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Kit Carson: The Life of an American Border Man

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Kit Carson: The Life of an American Border Man
By David Remley. (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman: 2012. Pg. 320. 25 B & W Photographs 2 Maps.) ISBN: 978-0-8061-4273-9.

Reviewed by Herbert White - April 2, 2012

David Remley's masterful biography of Christopher "Kit" Carson (1809-1868) chronicles Kit's life from his childhood through to his death on May 23, 1868, less than a month after the death of Josefa, his wife of twenty-five years. A hero during his own lifetime, many myths have grown up around this epitome of the American frontiersman. In this biography, Remley strives to separate the myth from the reality, and to provide readers with a sense of what life was really like on the frontier, and for Kit.

In Kit Carson: The Life of an American Border Man, Remley presents a balanced and detailed overview of this American legend. Along the way, he does not shy away from exposing the negative aspects of Kit Carson's life and legacy, including accounts of his violent encounters with Navajos and other native peoples. Carson was illiterate, so he was never able to tell his story in his own words, although he did try to dictate his story once to a clerk, but this gentleman severely altered or simply did not understand Carson's colorful vernacular, so his story came down to us garbled.

During his lifetime, Carson was the subject of countless stories and articles, while some were true, most were exaggerations of real events, or total works of fiction. In writing this biography, Remley has had to sift through this mishmash of information to find the truth. Throughout, Remley is careful to detail where he obtained the information that he used - a major plus to both professional and amateur historians who may want to follow up on the information presented in this book.

Hunter, solider, traveler, scout, explorer, and legendry figure to this day, Kit Carson was one of the many frontiersmen that help to shape the American west. Eminently readable and edifying, Kit Carson: The Life of an American Border Man paints a vivid picture of the life and times of a remarkable man who has been both deified and condemned as a mass murderer. Remley's balanced approach to Carson's life story presents readers with a unique viewpoint from which to study the history of the American west.

Kit Carson: The Life of an American Border Man is Volume 27 in the Oklahoma Western Biographies series. A retired university professor, David Remley is also the author of:
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