Reviews for Lions of the West : Heroes and Villains of the Westard Expansion

Book News Reviews
New York-based author Morgan writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Here takes a lively re approach to the history of the American west by focusing on a selection of men who had a lion-sized impact (the title is derived from an 1831 play about David Crockett and others called Lion of the West). In separate chapters he profiles Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, John Chapman, David Crockett, Sam Houston, James K. Polk, Winfield Scott, Kit Carson, Nicholas Trist, and John Quincy Adams. The text is engaging and is supported with a couple dozen maps, a brief chronology of the westward expansion era, a bibliography, and an index. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Booklist Reviews 2011 September #1
Historian, biographer (Boone, 2007), and novelist (Gap Creek, 1999) Morgan sticks to what he knows best in this collection of biographical sketches of 10 men largely limited to the pivotal roles each played in America's westward expansion. Included are four U.S. presidents, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and John Quincy Adams; orchardist and naturalist John "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman; frontier legends Davy Crockett and Kit Carson; statesmen Sam Houston and Nicholas Trist; and General Winfield Scott. Although it can be argued that many more men--and a few women--could and should be included among this pantheon of westward stalwarts and enthusiasts (the lone naysayer is John Quincy Adams), Morgan has done a good job of cherry-picking the best and the brightest of the bunch in terms of enduring impact. This collective biography provides a digestible introduction to American expansion, Manifest Destiny, and the larger-than-life men who led the inexorable charge westward. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Choice Reviews 2012 May
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Morgan offers ten vignettes of men (the subjects are all male) that he characterizes as "Lions of the West," or people he has selected for playing vital roles in US expansion. The time line might at first seem a bit curious, since he begins with Thomas Jefferson and ends with John Quincy Adams, but by "westward expansion," Morgan means the acquisition of territory by purchase, conquest, or treaty that took the US from its 1783 boundary at the Mississippi River to the Pacific Coast. Eight of his choices are stock political, military, or diplomatic characters. Three--David Crockett, Kit Carson, and John Chapman--each have at least one foot firmly planted in the quasi-mythic. Although Morgan makes occasional reference to the vital role of the "invisible many," particularly in the popular land rush to the Oregon Territory, his "lions" (Chapman excepted) are from the elite. The author does draw on some primary sources, but "in the words of historian ..." occurs perhaps too frequently in the text. The book does not break any new ground, but it does emphasize the interconnectedness of the events and the individuals. Summing Up: Recommended. General, lower-level undergraduate, and public libraries. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Two-year Technical Program Students. R. B. Way The University of Toledo Copyright 2012 American Library Association.

ForeWord Magazine Reviews 2011 Septe[Fri Apr 29 04:16:37 2016] Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\ line 249. mber/October

There is properly no history, only biography. Admired for his bestsellers, a novel, Gap Creek, and a biography of Daniel Boone, Robert Morgan subscribes to Ralph Waldo Emerson's epigraph as he chronicles the lives of Americans who influenced the development of the Western frontier in The Lions of the West.

Using detailed historical notes, illustrations, portraits, maps, a brief chronology, and appendixes, Morgan analyzes his subjects' intentions and actions as he traces the settlers' hunger for land and America's creed of Manifest Destiny. His biographies include Thomas Jefferson, architect of The Declaration of Independence, who plans the Lewis and Clark expedition for decades and, who, with the Louisiana Purchase, effects the largest real estate transfer in history; Andrew Jackson, who with ruthless brilliance in battle and treaty secures lands from Native Americans; John "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman, who plants apple seeds and good will between whites and Indians in the ever-westward zones; and David Crockett, whose humorous stories became legendary--owing in part to his death while defending the Alamo--and who inspires Texans under Sam Houston's leadership to secure independence in the Mexican-American War. Houston and Winfield Scott, General-in-Chief of that war, are likewise showcased.

Morgan's fine book also includes James K. Polk, as he acquires California and New Mexico and, in a treaty with England, gains the Oregon Territory; Kit Carson, the mountain man and Indian agent whose service plays an important part in securing California for the US; and Nicholas Trist, who negotiates the treaty which ends the war with Mexico. Morgan concludes with a short epilogue describing John Quincy Adams' resistance to the war and US expansion into Texas and the Southwest: "I want the country for our western pioneers," he said. Adams' development of a federal transportation system links roads and canals, even while he argues that war is not justified by land gain.

By delineating the lives of ten exceptional men, exploring their family backgrounds, education, and interwoven allegiances as well as vendettas, Morgan gives a truthful and comprehensive view of our westward progression. At times their biographies overlap, creating a more complex picture of significant events and individual accomplishments. The author's analysis reflects the American dream while delivering an unflinching report of our nation's imperialist attitudes and effects. Historians and general readers alike will appreciate the accuracy of this significant literary anthology.

Morgan, a professor at Cornell University since 1971, was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. His awards include Guggenheim and Rockefeller fellowships and an Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature.

2011 ForeWord Reviews. All Rights Reserved.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 September #1

Novelist, poet and historian Morgan (Boone: A Biography, 2007, etc.) moves in the territory between hagiography and calumny in this look at the men who made Manifest Destiny manifest.

Thomas Jefferson, writes the author, seems to have been born looking west; throughout his childhood and early adulthood, he ventured farther and farther beyond the Virginia piedmont, though it was up to others, such as Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, to explore the region beyond the mountains by proxy for him. Morgan begins, properly, with Jefferson, and though his account is a touch diffuse—does it matter that Jefferson was a good condenser of law texts in this connection?—it affords an appropriately high-minded justification for a signal fact: namely, as the Mexican historian Josefina Zoraida Vázquez observed, that "the North Americans kept up this continuous expansion, and the United States government followed their footsteps." Morgan follows with profiles, most of them illuminating and of just the right length, of some key players. Many are well known, such as the violent Andrew Jackson and the fearless Kit Carson; others are less well known and more interesting in the fact than in the myth, such as John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) and John C. Frémont, the latter a scoundrel who figures in many histories but not much in the popular imagination these days. Morgan's actors are sometimes even more obscure, though not deservedly so, such as the fair-minded diplomat Nicholas Trist, "idealistic to the point of seeming naive to a politician such as Polk." The author is also good at pointing out some of the incidental ironies history affords, such as the fact that the men at the Alamo could have saved their skins had William Travis not "refused to recognize the authority of [Sam] Houston."

A vivid, well-conceived look at western expansion in the old narrative-driven school of Bernard DeVoto and Wallace Stegner.

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2011 July #1

Biographer (Boone: A Biography) and novelist (Gap Creek) Morgan (Kappa Alpha Professor of English, Cornell Univ.) here presents a biographically based book in which he focuses on ten men deeply involved in America's western expansion, with one chapter devoted to each figure. Beginning with President Jefferson and his Louisiana Purchase and national vision, Morgan then provides an account of the War of 1812 through the perspectives of President Andrew Jackson and "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman. Southwestern expansion occupies the remainder of the book through the lives of U.S. President James K. Polk, Sam Houston, president of the republic of Texas, frontiersmen David Crockett and Kit Carson, as well as Gen. Winfield Scott, and U.S. statesman Nicholas Trist. The epilog on President John Quincy Adams has a concise discourse on the use of western expansion by Southern interests attempting to prolong the slave-based economy and the resulting opposition from Adams, the Yankee intellectual. The villains of the subtitle are the opponents of western expansion, including Britain, Spain, and Mexico, none of which is really villainized here. VERDICT Recommended for public and academic libraries and general readers as a themed set of biographies most useful for its southwestern frontier perspective, though not comprehensive or inclusionary.--Nathan E. Bender, Albany County P.L., Laramie, WY

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 August #1

Morgan has made the Old West his preserve with the novel Gap Creek and a biography of Daniel Boone. Here he covers considerable ground, both geographical and temporal, tracing the lives of 10 Americans who played significant roles in the country's westward expansion. Morgan's focus is on their personalities and exploits in securing the West, not in their roles as politicians, which leaves him with a somewhat one-sided portrait of Andrew Jackson. But in general he builds well-rounded portraits, beginning with Thomas Jefferson and the seminal exploration of Lewis and Clark, and ending with John Quincy Adams, a critic of the western expansion until his death in 1848. Three chapters on the Mexican-American War focus on three individuals involved in the controversial but successful endeavor--President James Polk, Gen. Winfred Scott, and the lesser-known Nicholas Trist, chief negotiator of the final treaty. Morgan is best when describing the many battles fought to secure the west. Sam Houston's confrontation with Mexican general Santa Ana is especially vivid. And the author's sympathetic and thoughtful essay on Kit Carson ruminates on the moral challenges raised by westward expansion. Readers interested in the Old West will be rewarded. (Oct.)

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