Southwestern Historical Quarterly
In a sense this collection of essays does not really need reviewing. Patricia
Limerick has already done that in the concluding essay, "Explaining Ourselves"
and, oh yes, 'Jefferson, History and, the Changing West." It is a good essay review
of Limerick's personal reaction to the essays. Jefferson was a land grabber and a
racist and a sly politician. The excellent essays by John Logan Allen, James P.
Ronda, Anthony F. C. Wallace, Robert A. Williams Jr., Robert Gottlieb, Helen M.
Ingram and Mary G. Wallace, Peter S. Onuf, Elliott West, and Mary Clearman Blew
all bear this out. Anthony Wallace's essay is clearly an eye-opener when he proves
that Jefferson praised Indians while plotting to steal their land. And certainly John
Logan Allen is onto something when he writes about the West of the imagination,
as, in fact, do all the authors except Limerick. Robert Gottlieb quite rightly chastis-
es Henry J. Kaiser for building Hoover Dam and employing thousands of people
during the-remember-Great Depression. Kaiser was, however, probably the
only person who could get along with Harold Ickes, so he got to build the
Bonneville Dam and Liberty Ships as well. Gottlieb, who obviously enjoyed living
under the Soviet nuclear threat, also quite logically trashes Ronald Reagan for
causing the Soviets to fold their tent by outspending them for military hardware.
Peter S. Onuf's essay, "Thomas Jefferson, Missouri, and the 'Empire for
Liberty"' is absolutely riveting as he chronicles Jefferson's "war against
Massachusetts," thereby anticipating the Kennedys by many years. Onuf's essay
is one of the most insightful essays in the collection, and this reviewer learned
a great deal from it. However, if any essay in this collection matches Onuf's, it
is Elliott West's "Great Dreams, Great Plains, Jefferson, the Bents, and the
West." There isn't much Jefferson in this essay, but West's genealogical, eco-
logical, demographical, ethnological, anthropological, archaeological, and
economic analysis of Bent's Fort and its situational function is a masterful
Humboldtean piece of work. This is one of the best essays written about the
West in the last fifteen years.
Austin WILLIAM H. GOETZMANN
Mr. Polk's Army: The American Military Experience in the Mexican War. By Richard
Bruce Winders. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1997. Pp.
xvi+284. List of illustrations, list of tables, preface, acknowledgments, notes,
bibliography, index. ISBN 0-89096-754-7. $34.95, cloth.)
This excellent book will be welcomed by scholars and general readers alike. It
clears up a good deal of confusion on the war and dismisses many nonsensical
perceptions in the bargain. It is promoted as "new" military history, and while it
doubtless belongs to that genre, it is also much more. The author examines the
habits and customs of the average soldiers, grousing, eating, drinking, womaniz-
ing, and so on; but he also offers the added dimension of their political atti-
tudes. Soldiers hardly were unaware of the politics of their day, and, what's
more, they were concerned about them.
Winders also treats the war's overarching political considerations, and in this
reviewer's opinion, he does it better than previous historians. His impressive
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117155/. Accessed January 30, 2015.