The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

pursuit of Comanche Indians. Marching northwest through the drought-stricken
Llano Estacado, the column soon ran out of water and disintegrated in the blaz-
ing summer heat. Blood drawn from the slain horses and mules became a posi-
tive luxury as the scattered groups stumbled about the Texas Panhandle in their
agonizing searches for water. The eleven troopers who remained with Captain
Nolan and Lieutenant Cooper finally returned to Double Lakes about five
o'clock in the morning of July 30, having endured eighty-six hours without ac-
cess to additional water. Initial reports had almost the entire column lost; after
stragglers had been collected, the count showed four soldiers dead, one missing,
and at least thirty-three government animals lost.
Blending the official reports of Nolan and Fort Concho surgeon Joseph H. T.
King, a private letter from Cooper, testimony from the court-martials of four en-
listed men for desertion and disobedience of orders, and the recollections of
hunter John R. Cook, Paul Carlson has written a gripping narrative of the dread-
ful expedition. He first sets the scene, developing the background for events
from, in turn, the perspectives of buffalo hunters, Comanches, settlers, and sol-
diers. While sometimes leading to minor repetition, the device reminds us of the
multi-dimensionality of Texas and western history. And it seems especially ap-
propriate in light of the racist undercurrents that often characterized earlier
scholarly examinations of the tragic march of the black soldiers and their white
officers. Carefully assessing the tragedy, Carlson finds that the buffalo hunters
coped far better with the situation than did Nolan, whose failure to insure that
his men had filled their canteens as the journey began or to ration the water that
was available had needlessly endangered his command. "Indeed," concludes the
author, "had the events of the 1877 expedition occurred in a modern American
army, Nolan, rather than his men, might well have been the person court-mar-
tialed" (p. 133).
Ironically, the Indians, buffalo hunters, and soldiers would soon depart the
Llano Estacado. The Comanches who had successfully eluded Nolan soon ac-
knowledged the futility of continued military resistance and accepted reserva-
tion life in the Indian territory. The massive Southern Plains herd having been
decimated, the buffalo hunters also departed en masse. And with the conflicts
between hunters and Indians over, the army moved on as well. Carlson acknowl-
edges that the affair "mattered to few people" (p. 138), but his vivid narrative
and careful analysis serves as a model for future studies of this type. In sum, this
is splendid history, splendidly written.
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Robert Wooster
Bravo of the Brazos: John Lamrn of Fort Griffin, Texas. By Robert K. DeArment. (Nor-
man: University of Oklahoma Press, 2oo2. Pp. 224. Illustrations, foreword,
acknowledgments, abbreviations, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN o-8o61-
3415-1. $29.95, cloth.)
The magnetic but psychopathic John Larn has forever towered over the mythi-
cal Fort Griffin, casting a giant shadow that dwarfs other gunmen and adventur-
ers who fueled their reputations (mostly undeserved) at this often bloody West
Texas outpost. All at the same time Larn served as the sheriff of Shackelford



Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed November 27, 2015.