Reviews for Kearny's March : The Epic Creation of the American West, 1846-1847


Booklist Reviews 2011 October #1
Written with novelistic appreciation for character and ambition, Groom's military histories (Vicksburg 1863, 2009) are vibrant, kinetic, and popular. His newest features the expedition ordered by President James Polk to conquer New Mexico and California. Via Groom's nigh-audible prose, readers can easily imagine the cacophony of thousands of animals and men as the force, commanded by Colonel Stephen Kearny, trekked southwest along the Santa Fe Trail. Meanwhile, Polk hedged his bet on California, in case Kearny ran into trouble, by hinting to officers there--John C. Frémont happened to be conveniently "exploring" the area--to overthrow Mexican rule in the event of war. Completing Groom's historical tableau of the "promiscuous commotion" of 1846 are the Donner party of pioneers, the Mormon Battalion raised by Brigham Young, and the Missouri Volunteers led by Alexander Doniphan. All set forth westward in Kearny's wake toward, respectively, cannibalism, road building through Arizona, and spectacular battle victories. Noting modern imprecations on the Mexican-American War, Groom sensibly refracts his account through contemporaries' experiences, lending gritty, bloody immediacy to an energetic, enthralling narrative history. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 September #1

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. Frémont, 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 Battalion—whose trek on behalf of a U.S. government that suddenly needed them was, unlike Kearny's, all on foot—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.

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Library Journal Reviews 2011 October #1

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.

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