NORMAN D. BROWN, Editor
Kit Carson: A Pattern for Heroes. By Thelma S. Guild and Harvey L.
Carter. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984. Pp. xii+367.
Preface, maps, illustrations, afterword, notes, bibliography, index.
From atop the mountain of Kit Carson literature might reasonably
come the question "Why another biography?" The authors, Thelma S.
Guild and Harvey L. Carter, anticipate and answer that question up
front. They wrote Kit Carson: A Pattern for Heroes for a more general
readership than, for instance, Carter's own previous work, Dear Old Kit
(1968), while incorporating the results of their more recent research
and descriptive backgrounds not found in earlier studies. To a great
extent they succeeded, although the extensive annotation in Dear Old
Kit will still be of value to the serious Carson reader.
The book's title accurately describes the authors' main theme. Car-
son's lifelong modesty and basic decency are well illustrated, and his
compatibility with and treatment of the Indians who came under his
care and control in later life adequately show him to be a genuine hero
rather than the Indian-killing villain of some recent interpretations. As
the authors point out, "though he was an Indian fighter, he was not an
Indian hater." In fact, he is shown to be remarkably free of any preju-
dice based on race. The book does introduce one instance that tends to
serve as an exception to Kit's decent behavior, his execution of three
apparently innocent prisoners, at John C. Fremont's direction, during
the United States' conquest of California. Unfortunately, the authors
do not provide much in the way of serious analysis of that episode so
that Carson's part in it might be better understood.
Both Kit Carson's early years and Civil War years receive fairly short
shrift from the authors, compared with the attention given to his trap-
ping, guiding, and postwar activities. With respect to the Civil War, that
is unfortunate, since an immense amount of primary material exists
dealing with his service as colonel of the First New Mexico regiment
and with the Navajo and Adobe Walls campaigns. The authors are ob-
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117151/. Accessed January 26, 2015.