Albert Glenn Hudson-Empire Of The Summer Moon

Author of Book: S.C. Gwynne
Date Read: February 19, 2024

Book Report

I chose to read this book because I wanted to learn the true lineage and history of the Native Americans in America. I have felt the education I received in traditonal schooling never told the entire story, and I’ve had a nagging itch to take a dive into the history of the Native Americans. Empire Of The Summer Moon was magnetized to my world, and once I cracked the pages, I couldn’t put the book down.

This book was a Finalist For The Pulitzer Prize and the New York’s Times Bestseller. This book lays out the story of the rise and fall of the Comanche Indian tribe in the Central and Western plains of America. I would venture to say that 99 percent of America is not educated with the history of the Comanche Indians and Native Americans in this country. This book should be a must read in American History classes across the globe.

Empire Of The Moon focuses on their last famous leader Quanah Parker, and secondarily the clash between native American cultures and the invading settlers. The book starts by painting a canvas in stark detail of the Comanche way of life, their master horsemanship skills, and their superior dominance over the Southern Plains. It describes the Comanches adaptation to their ever changing environmental landscape, their pragmatic lifestyle, and their remarkable skills in warfare, which made them a supreme warrior fighting machine.

Who Were The Comanches?
In America, they came from what we now call Wyoming, above the head of the Arkansas River. They were from the mountains. Comanches by nature were short, dark skinned, and large chested. They were descendants of hunters who crossed the bridge from Asia to America in migrations between 11,000 and 5000 BC! (yes BC) They hunted using stone weapons and various tools. “They hunted wild buffalo by setting the prairies on fire and stampeding the creatures over cliffs or into pits.”

“The Comanches as a tribe, were thus without a center.” They had very little political structures in their tribe. Their were only usually 2 chiefs in the band. One peace or Civil Chief, and one War Chief. In Comanche hierarchy, anyone could be a war chief, you simply had to have enough warriors to believe in your mission to go along with you. Comanches were free to do as they pleased. “A family could not prevent a daughter or son from marrying outside his or her band, and could not even prevent a family member from leaving the band. There was no principle of heredity in leadership, which was based entirely on merit.”

History of Horses In North America:

Most people don’t know that prior to the 16th century, there were no horses on this continent until introduced by the Spanish. These invaders brought horses with them from Spain. The Iberian Mustang horse was a different beast than horses in European countries making them adept the thrive in America.

The Iberian Mustang was a desert horse descended down from Central Asia. This breed had transitioned to North Africa by way of the Middle East, breeding with other desert horses along the way. The Moorish invasion led it to Spain. This horse was small, light, and had an Arabian face and a chiseled muzzle. The Mustang horse was highly intelligent, fast, trainable, and bred to live off grasses and hot terrains. It also possessed great endurance and could travel long distances with little water.

Around the mid 1600’s, Don Juan from Spain attempted to conquer the central plains of America, but when the Spaniards came in contact with the Comanche Indians, they were no match for the Comanches. In defeat, the Spanish abandoned thousands of Mustangs which now ran wild in the open plains. This stockade of horses became the foundational herd the Comanches used for their dominance. This became known in history as “The Great Horse Dispersal.”

Comanches were the most lethal soldier on horseback. They could accurately let off 20 arrows, and kill you within a 30 yard radius before you would have time to reload your rifle. Comanches were the best at breaking horses! They would rope a wild horse, then tighten the noose, choking the horse and taking it to the ground where the horse was nearly dead, then the rope would be loosened. “The horse finally would rise, trembling and in full lather. It’s captor gently stroked it’s nose, ears, and forehead, then put his mouth over the horse’s nostrils and blew air into it’s nose.” They would then throw the equipment around the horse’s lower jaw, mount up, and ride away.

What is The Treaty of Guadalupe?
Most historians would agree that this treaty essentially was the beginning of the end for Native Americans. The Native Americans migrated to this continent approximately 5000 – 11,000 years ago, BC. They were clearly here first. This was their land, and the battles that ensued during the white settlers hostile takeover is a movie script that was never taught to me the way history writes it. But as we know, the winner controls the narrative in histories books.

The TREATY OF GUADALUPE changed everything in the West for the Indians. Before this treaty, the Comanche’s controlled the central plains from Canada to South Texas, and this area had never been explored by white settlers. This treaty was signed February 2, 1848. Mexico gave up it’s claims for the land they owned, and the modern states of Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, California, Nevada, and Texas no longer belonged to Mexico and titles were transferred to United States of America.

This land accumulation victory amassed a big problem for the Comanches because there territory stood directly in the middle of the new American nation. “The United States of America acquired 1.2 million square miles of real estate, and instant 66% increase in total landmass. In terms of land gained, on a percentage basis, it was as though France had acquired Germany.” The main purpose of this purchase was to dominate all lands it touched and to relocate or destroy all of it’s aboriginal peoples.

Medical Treatments & Setbacks:
The Native Americans were hit extremely hard, wiping out entire bands of Indians by smallpox, measles, malaria, whooping cough, and the flu. In 1816, they were hit with an invading disease known as syphillis. The most devastating blow to the Indians was cholera and it killed fast! This disease causes severe diarrhea and vomiting, extreme dehydration, kidney failure, and death. It was transmitted by the ingestion of fecal matter, either directly or in bad water or food.

Despite these major setbacks, the Comanches were fairly sophisticated in treating simple medical issues. They treated toothaches with heated tree fungus. They filled cavities by stuffing dried mushrooms in the tooth’s hole. They made laxatives by boiling a layer of a willow tree, and they even performed primitive surgery on gunshot wounds.

Samuel Colt’s Impact On American History:

Before the addition of more sophisticated weaponry when white settlers were attempting to steal, kill, and eradicate the Indians from the Central Plains after the Treat of Guadalupe was signed, the whites were no match for the sophisticated mounted lethal Comanche warrior. However, in 1830, a 16 year old kid with bright ideas and a niche for mechanics named Samuel Colt molded is first patented model of a semi-automatic pistol! In New Jersey in the year 1838, the company began to manufacture Colt’s firearms.

This immensely caused a paradigm shift in the war because now they Indians could be blasted from horseback by guns that didn’t need reloading after each shot. While this lent a hand to the Republic of Texas, still no one outside of Texas knew the breakthrough taking place including Samuel Colt himself. While the whites were celebrating in Texas, Samuel Colts company had just filed for Bankruptcy in 1842. His invention was considered a failure, and Samuel Colt lived in poverty for 5 years.

His luck changed immensely when he received a letter from the Texans giving him feedback on just how effective his weapons had been on the front against the Indians. Although Mr.. Colt had lost everything, he managed to keep his patents. With the feedback he received, this invigorated his efforts causing him to redesign the pistols for improvement, and through his resilience, he secured an order for 1000 pistols for the Army. The story of Samuel Colt has never went away in history again.

Killing Of The Buffalo:
The greatest threat of the Comanche’s identity showed up on the plains in the late 1860’s. Comanche’s were known as Buffalo Men. They lived and survived off of this beast of an animal. They used it for food, clothing, trade, and nothing was wasted from the buffalo when it was killed.

The strategic invasion of white settlers during this time period was to eradicate the buffalo from the plains of Central America. “Between 1868 and 1881 they WOULD KILL 31 MILLION BUFFALO, stripping the plains almost entirely of the huge, lumbering creatures and destroying any last small hope that any horse tribe could ever be restored to it’s traditional life.”

The first large massacre happened in 1871 because there was finally a market for buffalo hide products. There was a new tanning technology that allowed the hides to be turned into high grade leather. This combined with the new railway in Kansas, meant these skins could now be shipped commercially. Within 2 years, hunters mainly working the Kansas plains had killed 5 million buffalo! These plains were now completely eradicated from the animal that roamed these planes for centuries before. This proved debilitating to the Comanche’s and other Indian tribes.

The central theme of this historical non-fiction book is Quanah Parker, the son of a Comanche chief, & who’s mother was a kidnapped white woman named Cynthia Ann Parker who was from a prominent Texas family. She was captured at the age of 9 by the Comanches during a raid. As Cynthia Ann Parked was forced to be raised by the Comanches, she grew to love this lifestyle, married the chief, and had 3 children with Quanah later becoming the Comanche Chief.

Quanah’s climb through the ranks of the Comanche’s, and his efforts to unite various Indian tribes against the invasion of new settlers of the land, and the United States military encompass a significant part of the story. His complex identity being half white & half Comanche lends a bridge between two cultures vying for survival and understanding during a volatile time in American history.

In conclusion, the author sums it up best. “What Quanah had that the rest of his tribe in the later years did not was that most American of human traits: boundless optimism. Quanah never looked back, an astonishing feat of will for someone who had lived in such untrammeled freedom on the open plains, and who had endured such a shattering transformation. In hard times he looked resolutely forward something better.”

His gravestone reads: “Resting here until day breaks
And shadows fall
And darkness disappears
Is Quanah Parker, the last chief of the Comanches.”