Manifest Destiny fulfilled: Groom (Vicksburg, 1863, 2009, etc.) spotlights four journeys during two tumultuous years in American history that marked a "stupendous westward shift."
Did the United States bait Mexico into a war in 1846? Groom spends little time debating the justifications for or the morality of this controversial clash. Rather, he focuses on how the war accelerated an already notable westward migration by Americans across the continent. The day after Congress's declaration, President Polk ordered General Stephen Kearny to capture Mexico's northern-most provinces, territory that would become Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California. Groom follows Kearny's 2,000-mile march from Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to California, providing wonderful stories about the soldiers' progress through a rugged, wildly changing landscape. Kearny's march was only the most conspicuous example of the western exodus. Also on the move was the "most famous man in America," the Pathfinder, John C. FrÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â©mont, who believed he had discretion in the event of war with Mexico to seize California, a severe misunderstanding that put him in eventual conflict with Kearny and subjected him to a controversial court-martial. The Latter-Day Saints, too, were headed west. Fleeing persecution, stalled in Nebraska, Brigham Young used the money raised from the enlistment of the Mormon Battalionâ€”whose trek on behalf of a U.S. government that suddenly needed them was, unlike Kearny's, all on footâ€”to finance the Mormon's passage to Utah, "the single greatest human migration in American history up until that time." Meanwhile, snowbound in the High Sierras, the Donner party descended into cannibalism. Relying heavily on letters, official reports and journals, Groom darts in and out of these four stories, his quick rhythm mimicking the agitation of a vast territory whose conquest profoundly altered the boundaries and character of the nation.
Galloping popular history, guaranteed to entertain.
Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
The versatile author of Forrest Gump as well as several military histories such as Vicksburg, 1863, Groom brings to life the events of 1846-47 that transformed northern Mexico into the American Southwest during the Mexican War. He highlights General Stephen Kearny's Army of the West and the taking of New Mexico and California, Captain John Charles Fremont's expedition to California and his administrative battle with Kearny, the Mormon Battalion attached to Kearny's army, Colonel Alexander Doniphan's capture of Chihuahua, and the civilian emigration horror of the Reed-Donner overland wagon train disaster. Groom's narrative of national political scheming and the constant threat of British involvement in the Mexican War creates an intriguing international drama. VERDICT Groom is at his best using personal details culled from original sources to spice his capable narrative of the smaller battles, such as the Taos Pueblo uprising in New Mexico and the Battle of San Pasqual near San Diego, where rebellious Californios who were lancers nearly defeated Kearny's Army of the West. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.--Nathan E. Bender, Albany Cty. P.L., Laramie, WY[Page 86]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.