Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Best of 2011

One of the many items [old and new] enjoyed and recommended by Burbank Public Library staff during 2011 for your consideration:

Kearny's March, by Winston Groom

In terms of western expansion in the United States, 1846-1847 was a busy period. Winston Groom thinks that if the United States had not taken the northwestern provinces of Mexico away, the southern part of the States would now belong to Mexico, and the states of Oregon and Washington to Canada. This was the only opportunity we would ever have to expand the United States from sea to sea. After the Mexican War, politics in the United States became a fight over free or slave states for the new territories. This book covers Kearny's conquest of New Mexico and his crossing of New Mexico, Arizona and California, while building a wagon road (men, horses and mules died along the way); the Mexican War in Texas and Mexico, including the major engagements; and John C. Fremont's western travels recording conditional and mapping trails in the area west of Missouri (which was considered at that time to be the great American desert). Fremont's books showed that it would be possible to farm and ranch in that country, at least when the natives could be pacified.

An additonal section covers the Mormon trek to Utah. Persecuted wherever they tried to settle, Brigham Young decides that getting out of the United States was the only answer for the Mormons. Three hundred or so of his followers volunteered to go into the west with Kearny's forces, during which they experienced an unfortunate battle near what is now Escondedo - San Pasquel.

Another sad tale covers the bad times of the Donnor Reid party trying to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains in the wintertime. This tragedy was well covered because the newspapers of California interviewed all of the survivors and saved their story for posterity.

I enjoyed this book very much. I even came away with more empathy towards John C. Fremont; previous to reading this book, I felt that he was ready to take all of the credit away from others for the American conquest of California.

Reviewed by Peggy

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