of its birth. Much may rightly be regretted, therefore. But set it down also that, though the Brahmin was indifferent to Manifest Destiny, the Puritan took with him a quiet valor which has not been outmatched among literary folk or in the history of the West.” 1 likes
“California was almost entirely a dream, a dream vague but deep in the minds of a westering people.” 0 likes
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