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Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West

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4.18  ·  Rating details ·  8,734 Ratings  ·  823 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
Audio CD, Abridged, 480 pages
Published October 3rd 2006 by Random House Audio
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Chris Sunderland Edward Sheriff Curtis spent 30 years talking to and photographing the native indians and compiled a 20 volume work. See Edward S. Curtis, Visions of…moreEdward Sheriff Curtis spent 30 years talking to and photographing the native indians and compiled a 20 volume work. See Edward S. Curtis, Visions of the First Americans by Don Gulbrandsen for many of his fantastic prints.(less)
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Matt
This is how history should be written. This is the kind of book that spoils you for other books.

Hampton Sides’ Blood and Thunder is a sprawling account of the opening of the American southwest. It starts in 1846, with American soldiers arriving in Santa Fe, and ends roughly around the time of the First Battle of Adobe Walls in 1864. The two decades in between are stuffed with drama, horror, and heartbreak. All the stuff that used to fill the dime-store “blood and thunders” that lends this book
...more
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
Cody
Sep 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hampton Sides caught my attention when his latest book, “In the Kingdom of Ice” came out in late 2014. I love a good arctic exploration story and was fully impressed by Sides’ research and storytelling capabilities. Of course, now I had to read the rest of his work and “Blood and Thunder” jumped to the front of my list.

Kit Carson serves as the perfect focal point for a sweeping view of the Southwest territories in the middle of the 19th century. This is not necessarily a biography of Carson hims
...more
Jim
This is a truly outstanding book...history that reads like fiction; my favourite kind! As the title suggests, the book details the conquest of the American West. Of course conquering the West was virtually synonymous with subjugating the American Indian, which is what this book is really about.

Kit Carson does hold the story together, being involved from the first chapter to the last, but it is a Kit Carson I was not expecting to meet. I anticipated a larger-than-life brawling, drinking, Injun sc
...more
Chrissie
Jun 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 21, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
Lawyer
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
Wayne Barrett
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing

4.5

If you liked Cormack McCarthy's 'Blood Meridian' you'll love this non-fiction account of America's expansion into the west.
Having been born and raised in California, I recognized many of the names mentioned in this tale because they are the names of cities, counties, etc. Stockton, Kern, Freemont, and of course, Carson City. And now I know the history of the names attached to these places I grew up with.
Agree or disagree, Manifest Destiny is part of our history and Hampton Sides did a super
...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
Emily
I loved this book. It's one of the most engaging, creatively told works of nonfiction I've ever read. Hampton Sides tells a cohesive and propulsive story that takes you from the opening of the American west in the 1820s through the Long Walk of the Navajo after the Civil War.

The focus is somewhat on Kit Carson, whose (frankly incredible) life somehow spans most of the interesting events happening west of the Mississippi from 1820 on, from the Fremont expedition to the conquest of California to
...more
Max
Sep 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
Sides depicts an icon of the western frontier, the exploitation of the land and subjugation of Native Americans. Kit Carson’s life follows the frontier’s fortunes, from his early days as a fur trapper to his role leading three Fremont expeditions to his exploits in the Mexican War and his chronicled battles with the Indians. Throughout, Carson’s skills, integrity, loyalty and unerring sixth sense were so prodigious that he seems the stuff of fiction. However, soft spoken standing only 5’4” with ...more
Fred Forbes
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Remember the old Tonight Show when Ed or Johnny would drop a factoid and the other would reply "I.did.not.know. that!"? Found myself doing that a lot as I read this even though I thought I knew a good bit about this historical period. Details related to the Mexican War, Western settlement, Civil War, Indian Wars, and the Fremont expeditions I thought I had down but was continually impressed as the story emerged. Kit Carson I was only slightly familiar with but sure know him a lot better now. Fas ...more
Carl R.
May 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Josh
Jun 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kit Carson.........some kind of interesting, odd, and uncommon fellow. Hampton Sides is quickly becoming one of my favorite non-fiction writers; choosing to enlighten me on a range of diverse and interesting topics. Had he not written this one, I would have likely missed a whole lot of factoids about a part of the country I really love told through the story of a wee little mountain man turned fighter turned legend turned diplomatic figurehead from the part of the country I am from.

No doubt, th
...more
Shawn
May 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Steven Peterson
Sep 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dave
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
An excellent book of southwestern America history - about 1820 to 1870. Author Hampton Sides weaves the narrative around the life of Christopher ('Kit') Carson and the Navaho Indian tribe. The book jacket provides a very nice and concise description of "Blood & Thunder", so I will not repeat it here.
This is the second nonfiction history book by Hampton Sides I've read ("In the Kingdom of Ice" being the other). He writes superbly, I can't recommend him enough. His pacing, language, attention
...more
Brian
May 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
EggSalad
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An engrossing read. The author does an excellent job of illustrating a very complex part of history. Some of the prose is downright beautiful. The book also seems like a fair take on events -- it's not heavy-handed, but not an apology either. Really, really excellent. I highly recommend it.
Joe
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I am not an Old West aficionado but I do like a great history book and Blood and Thunder is all that - at times reading like a novel, i.e. engaging. The book chronicles the American Southwest from the 1820’s through the Civil War. Kit Carson is the central character – who seemingly knew everyone and how to get anywhere during that time - he disappears and reappears as the story is told. The author also chronicles the Mexican War, the tales of mountain men and explorers, the Gold Rush and host of ...more
Jim
May 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really engrossing book. This is basically the story of the effects of “manifest destiny,” the notion that America had a God-given right to expand it’s reach throughout the continent. Impelled by a form of American exceptionalism that emphasized a cultural ideal of agrarian simplicity, its associated value system, and the governing institutions that maintained it, manifest destiny became the driving force behind territorial expansion in the middle decades of the 19th century. Remaking America t ...more
Jonathan Penn
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Honest narrative history of the conquest of the American West with a focus on Kit Carson.

Anything but boring.

I am into whatever history Hampton Sides wants to write about just because he makes it interesting.
Lanelle Duke
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truly magnificent. Expertly written and researched. An interesting and informative book that taught me a lot about a time in American history I knew nothing about. One of the best books I've read in a long time, or maybe, ever.
Romulus
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kolejna znakomita pozycja z amerykańskiej serii wydawnictwa Czarne. Tym razem jest to opowieść o podboju amerykańskiego Zachodu. O Boskim Przeznaceniu, które doprowadziło Amerykę do dominacji na kontynencie. Choć autor koncentruje się na podboju Nowego Meksyku i Kalifornii to pamiętać należy, że dzięki temu USA powiększyły w krótkim czasie swoje terytorium o jedną trzecią i graniczyły od wschodu i zachodu z oceanami. Autor przedstawia także wydarzenia przez pryzmat losów fascynujących bohaterów ...more
Ryanofthenorth
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Objective and refreshingly free of the maudlin sentimentality that has infected so many recent historical works involving contact between Western civilization and Native Americans.

Fantastic prose that keeps you engaged in the story without dabbling in hyperbole or sacrificing historical accuracy.

Sides somehow makes you feel connected to, and empathize with all sides of the story. Indian, white man, and Mexican are all portrayed, not as villains, but as humans capable of extreme acts of cruelty,
...more
Trisha
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
David Eppenstein
My knowledge of the history of our Western expansion and, in particular, our dealings with Native Americans is very limited. In the last year I've taken steps to correct that deficiency by reading a few excellent histories in that subject area. This book does a great deal to help with my ignorance. It is an excellent treatment that is both engaging, well written, and thought provoking. Its focus is primarily on Northern New Mexico and the Four Corners area and while it is a history of that area ...more
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“We do not want to go to the right or left, but straight back to our own country!” 4 likes
“Kill most of the livestock and prepare the meat. It is getting cold now, so we have to start. We must be on the top before it snows. The men have been working on the trails. The ladders have been put up. Be strong and prepare to defend yourselves.” One day in December, as it started to snow, some three hundred men, women, and children, perhaps tipped off by a sentry that the bilagaana army was on its way, ascended to the top and pulled up their ladders and bridges. Hoping the evil might pass beneath them, they planned to dwell in silence for months—and, if necessary, make a last-ditch defense, like the doomed Jewish rebels who defied the Romans from the stone ramparts of Masada.” 0 likes
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