Review: “Comanches” By T.R. Fehrenbach

November 25, 2023

Review – Comanches – by T.R. Fehrenbach

This was a fantastic read.
There are several versions of “Comanches”, by T.R. Fehrenbach. This book is definitely politically incorrect by today’s standards, but very, very real. The violence committed by both the tribes as well as the whites is well documented. More on that later.

I first bought a copy of “Comanches – The History of a People”, a new copy in paperback. At well over five-hundred pages, I simply could not annotate and make side notes in the book without destroying it. So I got a used hardcover copy, from 1978. I hated to mark it up, but that’s what I do. I gave the new soft-cover to a friend.

The hardcover I got is titled “Comanches – The Destruction of a People” as opposed to the modern copy’s title “Comanches – The History of a People”. The page count is essentially the same. The title change was a harbinger of the politically incorrect (by today’s standards) nature of the book. While pulling no punches on the violence, the book is not altogether Eurocentric. In fact, there is much praise of the tenacity of the tribal people, their effectiveness in war, as well as their survival skills.

The first part of the book details how the Comanche tribes kept both the Spanish (later Mexican) and French out of the frontier. Truthfully, there was absolutely no penetration of Comancheria for generations. The tribes literally held back the westward expansion of Europeans for decades.

The power of the plains “Amerindians” (the author’s term) revolved around their expertise with the ponies that they stole from the Spanish. The Plains Amerindians (especially the Comanches) had no superiors in mounted warfare. The fleet Ponies easily outran larger, heavier European horses, and could live easily in rough conditions.

Additionally, the Comanches and other tribes could let fly arrows faster and way more accurately than soldiers or frontiers people on horseback with loaded rifles. This did not change until the introduction of the Colt revolver and the Texas Rangers.
We also learn how the Texas frontier was effectively abandoned by the U.S. government, especially during the Civil War. This is an indication of how Texas became so screwed up, but independent.

Ultimately, the author suggests that the inflexibility of the Plains Indians to adapt to change was their downfall. Additionally, there was simply no way to stop the manifest destiny of European culture any longer than they did, which was remarkable.

Don’t kid yourself, this account is full of torture and battle scenes. It’s not pretty at times but very real.
If you are a history buff with a strong stomach, I highly recommend “Comanches – The History of a People”, by T.R. Fehrenbach.

Two Reviews: The World’s Greatest Horse Warriors

– John Titus

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