The Year of Decision, 1846

The Year of Decision, 1846

The Year of Decision, 1846

The Year of Decision, 1846

Excerpt

The purpose of this book as stated in the opening pages is a literary purpose: to realize the pre-Civil War, Far Western frontier as personal experience. It is, however, considerably longer than it would have been if fulfilling that purpose had not proved to involve a second job. I found that my friends and betters, the professional historians, had let me down. One who wanted to study the Far West at the moment when it became nationally important and to study it in its matrix could turn to no book that would help him very much. His only recourse was Paxson's encyclopedic treatment of the whole frontier from 1763 to 1893. Since Turner's great beginning the frontier has been a favorite subject of the profession and yet there is no unified study of the area in which this book is set in relation to its era. There are a great many specialized studies and a vast accumulation of monograph material--both of which, however, have left wholly untouched a number of matters treated herein which I have had to settle for myself. But there is no synthesis of them. The profession, in short, has broken up this phase of our history into parts; it has carefully studied most but by no means all of the parts; it has not tried to fit the parts together. And the stories I wanted to tell could not be told intelligently unless their national orientation was made clear. So perforce I have had to add to my primary job another job which it was reasonable to expect the historians would have done for me.

My hope is that, in combining the two jobs, I have not bungled both. I write for the nonexistent person called the general reader. He is here promised that, once it gets under way, my text does not long depart from actual events in the lives of actual men and women. In getting it under way I have chosen the stern but kinder way of throwing at him a first chapter of grievous weight. If he survives that, he will find things happening from then on.

By the end of the first chapter, also, the method of the book will be clear. The actual narrative is always rigorously chronological, and the parts of the book are kept as close to a chronological order as the multiplicity of stories will permit. In passages designed . . .

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