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Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson & the Conquest of the American West

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  5,170 ratings  ·  576 reviews
In the fall of 1846 the venerable Navajo warrior Narbona, greatest of his people’s chieftains, looked down upon the small town of Santa Fe, the stronghold of the Mexican settlers he had been fighting his whole long life. He had come to see if the rumors were true—if an army of blue-suited soldiers had swept in from the East and utterly defeated his ancestral enemies. As Na ...more
Paperback, 624 pages
Published October 9th 2007 by Anchor (first published October 3rd 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Michael
Great narrative history account of Kit Carson's later years in Santa Fe that encompasses the twisted threads of the several tribes residing in the area, the longstanding Mexican settlements, the growing numbers of American settlers, and the U.S. Army operating under the mandates of Polk's Manifest Destiny.

Overall Carson is portrayed sympathetically as a complex character marked both by a love of Native Americans (he married one) and by skill in fighting bands who carried out violent incursions
...more
Chrissie
This review is not a summary of the events discussed in the book itself. Instead read the book to learn of America’s expansion westward to the Pacific in the middle of the 1800sand of fascinating details about Native American customs and beliefs!

The further you get into the story the better and better it gets.

Here is what I liked:

- The atrocities committed by both sides, those by the Indians and those by the conquering Americans, are presented without bias.
- These atrocities are factually prese
...more
Steve
If you don’t know much about Kit Carson, or his life and times, Hampton Sides’ Blood and Thunder is probably a fine place to start. Carson was one of those rare historical figures whose life would intersect, numerous times, with important moments, and people, in American history. Primarily, Sides focuses on Carson’s role with the whole Manifest Destiny movement, which was initiated by President Polk in the 1840s. Still, this is an enormous chunk of history that literally covers the entire contin ...more
Mike
Hampton Sides is a wonderful writer of history. "Blood and Thunder" details the continuing conflict between the Navajo tribes and the successive occupants of New Mexico from its original occupation by the Spanish, through the Mexican government and finally the United States.

In addition to covering this lengthy cultural conflict, Sides weaves the biography of Kit Carson and his significant involvement in the New Mexico Territory. The title of Side's book is drawn from the term "Blood and Thunder"
...more
Patrick Gibson
When the Pulitzer for fiction was handed out in 2006, I was adamant it had been given for the wrong book (“March”). “Blood and Thunder” should have had the honor hands down. I was actually angry over this. The clarity of thought and expression in this chronicle goes way beyond your ordinary history of the West. Not just a biography of Kit Carson, though he is used as the fulcrum which balances western expansionism with Native Americans (primarily the Navajo), this is a comprehensive discourse on ...more
Carl Brush
My ignorance sometimes appalls me. The first time I visited Santa Fe --in my 40’s, old enough and educated enough to know better--I was astounded to see that the city had been founded ten years before Plymouth Rock felt the tread of a Pilgrim’s foot. I knew the Spanish had been nosing around Mexico and the Southwest since the 16th Century, but had no notion they’d done anything permanent. Well, they had. And in 1826 young and orphaned Christopher Carson of Missouri sauntered down the Santa Fe t ...more
Justin
A fantastic account of the life and times of Kit Carson, Narbona, General Kearny, John Fremont, et al. This books interweaves their stories through the early American republic, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, and beyond. It's very much in the vein of Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, this one involving the Navajo, the New Mexicans, and the Anglo settlers and soldiers. Gripping, moving, and ...more
Shawn
This is the first book that I have read by Hampton Sides. While I do not think that I am an expert in the history of New Mexico and the Navajo, I do feel that I have an adequate background to make some observations. Sides' view of Kit Carson I found interesting. It seems as if he went to some length to modernize Carson's opinions of the Native Americans. Kit Carson was always a proponent of Manifest Destiny. In my past reading of Kit Carson I seem to remember the frontiersman's view of the India ...more
Brian
I picked this book for no reason other than I loved the last book I read by Hampton Sides. His book, Ghost Soldiers, was so well-written and thoroughly researched that he became an instant favorite of mine as an author.

This book was no different. Scholarly, but not dry; dramatic, but objectively so; focused, but set on a broad landscape of the American west, while covering a range of years from the early 19th century through just after the civil war.

"Blood and Thunder" refers to the genre of t
...more
Danielle
I actually checked this out from the library for my husband, thinking it would be the kind of (lame) thing he would like. But, I ended up reading it myself and totally loved it. It covers an era and location in history that just doesn't get much play, and I was very impressed with the author's ability to cover a big subject in a way that was cohesive, interesting, and kept moving. Good non-fiction is an art, people.
Anyway, from the title, I thought this was mostly going to be about war. Indian a
...more
Jeffrey
O.K. So I finally got off my duff. It's not that I haven't been reading, this is just the first book I finished since I signed up for this web site.

Hampton Sides is managing editor of Outside magazine. He does a very creditable job acting as a historical researcher documenting the life of Kit Carson, hero of the West, and still writing an exciting action filled book that reads like a novel at times. Who'd have guessed that Kit Carson was a legend in his own time, not just a comic book hero for m
...more
Jeffery Moulton
I knew absolutely zero about Kit Carson besides his name prior to reading this book. And, even though I grew up close to the Navajo reservation, I sadly knew very little about them and their history as well. This book changed all that.

This book was fascinating. It covers a lot of ground, history-wise, dealing with the conquering of New Mexico, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War battles of the Southwest, the Navajo War, and the forced relocation of the Navajos, all-the-while giving details a
...more
Trisha
I know there are good American history teachers in the world (like my brother-in-law for example) but somehow I never had one. So reading this book has made up for what I missed by not learning about the western expansion through the southwest that resulted in such shameful treatment of Native Americans. Fueled by President Polk’s theory of Manifest Destiny, the Indian Wars turned into a self-perpetuating sequence of atrocities as each engagement quickly led to another. To tell the story of this ...more
Steven Peterson
This is an excellent biography of a famous American pioneer--Kit Carson. What sets it apart is its humane treatment of a complex figure. Carson appears to have been the "real deal," not a manufactured hero.

The book proceeds by interweaving several story lines, which can be somewhat confusing at times but, in the end, this serves the author well. Among the story lines--Kit Carson's exploits, the Navajo leader Narbona's story, General Stephen Kearney's episodes, and so on.

Kit Carson's role--from
...more
George Bradford
Jan 26, 2009 George Bradford rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to George Bradford by: John Dodge, Scott
Shelves: america
Before Forest Gump came along, there was Kit Carson; a man who found himself in the middle of nearly every important historical event of his lifetime. If something important happened in North America while Kit Carson was alive, it's very likely he played a leading role in it. The western expansion of the U.S., establishing the Sante Fe trail, the Spanish-American War, the War with Mexico, Manifest Destiny, the Civil War, you name it, Kit Carson was there.

This is a fascinating story. Hampton Side
...more
Susan
Published in 2006, Sides might have subtitled this something about Kit Carson since he is the central figure in the book.

I am not a history buff, but I agreed to read this for a book discussion led by one of my long-time friends. (Oh, what we will do for our friends.) I do know that if my high school American history teacher had made the study of history as interesting as Sides does I might have a whole different feeling about it at this late date. But that didn’t happen. Sigh…

The stories Sides
...more
JR Lamb
If you like anything about the mid 1800's then you NEED to get this book; it is wonderfully told. It chronicles the life of Kit Carson telling of his life as a mountain man, hunter/trapper, military guide and military officer. The author does not dwell too much on the "mountain man" side of Kit (1820-1845 or so) but more of the military guide/military officer side starting around 1846. The author parallels Kit’s story with two other story lines and he masterfully pulls everything together well b ...more
Peter
Don't be put off by the cliched title--this is a surprisingly interesting history of the early Indian Wars in the New Mexico region as well as a good biography of Kit Carson, the Zelig of the Southwest. Told in a brisk and very literate way, with thorough research into the letters and military reports of the participants, the book is a must-read for those interested in Southwestern history and the American push westward.

The Mexican War of 1846 (James Polk's invasion of New Mexico) was over quick
...more
Sheila
The book is well written and the history important. I wanted to learn something of Kit Carson, who is kind of an icon that I (and I think others) know little of, other than that he was a Westerner. There's no question he was an excellent mountain man - trapper & tracker of humans and animals; wholly self-sufficient in the wild. He was also a minion, as opposed to a leader, by which I mean that he was a tool of Fremont and other "leaders" and did many bad deeds at their command. It was not un ...more
John
I wanted to brush up on my Southwestern history before my trip (or rather, learn some Southwestern history, of which I knew very little). This provided a great overview of the first twenty years of US control over the New Mexico territory, from the Mexican War through the expulsion and later return of the Navajo. Part of it is just my recent fascination with all things Native American, but I find all this stuff really interesting, and I continually come back to the fact that NONE of this was tau ...more
Caroline
Kit Carson is one of those legendary figures that I've always been vaguely aware of but never entirely sure why. He was in the same sort of pantheon as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, rough-and-rugged mountain men, legendary heroes of the West - but I never knew why he was a legend, what his history was, what he'd done or where he'd been. And this book more than fills in those blanks.

But this book is more than a straightforward biography of Kit Carson. The author weaves in the story of the land
...more
Adele
Blood and Thunder could be a really dry history book that I tried in vain to read because I really thought I ought to, a la 1776. Except for that it wasn't dull. I'm biased because I'm obsessed with New Mexico and I never had New Mexico History in school, but I found Sides' account of Kit Carson's life, the plight of Native Americans in the West and conquest in general just short of riveting. Blood and Thunder wasn't a page turner per se, but still managed to be really interesting and thought-pr ...more
Cameron
This is an excellent history of the "pacification" of the Navajo and the conquest of the American west following the Civil War. The book is also part biography, part character study of Kit Carson, a famous mountain man who is deeply involved in the story. I was most impressed with the impartiality of this book - it's no "Trail of Tears" narrative. The author shows the crimes committed and suffered on both sides, and I found it difficult to sympathize with anyone other than the innocents who were ...more
Graham Polando
This is the first Hampton Sides book I haven't absolutely loved, so I might be unduly harsh--but I simply don't understand the universal acclaim. First, "epic" is definitely an appropriate term in the subtitle; the book is incredibly long. More importantly, there didn't seem to be any unifying theme, character, event, or region. Though loosely framed around Kit Carson's life and the American West, plenty of events that don't involve him or the West are included. It's well-written, but the good w ...more
James
After reading "Blood and Thunder", I began to understand more and more what DW Griffith meant when he said "You don't need someone to write a great story for a film when the people have already written a great story with their lives." And what a life Kit Carson has lead!! This man is the epitome of the wild west. He has done nearly everything that one could have done in that time. A frontiersman, fur trapper, diplomat, scout, explorer, Indian fighter, adjutant, soldier, and eventually commandin ...more
Bruce
This history of the New Mexico territory in the early nineteenth century, centers on the life of one of its most famous citizens: mountain man, scout, and United States Army officer Christopher Carson. Kit Carson was so famous in his own time that he regularly appeared as a hero in the “blood and thunder” popular fiction of the day. Short of stature and speech Carson struck many who met him for the first time as the antithesis of his fictional portrait. He drank little and swore less, As Sides p ...more
Henry Demond
No, I’m not talking about how my 11-year old (“Thunder”) skinned his knee. Though sometimes I think it can take an Act of Congress to get the boy to calm down during a crisis. Kids these days are like Wild Navajos.

Which somehow, some way, brings me to a new book review, and though I have been reading at my usual pace, this is the first review I’ve posted in sometime. If you read these reviews faster than I can write them, I offer my apologies.

Once again, I am still following the bunny trail that
...more
Delway Burton
For anyone interested in a history of the American West, this book is for you. Covering the primary period of Manifest Destiny, 1845-1865, the story line centers on Kit Carson, the legendary mountain man, guide, and Indian fighter. Despite his notoriety as an Indian fighter, he married an Indian and in many cases was their advocate. His fame was solidified by the dime novels of the period, but of course the truth is much different. His adventures challenge the imagination and are no less excitin ...more
Mike
Oct 27, 2008 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: US history buffs, Native American enthusiasts.
What a book. Extremely interesting account of Kit Carson's life, and the life of the pre-Civil War southwest. The bold, beautiful, cowardly and brave are all revealed, with a cast of characters that would rival any Russian play.

As usual, the American Indian ends up with the short end of the stick. Anyone looking to have a better grasp of the history of New Mexico should read this book.
Mr. Sides is to be credited for such a great tome.
Jimajima9
This book is appealingly simple and deceptively complex.
Each section describes a situation/person with compelling details. We think we understand what is going on.
We like the person. We understand the situation.
Then another section tells it's tale, maybe without an obvious connection to previous sections.
Where is this going?

The broader theme is:
- western expansion
- manifest destiny
- mexican-american war
- a coast-to-coast mentality
- imposition of the 'New England' mindset; ie: cultivate a plot of
...more
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