Kit Carson and the Indians

Kit Carson and the Indians

Kit Carson and the Indians

Kit Carson and the Indians

Synopsis

Often portrayed by past historians as the greatest guide and Indian fighter in the West, Kit Carson (1809–68) has become in recent years a historical pariah- a brutal murderer who betrayed the Navajos, an unwitting dupe of American expansion, and a racist. Many historians now question both his reputation and his place in the pantheon of American heroes. In Kit Carson and the Indians, Tom Dunlay urges us to reconsider Carson yet again. To Dunlay, Carson was simply a man of the nineteenth century whose racial views and actions were much like those of his contemporaries.

Excerpt

The writing of this book might be attributed to an unidentified virus. I did not idolize Kit Carson as a child, though I must have read some biography or other of him. My interest in the Old West, however, developed very early, thanks to the ubiquitous cowboy heroes of the era, to the many Western movies in which the cavalry arrived at the last minute to save the beleaguered white folks, and to my father’s reading of Mari Sandoz and Stanley Vestal, among others. The librarians at the Cordelia B. Preston Memorial Library in Orleans, Nebraska, directed me to good, serious books (I was that sort of kid), and I read David Lavender’s Bent’s Fort, Gene Caesar’s King of the Mountain Men (about Jim Bridger), Bernard DeVoto’s Across the Wide Missouri, and Jack Schaefer’s Company of Cowards, all of which took a permanent grip on my imagination, for better or worse. By the time I was in college I had a strong interest in the era of the mountain men and in the Indian wars, especially those before 1865, in which, of course, Kit Carson figured prominently.

I can, however, date the beginning of my special interest in Kit Carson rather precisely. In May 1969 I drove my brother down to Lincoln, m simple, buckskin-clad trapper to military commander and eventually brigadier general, was fascinating as a tale of adventure and for its seeming incongruity. At the same time, as I now realize, Carson seemed a hero who was not hopelessly larger than life, and his modesty and refusal to revel in his fame pleased me, as perhaps it was bound to please someone reared in rural Nebraska.

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