Rare Book Monthly
Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2008 Issue
Adventures from the American West from Old West Books
By Michael Stillman
Old West Books has issued its Catalog 22 July 2008 of rare, out of print books on the American West. This is an exciting catalogue, for not only is it filled with many collectible pieces, I think every one of them must be an interesting read. These are the stories of people who explored and settled the Old West, and at times engaged in a few altercations with their firearms. Some of them weren't able to always make effective use of those arms, such as General Custer, but these are people who lived exciting lives, and occasionally, thrilling (if unpleasant) deaths. The Old West fascinates us because it was such a spectacular and different world. These adventures of the 19th century are still electrifying to relive today. Now here's your chance.
Frank Grouard, like many of the names in this catalogue, is not a celebrated one, but his life was far more interesting than that of most of today's celebrities. Grouard was the son of a Mormon missionary who ran away from home and was captured by Indians at the age of 19. Captured as opposed to killed because supposedly Sitting Bull saved his life and adopted him as a brother. Evidently, Grouard did not feel the same about Sitting Bull as after seven years with the Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, he escaped, and became an Army scout under General George Crook, helping track down the Indians. He was in the area when Custer made his last stand, and reportedly "intercepted" smoke signal communications that Custer had been defeated, which his superiors did not believe. He is also said to have been the first non-Indian to see the Custer battlefield. Grouard is held responsible by some for the eventual death of his one-time comrade Crazy Horse. According to this theory, after the latter's surrender, Grouard, acting as interpreter, supposedly deliberately misinterpreted Crazy Horse's words to make him sound hostile to whites. His arrest was ordered, and Crazy Horse died in a scuffle which followed. Others hold this theory very unlikely. Grouard's life would bring him in contact with many more important events and personalities, including the final Indian defeat at Wounded Knee. His story is recounted in Life and Adventures of Frank Grouard, by Joe De Barthe. This would not include the final chapter of his life as the book was published in 1894, and Grouard lived until 1905. Item 241. Priced at $775.
Hugh Lenox Scott was not a witness to Custer's demise, but he knew much about it and Custer's Seventh Cavalry. Scott graduated from West Point in June 1876, which was when Custer met his fate. He was so moved by it that he asked to join up with the Seventh Cavalry, where he met many of the soldiers who served with Custer. Along with their stories, he recounts his own from the campaigns in the years which followed. His book, Some Memories of a Soldier, was published in 1928. Item 46b. $725.
A very long, though non-military career, is recounted in Seventy Years on the Frontier. Alexander Majors crossed the plains in a wagon, rode briefly for the Pony Express, and once hired Buffalo Bill to carry dispatches between wagon trains. He was obviously quite an elderly man when his biography was published in 1893. This copy is inscribed by Majors to his grandson. Item 73. $650.