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Comanche 1800-74 (Warrior) (英語) ペーパーバック – 2003/11/21
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In the 18th and 19th centuries, the numerous tribes of mounted Comanche warriors were the "Lords of the Southern Plains". For more than 150 years, these ferocious raiders struck terror into the hearts of other plain tribes, Mexican villagers and Anglo settlers in frontier Texas. Their dominion stretched from southern Colorado and Kansas into northern Mexico. This book documents the life and experiences of a Comanche warrior at the peak of their dominance. Following a hypothetical figure through a lifetime, it covers key social and cultural aspects as well as documenting the methods and equipment that they used to wage war.
Douglas V Meed is a former US infantryman and cryptanalyst with the Army Security Agency in Europe. Following degrees in Journalism and history he worked as reporter and editor with the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Light newspapers, before being selected as Foreign Services Officer with the United States Information Agency in Europe and Asia. He has written a number of books and numerous articles for history magazines and academic journals.
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One is left with mixed feelings about the Comanches after reading this book. On one end, you are left to respect, even admire this fierce, nomadic horse culture, a family-oriented people who prided themselves in their valor and strength and regarded their wives as their first priorties. On the other hand, one is left in shock and disgust at the appaling treatment they meted out to defenseless prisoners, who were more often than not women or small children.
The book gives a background on Comanche history. Though they started out carrying out raids on foot and disguising themselves to hunt buffalo, they were known even in the 17th Century for their brutality, their arrogance, and their malice towards other Indian peoples. By the time the book's imaginary hero, Spotted Pony, is born, the Comanches have become a dedicated horse culture living a life of hunting, raiding, and heroic warfare. As far as the nearby Mexicans and more placid tribes were concerned, they were just landlocked pirates, committing deeds of unnecessary and horrid savagery just for the sake of doing so (see pages 26, 31, 41 and 55 in particular).
The Comanche warrior had a versatile arsenal. In addition to a variety of firearms (many acquired from the Mexican Comancheros, with whom they had a mutually peaceful and respectful relationship), they used lances (some tipped with metal heads), short bows, and fighting knives, though they were not known for their skill with the last of these. They were known as excellent horse-archers, however, and were called the 'finest light cavalry in the world'.
As with most Amerindian peoples, the Comanches and the white men got caught up in the never ending process of raid and counter-raid, atrocity and counter-atrocity, but in the end the versatility and greed of the Anglos triumphed and the Comanches were destroyed or put on reservations. The book romantically portrays the last free years of these proud warriors, and has its hero Spotted Pony die in the climatic battle in 1874.
Overall, the book is a good source on these fierce warriors, and it is well endowed with excellent color plates. Highly recommended for those seeking a deeper understanding of the most ferocious and uncompromising of the plains peoples.
To highlight several points I will select a few sections of the text and also mention omissions which are an integral part of Comanche history for the period.
The author fails to mention, either in the text or in the chronology, that the Comanche had been in a constant state of war with the Spanish between 1727-86. Peace was established in 1786. Smallpox spread through the plains peoples at this time too.
Page 7 clothing – breech clouts of deer hide – this would be uncomfortable especially when infused with sweat. 'Aprons' are more likely to have been worn in the first instance. Cloth from the Mexican trade would be available well before 1800. Women did not wear dresses at this period but a skirt with a separate cape.
Page 7 Caption to the picture – 'Comanches did not honour old people' This is not true. Old men had a different role than men who were fit for war. As elders they were expected to be gentle and wise and not to react to any insult offered or to the occasional pranks played by boys (which one man dismissed as 'you were young once, boys will be boys).' They formed an informal society – the Smoke Lodge. Older women often became respected healers or shamans, and could handle sacred objects.
Page 11 – 'foot-slogging scavengers' – the Plains people were well able to hunt buffalo without the use of the horse and were not scavengers. The horse made life easier.
Page 13 – caption on scalping. This is simplistic. Scalping had spiritual meaning and is linked to the soul of the enemy and the afterlife.
Page 14 – Before launching a raid the warrior's worked themselves into a fighting frenzy. Etc. This is nonsense. A raid was organised by the man contemplating leading out a war party. He would consult others who would come to his tipi and if wishing to join would smoke the pipe passed to them. The leader would have also consulted his spiritual guardians as to whether the raid itself would be successful. If the signs were right in the afternoon he would sit in his tipi and sing his war songs in full regalia. This would signal his intentions to others who might join him at this point. In the evening there would be a parade through camp. Following this there may have been a War Dance, or a Vengeance Dance if this was the purpose of the raid. These dances were not frenzies around a fire. The Comanche actually made less of this than other Plains peoples. By sunrise the party would have slipped out of camp.
Page 14 – Before a raid warriors turned their faces into hideous masks by painting them in lurid colours. Yes they painted their faces but after leaving and just before taking action. These were carefully applied designs often having origins in dreams or visions.
Page 15 – The warriors distributed loot to the elders – this implicitly contradicts the caption to the photograph on page 7.
Page 15 – last sentence – women could slash their breasts, etc. depending on the degree of grief. They would have also cropped their hair as a sign of mourning.
Page 18 – The author seems to make much of Comanche warriors raping women. This probably occurred but it must be remembered that by the 1830's the Comanche had been in contact with the Spanish and Mexicans for over a hundred years, many of those in conflict. Cheyenne warriors first committed rape on a white woman in the late 1860's having become fed up with their own women being raped by Americans. The same is probably true of the Comanche but occurring at a much earlier period. Texans probably committed the same act on Comanche women but not mentioned.
Page 20 – last sentence – where is the evidence for this thinking by a Comanche warrior. See above.
Page 21 – The first clashes between the Comanche and Texans occurred in 1835 not 1836. The author fails to mention previous contacts between the Parker family and the Comanche. From my research the Parkers had been at least cheating the Comanche in trade. The Texans were intent on taking Comanches lands and to legitimise this it is well to vilify your enemy.
Page 28 – it is worth mentioning that the Texas Rangers were sent back from the 1848 war in Mexico due to atrocities they were committing on the local populace. Similar behaviour would occur if the Rangers caught the Comanches.
Page 31and 41 - Illustrations from 'Indian Depredations in Texas'. I have doubts about the veracity of these accounts, which may be the imaginings of a sensationalist press written at the time in part to justify the taking of Comanche land, rousing anti Comanche feeling in the local populace and obtaining military aid. How many similar incidents were perpetrated by Texans on Comanche women and went unreported? These give an unbalanced account and should have not been used or used with caution, 'this might have happened' and with mention there may have been similar actions wrought on Comanche women.
Page 54 'Its a good day to die' – as far as I aware this a Lakota expression and not a Comanche one and is therefore misleading
Page 59 Plate D – the use of the word 'hallucinating' is inappropriate.
The whole work omits Comanche the history of conflict with other aboriginal peoples and therefore gives a lop sided view of Comanche history for the period. The Comanche also fought the Pawnee, Osage, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Ute for example. In 1838 they fought a major battle with the Cheyenne/Arapaho at Wolf Creek and were defeated. This resulted in a peace between these peoples that endured.
The only good thing about the book is the paintings by Jon Smith, which are accurate and superb.