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Shadows At Dawn [Hardcover]

Karl Jacoby


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Book Description

Nov. 25 2008

In the predawn hours of April 30, 1871, a combined party of Americans, Mexicans, and Tohono O'odham Indians gathered just outside an Apache camp in the Arizona borderlands. At the first light of day they struck, murdering nearly 150 Apaches, mostly women and children, in their sleep. In its day, the atrocity, which came to be known as the Camp Grant Massacre, generated unparalleled national attention - federal investigations, heated debate in the press, and a tense criminal trial. This was the era of the United States' "peace policy" toward Indians, and the Apaches had been living on a would-be reservation, under the supposed protection of the U.S. Army. President Ulysses Grant decried the act as "purely murder," but American settlers countered that the distant U.S. government had failed to protect them from Apache attacks, and they were forced to take justice into their own hands.

In the past century, the massacre has largely faded from memory. Now, drawing on oral histories, newspaper reports, and the participants' own accounts, prizewinning author Karl Jacoby brings this horrific incident and tumultuous era to life. What brought this party together on that fateful April morning, and what led them to commit such a stunning act of violence? Shadows at Dawn traces the escalating conflicts, as well as the alliances, that transpired among the Americans, Mexicans, Apache, and Tohono O'odham living in the borderlands over the course of several hundred years, beginning with the seventeenth-century arrival of the first Spanish missionaries. The American presence brought further transformations, especially after the Gadsden Purchase transferred a large swath of Mexican territory to the United States, leaving many Mexicans feeling like foreigners in their own land. By recounting the events from the perspective of each of the four parties involved, Jacoby challenges the dominance of the American version of the western story and also reveals the way each group has remembered, or forgotten, the massacre.

Prodigiously researched and powerfully written, Shadows at Dawn examines a forgotten atrocity and in doing so paints a sweeping panorama of the southwestern border lands - a world far more complex, culturally diverse, and morally ambiguous than the traditional portrayals of the Old West.


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About the Author

Karl Jacoby is an associate professor of history at Brown University and the author of Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves and the Hidden History of American Conservation, which was awarded the Littleton-Griswold Prize by the American Historical Association for the best book on American law and society and the George Perkins Marsh Prize by the American Society for Environmental History for the best work of environmental history.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Chorus of Present and Past Dec 5 2008
By Jonathan Brandt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I am a big fan of William Manchester, Alison Weir, and David McCullough; historians whose writings, for me, engage the reader by combining depth of research with deftness of narrative. I greatly enjoyed Karl Jacoby's first book, "Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation", largely for that reason.

"Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History" pivots on a sensational-but-forgotten crime. In this book, Jacoby presents four distinct, often counterpoised narratives. His aim is to give equal voice to each of the four peoples represented by participants at the book's titular event. Not just for that pin-point in time, but for the decades preceding and following it as well.

I think this approach succeeds wonderfully. And it leaves me, at least, fascinated by the fluid relationships among these peoples throughout those times. Their interactions, at once conflicting and intimate, challenge many of the persistent, mainstream notions of settlers and Indians in the Wild West.

There is a subtle, fifth voice in this book, however. And it makes Jacoby's work especially compelling. Alongside the Papago, the Vecino, the Americano, and the Apache; I could hear the Historian - Jacoby himself - conveying his veneration for these peoples and for the historian's calling to curate their memories.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant contribution to North American history Feb. 27 2009
By David A. Clary - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
With this original approach to a single event, tracing its origins and aftermath through the four cultural groups involved, Karl Jacoby joins a small but growing group of younger historians of the North American borderlands who have abandoned the tired formulas of the past, looked at the past with fresh eyes, taking care not to see everything from an Anglo-American perspective, and begun an era of fresh interpretation of very difficult aspects of our common (and sometimes separated) past. To boot, he writes very well. I recommend this to anyone interested in not just the borderlands or the struggles between Indians and others, but to anyone who wants a further understanding of the history of this continent.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cross-culture conflict in Arizona, 1870's style April 13 2011
By M. Heiss - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
For all the apologies and disclaimers at the beginning of the book, about how historians are SUPPOSED to weave together all the threads of the story to make one account, and how historians are NOT SUPPOSED to do what this book does (which is leave those strands separate)... despite all that, this book could not have been done better.

Take a look at one historical event (a massacre of Apaches in Aravaipa Canyon) in the context of four cultures - the Apaches themselves, their traditional enemies the O'odham people, plus the old settlers of northern Mexico that remained on the land after it was purchased by America, and the new American folks.

The historical record is shaky, because the O'odham and the Apache did not consider themselves to be homogenous nation-groups with clear agreement on oral record-keeping. Instead, the scattered and fragmented nature of these Native American peoples led to disjointed accounts. (How Karl Jacoby teased the information out of the scattered oral accounts would be excellent subject matter for another book.) In addition, there are all sorts of overlaps between the heritage of people who nobly led the massacre in order to protect their families and then were elected to public office on the strength of their determination and prestige, while keeping their participation quiet in order to avoid condemnation and sanction. The book also takes into account the give-and-take relationship of the purported peace-keping US military forces in the area.

Reading it, you get the impression that the only way for Progress to come to Arizona was for the native peoples to cease to exist. Whether through assimilation or annihilation or imprisonment on reservations, their way of life was over. Was it better to go quietly and align your people with the newcomers, or was it better to hold out and fight back? In the end, which method gained better results, better territory, and more prosperity?

It is just fascinating. Once again, America faces an enemy that is disbursed and shifting, willing to make partial peace on an individual basis, until peace no longer serves. The Islamic world is a chaotic blend of shifting alliances and individual warlords, and fighting against one or alliance with another will have repercussions that slide through different tribes and bands -- totally unpredictable.

This book is a thinker. There's no single answer to "what happened at the Camp Grant Massacre?"
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning work of history July 26 2009
By Professor Brizz - Published on Amazon.com
Karl Jacoby has quickly become one of the great names in history working today. Shadows at Dawn is simply one of the most innovative and brilliantly conceived books I've ever read. It's contributions to the enormous literature on the American West are certainly great, but more than helping us to understand this single episode, he has provided a model that future studies should hope to emulate. By carefully recreating the numerous perspectives of the divergent groups caught up in the notorious Camp Grant Massacre, Jacoby has provided a measure of insight that is truly rare. I don't think i have ever felt so "there" while reading a work of history. I read two or three books a week on average, but rarely does history stick with me like this one did...as I found myself pondering it's subject for days afterwords. I really can't recommend this highly enough, and am eager to hear what Dr. Jacoby is working on next.

FYI: Do yourself a favor and pick up his first book: _Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation_ - it's depth hints at the approach he chose with Shadows at Dawn, and similarly provides fascinating insight into an under appreciated facet of Western History.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Prescription for How to Write History Aug. 7 2013
By Brian A. Foster - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
First, I would love to see this book turned into a movie. Of course, it would not be commercially successful--well maybe it would be, based on the bloody scenes. Such a movie would have documentary aspects to it, but I see it as much more rich than that. Perhaps Ken Burns could make something of this story.

There have been other books written about the Camp Grant Massacre, but none has incorporated the sociological, political, and humanistic perspective that Karl Jacoby has. His vehicle for telling different viewpoints of the story is to tell it from four distinct perspectives of major groups involved in the massacre. Brilliant!

As a history teacher, I tell my students that most history is written from the viewpoint of the victors--by the last man standing. Earlier books on the Camp Grant Massacre have employed this age-old privilege. Jacoby sets out to convince us that the "truth" of these events can be learned from one perspective, and then once he has us believing that story, he presents another perspective, and then another and then another. In the end, we realize that there are no truths and that there are multiple truths. Humanity is complex. The world is complex. There aren't always good guys and bad guys.

In the middle, of course, there is the sad tragedy of so many people who lost their lives. From those losses, we learn about how society thought during that time (four different societies). It was not that long ago that savagery existed on our soil. Some might argue that we still experience such savagery with mass murder and terrorists. Perhaps that would be an interesting story to tell from multiple perspectives.

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