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1-Page Summary of Empire Of The Summer Moon
Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne is a work of historical nonfiction and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction. The book narrates the history of the Comanche Nation, as well as following Quanah Parker’s life from his childhood to adulthood, when he became leader of his tribe after being captured by white settlers at age nine.
The Comanches migrated from the northern region of modern-day eastern Wyoming to the southern plains. They discovered wild horses there and learned how to tame them, breed them, and use them for warfare. The Comanches were a warring tribe that raided settlements and tribes in their area. They also fought off the Spanish Empire once they had conquered most of North America.
However, the settlers soon encountered a tribe of Native Americans known as the Comanche. The Parkers were one such family who owned land in Texas and experienced a brutal attack by this tribe. They lost several members of their family to captivity and death, but also managed to capture a young girl named Cynthia Ann Parker who would later marry into the tribe and give birth to Quanah Parker, who became an influential leader against the United States army.
The Comanches were able to hold back many incursions into their lands due to their prowess as horse warriors, the inability of their enemies (namely the Spanish and Americans) to adapt to warfare against them, and skirmish-style battles typical of the plains. However, with the defeat of Mexico in 1848 and relentless American invasion Westward, pressure against the Comanches mounted. Eventually Colonel Ranald Slidell Mackenzie led a coordinated campaign that defeated the Comanches using new repeating rifles and mounted charges. The Comanches under Quanah Parker had no choice but surrender or be annihilated.
Even after the Comanches were defeated, Quanah Parker still tried to lead his people. He was no longer fighting against the Americans, but trying to integrate into life on a reservation and fight for his people’s rights. He did this throughout his entire life.
Chapter 1: “A New Kind of War”
It was the fall of 1871, and American troops were closing in on defeating the Comanche nation. The 4th Cavalry under Ranald Mackenzie had a plan to defeat them once and for all.
The Comanche nation was at the height of its power in 1871. They were a powerful group, and they had been able to conquer many other tribes. The reason for their success was that they took advantage of the Industrial Revolution, which was happening around them. They also benefited from events that happened after the Civil War ended, such as industrialization and westward expansion.
Mackenzie and his troops sought out a specific group of Comanches on the aforementioned date: Quahadis, the group from which their war chief, Quanah Parker, came. Quanah Parker was not only a successful and respected Comanche war chief; he also had an interesting background because he was half white.
Mackenzie made a mistake on that fateful day. He had information about Quanah and his warriors’ whereabouts, but Quanah’s men knew of Mackenzie’s plans. They ambushed the Americans at Blanco Canyon, losing many horses and men. The battle later became known as the Battle of Blanco Canyon; it was one of many battles over the next four years.
Chapter 2: “A Lethal Paradise”
Quanah Parker was a famous and wanted enemy. Over forty-six companies of American infantry and cavalry were in pursuit of him. He also became the last chief of the Comanche nation during their reservation years. His mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, was a daughter from an influential family called the Parkers—a family that built a fortress on the edge of Texas frontier and within what is known as Comancheria territory. Her fate correlated with her son’s because “in one sense, the Parkers are the beginning and end of the Comanches in U.S history”.