Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2006 Issue

Custer and the Old West from Old West Books

Cmeek

Two celebrities from the Old West: Comanche and Ezra Meeker (with ox cart).


The House of Representatives investigated, and proceeded to vote unanimously for his impeachment (the only cabinet secretary ever to be impeached). Belknap immediately resigned, but the Senate went on to hold a trial anyway. Among the witnesses whose testimony in this March 1876 trial was damaging to Belknap's defense was that of George Armstrong Custer. Custer's testimony evidently angered Grant, who deprived Custer of his command. Custer was terribly despondent when his troops were called to fight the Indians without him, but managed, with the help of other generals, to put enough pressure on Grant to get him to relent. Custer was allowed to rejoin his troops, which proved beneficial to no one (except, perhaps, the aforementioned Comanche who earned a comfortable retirement). Three months after his testimony, Custer lay dead at Little Big Horn. Item 2 is the Proceedings Of The Senate Sitting For The Trial Of William W. Belknap Late Secretary Of War On The Articles Of Impeachment. Belknap was acquitted, the 35-25 vote against him falling short of the two-thirds majority required for conviction. However, the "acquittal" may have reflected the belief of some senators that conviction was superfluous, Belknap having already resigned, rather than a belief in his innocence. Belknap, like Comanche, died in 1890, but without the honors. $300.

Ezra Meeker was a most remarkable traveler. In 1852, he was one of the many pioneers who crossed the Oregon Trail with a team of oxen. That was not unusual, but what was different was his decision to make the trip back east by oxcart 54 years later, when he was 76 years of age. Of course in 1906 he could have taken a train, but Meeker was a tough old buzzard, and the purpose of his trip and book was to encourage the government to preserve the trail. His book, Ventures and Adventures of Ezra Meeker, or Sixty Years of Frontier Life, Fifty-Six Years of Pioneer Life in the Old Oregon Country... was published in 1909. Remarkably, Meeker would make the trip again the year after the book was published, at the age of 80, and in later years, would make the trip by train, car and even airplane. He lived to be 98. In the years between journeys, Meeker found the time to start up the city of Puyallup, Washington. Item 209 is a copy of Meeker's book inscribed by the author. $130.

This book records the ending of that era in the American West that began 10,000 or more years earlier when humans first crossed into the land that would one day be called "America." Item 144 is Joseph Dixon's The Last Great Indian Council. In 1909, the chiefs of many tribes, now confined to reservations, gathered in the valley of the Little Big Horn for one last meeting, dressed in native wear, to reminisce about the old days, including their last major victory over Custer. This 1913 book contains their stories along with pictures from this final gathering. Item 144. $850.

The website for Old West Books is, logically, www.oldwestbooks.com. Their phone number is 817-557-4830.

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