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Shadows at Dawn: An Apache Massacre and the Violence of History

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A masterful reconstruction of one of the worst Indian massacres in American history

In April 1871, a group of Americans, Mexicans, and Tohono O?odham Indians surrounded an Apache village at dawn and murdered nearly 150 men, women, and children in their sleep. In the past century the attack, which came to be known as the Camp Grant Massacre, has largely faded from memory. Now, drawing on oral histories, contemporary newspaper reports, and the participants? own accounts, prize-winning author Karl Jacoby brings this perplexing incident and tumultuous era to life to paint a sweeping panorama of the American Southwest?a world far more complex, diverse, and morally ambiguous than the traditional portrayals of the Old West.

384 pages, Paperback

First published November 20, 2008

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Karl Jacoby

19 books23 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews
Profile Image for Matt.
899 reviews27.9k followers
July 11, 2020
“As the group advances, the Apaches’ shelters come into view in the half-light. The intruders begin to sprint upstream along the creek bed, pausing at each gowąh to club to death the adults and seize or kill whatever children they can locate within. For many Nṉēē, murdered while they slumber, the attack lasts but an instant. But as the early-morning stillness is broken by hurried footfalls, the crack of club against bone, and the barking of Apache dogs, some Nṉēē, awakening, flee in terror. A few succeed in scaling the steep bluffs lining the canyon or in hiding in the thick brush along the creek bank. Many others, however, fall victim to the men waiting in the rocks above, who fire down at them with Sharps and Spencer carbines…As the sun rises over the jagged peaks to Aravaipa Canyon’s eastern end, its light reveals scores of Nṉēē corpses sprawled along the creek. Seeing the camp abandoned, its once-sleeping inhabitants either dead or dispersed, the attackers set the Apaches’ possessions and their empty gowąhs ablaze before withdrawing. A quick count as the raiders reconnoiter a few miles away reveals that not one of them was killed or injured in the assault. They succeeded, however, in seizing twenty-nine Apache captives and in killing perhaps as many as a hundred and forty-four Nṉēē, almost all of them sleeping women and children, in an attack lasting little more than thirty minutes…”
- Karl Jacoby, Shadows at Dawn: An Apache Massacre and the Violence of History

Anyone who has studied the history of the American West in the years after the Civil War knows that massacres and atrocities abounded. Names like Sand Creek and Wounded Knee and the Marias River echo with bloody reverberations. You cannot think of those places without imagining burning villages, fleeing inhabitants, and slain noncombatants falling beneath relentless carbine fire and the slashing hooves of big cavalry horses.

When I first heard of the Camp Grant Massacre of April 30, 1871, I figured it was just one more incident to add to a woeful list. Without knowing anything more, I conjured an image of United States cavalrymen dressed in sky-blue trousers with yellow lines along the seams, swallow-tailed guidons snapping the breeze, descending on some sleeping encampment in a merciless pincer movement. Even the name – Camp Grant – implies federal complicity in the resulting slaughter.

As Karl Jacoby demonstrates in Shadows at Dawn, the actual story of the murder of approximately one-hundred and forty Apaches in the Aravaipa Canyon is far more complex, the ethical lines far murkier.

For one, the U.S. Cavalry was not involved. No soldiers were involved at all, actually. This was a civilian affair, an ad hoc lynch mob setting out to deal some revenge for alleged Apache depredations in the Tucson area of present-day Arizona. Instead of Custer or Mackenzie at the fore, the enterprise was led by a Mexican man named Jesus Elias, a homesteader who had suffered from Apache raids, losing cattle and family members. The majority of the attacking force was made up of Mexicans, as well as Tohono O’odham Indians. Only a handful – approximately six – Anglo-Americans were involved, though one of those men, the lethal William S. Oury, was an organizer.

(It was only after the Camp Grant Massacre that the U.S. Army, under George Crook and Nelson Miles, would finish the sad, ugly task of hunting down the Apache, and shipping them to forlorn reservations in places like Florida that could not have been more different than their homes).

In other words, this is not a simple morality play, occurring in a vacuum void of all save right and wrong. Rather, it is a dense borderlands saga, where multiple cultures and people intersect, sometimes intertwining, sometimes clashing.

To make sense of all these competing threads, Jacoby structures Shadows at Dawn into two large sections, one set before the massacre, the other occurring after. Within each of these large sections, there are four chapters, with a chapter each devoted to the Tohono O’odham Indians; the Mexicans; the Anglo-Americans; and the Apache (Nṉēē).

The pre-massacre chapters show how each group got caught up in the tidal flow leading to the Aravaipa Canyon, while the post-massacre chapters show how each group moved on – and remembered – that blood-soaked morning.

This framework is rather effective, providing a quasi-Rashomon-like experience, in which each historical player is given their due. Upon this literary scaffolding, Jacoby adds extensive research (as attested by the annotated notes), a smoothly readable style, and a modern sensibility (such as using culturally appropriate names, and utilizing oral traditions).

The narrative that unfolds certainly shows how the Camp Grant Massacre was likely, if not inevitable. There were enmities and grievances on all sides. Even before Spain first arrived, the Tohono O’odham were having problems with the Apache, who were – at least according to archaeological evidence – relative newcomers to the area. It is thus not surprising that the Tohono O’odham looked to Spain, and later Mexico, for help in dealing with the Apache. Meanwhile, the late-coming Anglo-Americans tangled with Mexico, while actually opening up a lucrative trade with the Apaches, eagerly dealing in stolen Mexican goods. The federal government, which is not typically the “good guy” in accounts of the American West, actually ended up prosecuting the perpetrators of the Camp Grant Massacre, though the jury nullified any hope of a conviction.

Jacoby does a marvelous job following the warp and weft of all these different lines of inquiry. The problem, though – and it is a big one, for me – is that there is a huge absence in the middle. Specifically, Jacoby makes the decision not to present the massacre itself, save for bits and pieces of testimony, and a brief summary, excerpted at the top. I have a sneaking suspicion about why he chose this elision, and it has nothing to do with history (based on the fact that there was a federal trial, there must be mountains of evidence). Whatever the reason, it is a confounding tactic. The power of the material comes from this tragic culmination, after decades of shifting alliances and increasing friction. In deciding not to narrate the Camp Grant Massacre, Jacoby turns all the buildup into anticlimax, while decreasing the potency of the aftermath. He has placed a marvelous constellation of stars into orbit, but they are circling a huge nothing.

Clearly, I am disappointed with what Shadows at Dawn leaves out. What is included, however, is so good, that it nearly makes up for it. Jacoby is extremely adept at recounting how different peoples act on one another, and how that relationship can shift over time. Sometimes, the shift is positive. Other times, it is deadly.

Jacoby also succeeds in his tribute to the intricacy of history. We often prefer stark delineations because it makes it easier to decide how we are supposed to feel about the past, and how that past should inform our present. Shadows at Dawn rejects any notions of collective guilt or collective victimization by focusing on individuals and on contexts. That does not mean that there are no villains or victims, only that it takes a bit more work to sort things out. In the end, Jacoby makes a pretty compelling case that this kind of multi-voiced presentation is a better way to view history than broad, conclusion-based interpretations. That is, one can draw important lessons from yesteryear – and implement those lessons today – without relying on blithe oversimplifications. This kind of history requires more work – for both author and reader – but is commensurately more rewarding.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,079 reviews2,605 followers
April 18, 2015
This is a fascinating look at the Camp Grant massacre from four different perspectives; it applies the Rashomon effect to the slaughter of Native Americans.

On the morning of April 30, 1871, a group of Mexicans, Anglo-Americans and O'odham Indians surrounded an Apache camp in Aravaipa Canyon in the Arizona territory and massacred more than 100 Apaches, mostly women and children. Only a few Apaches were able to escape; several others were taken hostage.

Jacoby divided the book into chapters based on the different groups. First, we hear from the O'odham, who used to be called the Pima and Papago Indians. Then we hear from the Mexicans, then the Americans, and finally, the Apaches, who called themselves the Nnēē. Attention is given to the history of each group, and why so many disparate groups banded together one morning to attack the Apaches.

If you have never heard of this event before, you are not alone. The author mentions his reasons for focusing on it in the Introduction:


"Although the Camp Grant Massacre receives little mention in most histories of the United States, my goal in the pages that follow is not simply to persuade readers that they need to add one more event to the canon of American history. Rather, I hope that encountering this incident will lead readers toward a deeper revisioning of the American past. The seeming inevitability of the western story -- Manifest Destiny, U.S. national expansion, Indian loss of land and independence -- has long desensitized us to both the region's violence and its other ways of being. Once we begin to think of the West not only as the 'West' - the trans-Mississippian portion of the United States -- but as an extension of the Mexican north and as the homeland of a complex array of Indian communities, we allow far different narratives about this space to emerge."


Jacoby's book is incredibly well-researched, filled with interesting historical details and stories. I also appreciated the old photographs that were included. To be more historically accurate, he used words from the Spanish, Apache and O'odham languages, and provided a short glossary in the back. The result is a dense but impressive tome about not just this massacre, but our violent history and the birth of the American Southwest.

I learned a tremendous amount reading this book, and it was very thought-provoking. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in American history or the history of indigenous peoples.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
891 reviews99 followers
April 18, 2017
Shadows at Dawn is non-fiction work about the 1871 Camp Grant Massacre, when a group of vigilantes attacked an Apache camp, slaughtering mostly women and children. The story is told from the perspectives of the four different peoples involved: Anglo-Americans, the Apache, the Mexicans, and the O'odham Indians.

Jakoby did a wonderful job researching this event. There was written history by the white settlers, but much of the native perspective was through oral history. In this way, however, a student of history can gain a much better understanding of what happened and why. So many times we view past events through a modern lens, and that only serves to distort the truth. There were mistakes made on all sides, but ultimately the lack of justice in a frontier territory pushed the various actors into creating justice for themselves. The consequences, of course, were terrible.
Profile Image for Iman.
33 reviews3 followers
October 1, 2019
This was a solid book. It's a historical narration of the Camp Grant massacre if Apache people on Arizona, except it focuses not only on the events but gives you a clear picture of the time period with it's social-political dynamics. This was very insightful and i enjoyed reading this because I've never read a history book that didn't go from east to west. It actually focuses on the two prominent Native tribes: the Tohono O'Odam and the Apache along with the spanish/mexican history if the area. Anyway if you were to pick up a book anytime soon it should be this one, especially considering that reading about such forgotten events gives you crucial knowledge about the modern politics today: for example Trump's border wall would walk over Native rights since the wall would cross through the reservation of the Tohono O'odham i mentioned before(their reservation is quite literally on the border and spans both Mexico and the US). Yet this part of the narrative is completely left out of liberal rhetoric and arguments against the border wall. It shows how Indigenous rights are walked over by both the left and the right.
Profile Image for Margaret Sankey.
Author 8 books199 followers
April 6, 2013
Taking as its center the Camp Grant Massacre of 1871, Jacoby traces the complex relationships between the four peoples who collided in Aravaipa Canyon--the O'odham, the Spanish Vecinos, the Americans (and the American Army, functioning sometimes separately) and the Nnee, with special concern for what they called themselves (O'odham and Nnee rather than Pima and Apaches, for example) and recorded their histories, whether anthropologically collected religious oral traditions, calendar sticks or corridos. This is a complicated, violent borderland in which directives from the center (Madrid, D.C. or Mexico City) play out very differently among people with their own conceptions of borders, belonging and entitlements, and one in which, subverting local army actions, a mixed band of O'odham, Mexican and American locals attacked and destroyed a camp of Nnee women and children. Jacoby then traces how each group remembered the event, enshrined by the Pioneer Society in Arizona school textbooks as a whites vs. Indians events, by the Spanish-American Society as proof of their status as elite white settlers, the O'odham and Nnee Cultural Centers as part of Native American identity and Hollywood, which build the movie set "Old Tucson" and took out most of the story in favor of a romantic comedy and cowboys and Indians.
Profile Image for Matthew.
220 reviews22 followers
April 5, 2009
Tells the story of the 1871 Camp Grant Massacre, in which 140 peaceful Apaches were killed by a mixed party of white Americans, Mexican vecinos, and O'odham Indians. Aside from the excellent research and writing, what really makes this book extraordinary is that Jacoby refuses to collapse the complexity of the story into a single narrative. Instead he tells the same story four times, once from the perspective of each group. The second half of the book is similarly organized, focusing on each group's construction of the Massacre's memory as a historical event. This kaleidoscopic structure seems risky and difficult, and I wish I understood exactly how Jacoby makes it work so well.
Profile Image for Kirstie.
37 reviews
June 18, 2022
This is the first history book I’ve read outside of school. Eminently worth the time it took to get used to the genre. Exceptionally, accessibly written.

The book was important to me for two main reasons. First, it shows both the necessity and the value of examining the different ways that people tell the same story. This is a book about one event, but the author recognizes that he cannot craft a straightforward narrative, much less try to do so without examining the perspectives of every party involved: Apache, Americans, Vecinos, Tohono O’odahm. This book does not say, “Every story is true!” This book says, in essence, “Different people tell different versions of a story. Not all of them are factually true. But the people with the most control usually get the most listeners, which means that many voices (especially those killed or exiled) have no one to hear their memories.” The unfolding and sharing of all memories, faulty and personal as they may be, is part of what allows human beings to identify both shared humanity and shared guilt.

Second, the story of this one event provides a framework to understand deep-ceded conflicts in the United States right now. Here are two examples of quotations that, without explicitly mentioning them, speak to the U.S.’s current battles over racism and immigration:

“Almost immediately, then, the attack produced two opposing narratives within the Anglo-American community, each structured around divergent assessments of the categories of victim and perpetrator. As these two narratives confronted one another, they moved not toward a more nuanced understanding of the incident but rather toward a more polarized one as both sides sought to buttress their respective position by clinging to the figures of innocent victim and malevolent perpetrator all the more fiercely” (223).

“To many in the West, the ‘Camp Grant affair’ represented not the reversion to barbarism warned about by eastern reformers but rather an act designed to aid in the march of progress. ‘The “Camp Grant Massacre,”’ maintained Tucson resident John Spring, ‘was the result of the Government’s neglect and the long and patient suffering of a body of pioneers who tried to bring civilization into a heretofore wild country’” (225).

This book has therefore become foundational to my way of seeing both my country and the world as a whole, in both past and present. An easy 5 stars.
Profile Image for Bronwyn.
638 reviews43 followers
July 15, 2014
Copied from a review I wrote for class:

"Karl Jacoby’s Shadows at Dawn is an attempt to make clear the events surrounding the Camp Grant massacre in Arizona in 1871. Jacoby describes the circumstances that led to the clash from the points of view of the four parties involved: the O’odham (the Papago), los Vecinos (the Mexicans), the Americans, and the Nṉēē (the Apache). Jacoby attempts to show how differences in point of view can alter how an event is portrayed and remembered. By examining the story from multiple points of view, Jacoby allows for a better understanding of the full story of a not well documented event.

"Shadows at Dawn is broken into three segments, each describing a different part of the story. The first section describes each group’s involvement in the Arizona territory from the time first recorded, the second section is brief and describes the trial of the perpetrators, and the last section tells what happened to the involved parties afterwards. In breaking the events up this way Jacoby creates a coherent story of each group’s involvement in the area over time.

"In relating the story of the Native Americans involved, Jacoby discusses the problems faced due to mostly oral traditions. He addresses this well though, by using the passed down oral stories and through the O’odham’s calendar sticks, in addition to the written records of the outsiders to the groups. In relating the stories of the Mexicans and the Americans, the story is much easier to relate because of the prevalence of written records. Jacoby addresses the issues with written records that may not be truthfully recorded by comparing records of the same event from different sources within each group and by comparing them to those of other groups.

"Jacoby relates these events very well and his writing is very easy to follow. In each section Jacoby refers to things in that group’s language; therefore, the same group of people can be referred to in different ways throughout the book: depending on the Apache referred to they are called the ’O:b in the O’odham’s language, apaches mansos or apaches de paz in Spanish, Apache in English, and Nṉēē, Bāāchii in the Apache’s own language. This can lead to some confusion at first, but is easily caught on. The only issue with using the various languages is that there is no pronunciation key anywhere in the book and so the reader can only guess.

"With the story there is little confusion. There are a few times of slight confusion of who is being referred to, and possibly some mixed up names in a few places, but this does not detract from the story. Jacoby’s narrative is well told and easy to understand. He makes no real suppositions except where one might expect. There are a few instances where he may overestimate the importance of some events, but as the narrative expands, the importance makes sense. The importance of the Civil War and changing troops in Arizona seemed extreme at first, but by the end of the book, or even of the section, the importance becomes clear.

"In addition to depicting the events surrounding the Camp Grant massacre, Jacoby also manages to give insight into the issues surrounding Native American relations and the idea of reservations, as well as continuing issues of the strained relationship between Arizona and Mexico. Whether or not this was another goal of the book, it definitely sheds light on issues that still plague the United States.

"Overall Jacoby’s story is well researched and well told. It provides great light on an event that is not well known. In general histories of the Native American populations are not often told in the history of the United States and Jacoby’s book attempts to correct this in some small degree."
Profile Image for Jamie.
355 reviews73 followers
September 16, 2019
Shadows at Dawn is a history book that recounts the tragic events that led up to the Camp Grant Massacre in 1871. It was the time of the old west, with years of conflict between the American settlers and the Native American populations that had steadily been pushed ever westward due to the expansion of the United States.

What was noteworthy about this book was that it provides amazing insight into the perspectives of the groups involved in the Camp Grant Massacre. The book sheds light on a little known event in American History and the complexity of the politics of the region. The book is divided into four sections, each detailing the perspectives and events that impacted each group that was involved in this tragedy.

“For until we recognize our shared capacity for inhumanity, how can we ever hope to tell stories of our mutual humanity?”

I absolutely loved the way in which the information is presented, with the accounts deliberately separated so that the reader can get a clear view of the why and how. Jacoby doesn’t just give the reader events of the massacre itself, he also includes information about the events that led up to it and the aftermath for all parties. Events that happened to one group that led to tension, and how it played into the greater narrative of history. One of the common issues in historical texts is that they tend to be told from only one point of view. History is never that cut and dry, especially for those whose voices are silenced or drowned out by the dominating party.

This book is well documented, and although at times it can be extremely difficult to match up timelines and figuring out when events overlapped, I can’t think of a better book to give the reader a very real view of the old frontier. It is a great case study as well for understanding dual perspectives and the way that all of these stories come together into a shared history.
1,351 reviews10 followers
September 12, 2009
As an Arizona native who never heard of the Camp Grant Massacre, I was fascinated by how Jacoby wove Tohono O'odham, Mexican, American and Apache perspectives of this seminal event. The facts: in 1871, a group of Tohono O'odham, Mexican and American men attacked a sleeping Apache village and murdered 144 people, mostly women and children. Twenty-seven Apache children were taken away, mostly to be sold as slaves. In its time, this incident was controversial like the Battle of Wounded Knee or My Lai.

Jacoby's scholarship seeks to set the scene for both the Massacre and its aftermath. I was reminded how many peoples considered the new territories in the western United States their homeland and how complicated it is to tell a history that belongs to no one voice.
Profile Image for Tara.
31 reviews1 follower
January 27, 2015
The way Karl Jacoby takes one incident, The Camp Grant Massacre, and tells the story of before, during, and after the event from four different perspectives is a refreshing take on history. Often in history books you only get one side of the story, with Shadows at Dawn Jacoby acknowledges that there were many reasons and consequences to what happened in Arizona on that summer morning. I highly recommend this book to people who are interested in Arizona history, Native American history, or American expansionist history, it is definitely worth the read.
Profile Image for Emily.
61 reviews13 followers
March 14, 2018
Jacoby's ability to bring together all the participants' histories and motives kept my interest through the entire book. Understanding not only the causes of the massacre but the ways in which consequences played out (and were later obscured) helps further his argument regarding the need for change in American western history.
Profile Image for Pete.
672 reviews1 follower
January 17, 2011
really impressed with this thus far -- takes a single incident (the slaughter of some 150 apaches in the Arizona desert in 1871) and retells/reexamines from four different perspectives (anglo, hispanic, apache, and tohono o'odham tribe).
19 reviews1 follower
June 2, 2010
This is a well-documented history of the Camp Grant Massacre that portrays the Sonora-Tucson area in a multifaceted, detailed, and scholarly perspective. Defining an atrocity's place in history as Jacoby does is a demanding task and he excels in this narrative.
Profile Image for Andrew.
143 reviews14 followers
November 12, 2008
The white man sucks. Wait, I knew that already…
Profile Image for Cassie.
33 reviews2 followers
February 9, 2021
“A multitude of narratives flows into and out of the events of April 30, 1871: tales of genocide; tales of the Mexican north and the American West, of O��odham and Nnēē homelands; tales of survival, accommodation, and cultural reinvention...But we cannot confine ourselves to a single one of these narratives without enacting yet another form of historical violence: the suppression of the past’s multiple meanings (263).” In Shadows at Dawn: An Apache Massacre and the Violence of History, Karl Jacoby presents the histories of the Camp Grant Massacre in three parts: Violence, Justice, and Memory, and an introduction and epilogue. Parts One and Three are each broken into four chapters covering the history and perspectives of the four groups involved: the O’odham (Pima and Papago), the Vecinos (Mexicans), the Americans, and the Nnēē (Apache). The book is accessible to a wide audience, including academics, students, and those with a general interest in U.S. history or Indigenous histories.
The chapters are structured in the order of both historic occupation of the area around Tucson and Aravaipa Canyon in Arizona and arrival at the canyon on April 30, 1871, with one exception: the Nnēē are incorporated into the narrative last, although they were the targets of the attack. This separation allows Jacoby to provide a deeper history of the intimate and sometimes brutal interactions of these groups of people and explore multiple accounts of the massacre almost in a play-by-play fashion in Part One. The shortest section – Justice – is not broken up into these different narratives and mirrors the lack of justice carried out on the planners and participants of the massacre. Part Three again separates into individual group narratives and discusses the memory of the event and its aftermath – especially highlighting the ways the Nnēē remember the event and are remembered through silence.
One of Jacoby’s strengths throughout the piece is the reliance on multiple sources, including traditional archival sources like newspaper accounts, diaries, speeches, and court records, oral histories and Indigenous histories often considered myths (33-38), and archaeological artifacts like the O’odham’s calendar sticks and the perceived absence of the Nnēē in the archaeological record. This, coupled with his methods of breaking apart the narrative, provide a model for how historians can pull from wider sources of data in order to provide a fuller narrative of past events. Jacoby’s ability to include both a longer account of the histories of each group and bring them to the present-day Aravaipa Canyon demonstrates how history is both shaped by the dominant narrative at the time of an event and how those events can inform the present.
However, by bringing each narrative in Part One to the same conclusion point – the April 30 massacre at Aravaipa Canyon – includes significant overlap of the four groups and important historic characters, such as Captain Chiquita, the Elias brothers, or William “Uncle Billy” Oury. While Jacoby strives to use Indigenous names for people, extended family groups, bands, and tribes, he sometimes includes Spanish or English versions of those names in different narratives, causing possible confusion among readers. Further, the extent of the back story provided is sometimes too much information, and Jacoby’s argument could have been strengthened with a more specific focus on a shorter length of time. The deeper history of the region, while detailing the intricacies and interactions between the four groups, becomes repetitive and it is easy to lose the narrative.
Ultimately, this book provides a different methodology than traditional monoliths or overviews of events. Jacoby is able to dive deeply into the narrative of the Camp Grant Massacre and demonstrate the importance for Western US history while challenging the idea that only one perspective can be provided. He weaves together the narratives in a way that leads the reader to want justice for the Nnēē, become outraged at the outcomes, and understand why this event, and others like it, need to be remembered more prominently and potently.
Profile Image for gage sugden.
120 reviews6 followers
November 25, 2020
Informative in a nuanced and responsible way, which is so rare with this genre that often boils down to either revisionist "superior American Christian whites bring civilization to untamed savages, violent only in self justified defense" or reductionist "American Christian whites do genocide". Jacoby is thorough with this book that's equal parts history and historiography. He presents the viewpoints of everyone involved in the event, while laying out the relevant history that set the event in motion and the effects that continue to ripple even today after the event. He draws lessons from this particular topic and projects them to the greater genre.

Here's two quotes from the book's conclusion that demonstrate Jacoby's approach (review continues below).

"The persistence of such fugitive understandings of the past serves as an important reminder that the dominant interpretation of the past often enjoys its status not because of its superior historical accuracy but because of its proponents' social power... To recognize in this way that history often reflects social power need not negate the validity of the historical undertaking. Indeed, at its best, by holding the actions of the powerful up to scrutiny, history serves not as the handmaiden of power but rather as counterbalance (albeit often a belated one) to power's distortions and manipulations."

"To collapse the stories running through the Camp Grant Massacre into a single tale of genocide... possesses its own perils. Not because such an account misstates the violence directed against the Apache, but because it risks reducing the stories about an event like the Camp Grant Massacre into a narrative solely about the actions and intentions of the incident's perpetrators."

It's genuinely a good book, and I'd recommend to anyone interested in the genre, but be aware that its main flaw is that it isn't sure whether it's academic or popular. On the one hand it has 70 pages of notes and citations in the back, but on the other hand it never dives deep enough onto any aspect. It feels unapproachable yet also shallow, if that makes sense. I think this book would be better if it were either half as long or four times as long. As it is, it reads quite rambly.

Anyway I was initially assigned to read this for a history class several years ago. I think I read a few chapters but I always meant to go back and read the whole thing. It took me six months to read, which shows how blah it can get. I really would recommend it though, just needed a better editor.
Profile Image for Christopher.
1,070 reviews24 followers
February 19, 2022
An unsparing look at a brutal and seminal moment in the wars between the Apache and nearly everybody else.

Jacoby's "Shadows at Dawn" explores in impressive detail, the history and aftermath of the 1871 "Massacre of Camp Grant" or the "Camp Grant Affair" (depending on who you ask) where 150 Apache (mostly women and children) were ambushed and killed by a combined group of Americans, Mexicans, and Tohono Indians at Camp Grant outside Tuscon Arizona.

There's nothing good that can be said about the attack and Jacoby never sugarcoats things. But Jacoby does an outstanding job challenging the popular narrative that all interactions with the Indian tribes were nothing more than "white atrocity" when the facts were far more complicated.

The constant ebb and flow between violence and peace (or rather, slightly less violence) among disparate Apache bands against the Spanish (later Mexican) authorities and settlers, American troops and settlers, and other Indian tribes culminated in a slow drawdown of American federal troop presence in Arizona following the Civil War, a settler population that could not rely on those Federal troops to take action against Apache (because the Federal Gov't often sided with the Apache following various treaties), and an emboldened Apache population that saw opportunity to exert power and influence over neighboring tribes (often brutally).

What's most interesting in Jacoby's history is that, despite Federal authorities (and Eastern press) decrying the massacre and being fairly uniform in its condemnation, how utterly unapologetic the locals around Tuscon were (white Americans, Mexicans, and Indians). For decades, they referred to it with pride or euphemistically as the "Camp Grant Affair." How much of this was intentional obfuscation or a sincere belief in the action isn't really possible to tease out (Jacoby does his best but narratives start to calcify after a while). Ultimately, that multiethnic collection of peoples that took part in the wars against the Apaches felt themselves completely justified in doing so in response to perceived savagery by the Apache. Just as the Apache felt completely justified in their responses to settler advancement and/or federal (be it Spanish/Mexican/American) perfidy.

"Shadows at Dawn" is an insightful, thoughtful, and powerful history that gives real depth (but not absolution) to all sides of a horrific event.
67 reviews1 follower
May 16, 2018
The organization of this book was fascinating and worked to supplement and highlight the points of the narrative. Jacoby begins with a brief overview of the massacre at Camp Grant in which 120+ Apaches, mainly women and children, were murdered. He then spends the first half of the book talking about the lead up to the massacre from the perspective of the four groups involved: Anglo Americans, Mexican Americans, Tohono O'odham Indians, and the Apache. Doing so highlights how complicated the relationships between these different groups were as tensions escalated. It also negates the White v. Indian narrative that we're fed by Hollywood and other sources. The second half of the book then talks about the aftermath of the massacre, again with a section dedicated to each of the four perspectives. It's these final chapters that I found the most interesting and thought-provoking. The contrast between the Anglo-American response and the Apache response highlights the factors that allowed the Anglo-American interpretation to become the dominant narrative and Jacoby follows those consequences into today's interpretation of the massacre. The book can feel long and dry at times, but the final chapters made it worth it to me.
629 reviews5 followers
November 5, 2021
This is a so-so book based on a massacre that took place in Aravaipa Canyon, Arizona, in 1871. A group of Pagosa Indians, Mexicans and white settlers attacked an Apache camp at dawn and massacred over 100 mostly women and children, and took some captive and sold them into slavery.

The author takes each of the four groups involved and tracks their history up to and beyond the massacre. It takes the “I have to maintain my scholarly distance” approach, which I find boring to read myself. The author does a fairly balanced handling of the various issues, with some notable exceptions.

In one place he argues, without any evidence, that perhaps the Apache really considered themselves out hunting horses instead of stealing them. 🙄 Really? This is patently false. All of the plains Indians made their living off of raiding each other from time immemorial, and they made no secrets about that.

He also focuses on white settler atrocities, while acknowledging and then glossing over Apache atrocities. There was viciousness and killing on both sides, why not just admit it and accept it?

An okay history of 19th century Arizona and the conflicts that ensued, but ultimately somewhat boring.
January 26, 2020
An excellent and detailed account about a massacre I did not know. Written by one of my favorite historians, the book looks at the complexities of race, class and land theft amid genocide that lead to one of the most horrendous acts of violence on American soil. The text examines the tensions between tribes, Mexican Americans and white invaders and what ultimately end with the deaths of innocent Apache women and children. We need more of these stories to come to terms with a violent past of the US.
Profile Image for Stevejs298.
221 reviews2 followers
April 14, 2018
The basis of the book is the Grant Camp massacre of 1871. In that incident, Americans, Mexicans and another tribe of Indians killed a number of Apache Indians, many of whom were women and children. I learned a lot about Indians in the southern Arizona area and about he relationships among these various Indian tribes, the Mexicans and the Americans. All in all not pleasant. But, also not obvious how this could have or should have been handled differently or any better.
Profile Image for Toni.
293 reviews
December 28, 2020
An eye-opening and educational read on the history of the southwest. This covers a lot of the history of the fluid boundaries between Mexico and the US, and the atrocities both sides committed against the native populations there.

I only rated it 4 stars because the way the story is told is a bit jumpy and is sometimes hard to keep track of which tribe, character, and location is being discussed.
Profile Image for Dave Papendorf.
15 reviews
March 16, 2020
I liked this book. The terminology and shifting language between the sections made it tricky, but I understand the methodology behind doing so. Overall, I think this book tended to be fair and thoughtful. A good read, albeit a longer read.
December 3, 2017
sad events that occurred and very long book too long to be reading . I simply lost interest in the book. by the time I reached the end I was glad to put it down forever.
Profile Image for Allan McLeod.
Author 13 books10 followers
July 15, 2018
Difficult subject. Didn't capture my interest the way I had hoped. I like to know the characters, not only their stories.
381 reviews2 followers
August 4, 2018
The story of a massacre of the Apaches and the four groups involved.
Profile Image for Larry.
1,398 reviews75 followers
December 18, 2019
Patricia Nelson Limerick once wrote that Western history is complex until proven simple. Jacoby's book proves her point as it contrasts four approaches to a forgotten but terrible event.
Profile Image for Holly.
67 reviews
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September 6, 2021
Very well researched and presented but dry and graphic details of violence.
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