Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue

iwo jima Dudley MarinesThose words spoken by Admiral Chester Nimitz reflect the strength and sacrifice of the U.S. Marines who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima this day, Feb. 23, 1945. We should always remember our U.S. military personnel who give their time, and sometimes their lives, serving our country. My family has a strong heritage of military service: my sons are third generation Marines and countless other relatives served in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Visit our store to see the selection of World War II titles we have, including our famous cart of $10 books

Hardships on the Frontier – Rescue of the Donner Party

Pioneers Donner PassLife on the frontier was hard during the nineteenth century, but crossing the Midwestern plains, rolling hills and finally the Sierra Nevada Mountains was downright difficult. One wagon train in particular barely survived. On this day in 1847, a rescue party finally reached the stranded Donner party, made up of members of the Donner-Reed families, which had set out from Springfield, Illinois the previous summer. After reaching Fort Bridger, Wyoming, the men decided to follow a shortcut (what is it about men taking shortcuts and not asking for directions?) The Hastings cutoff led them into the mountains, but an early snow storm trapped the group. As members died at the snowbound camp and with no food to sustain the group, a number of people decided to seek help and left. On February 19, 1847, the first rescue team arrived at the camp, but not before people had resorted to the necessity of cannibalism to survive. It is a harrowing tale of how extreme life could be on the frontier. Historians and scholars have written numerous books on this incident, including George Keithley’s The Donner Party. Virginia Reed Murphy recounted how she survived in Across the Plains in the Donner Party. In more recent years, the work of salvage archaeology has been conducted at numerous historic sites, including the Donner camp with a work written by Bruce Hawkins and David Madsen, Excavation of the Donner-Reed Wagons.

President’s Day – Celebrate Our Heritage

Lincoln faceOriginally started to remember George Washington, President’s Day was established by an act of Congress in 1968 and became official after President Nixon signed an executive order in 1971, making the third Monday in February a federal holiday. I always thought it was made a Monday holiday to celebrate Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays – it really honors all the United States Presidents. Our selection of books on Abraham Lincoln is extensive, including two new titles, President Lincoln Assassinated!! The Firsthand Story of the Murder, Manhunt, Trial and Mourning, compiled by Harold Holzer and Lincoln’s Gamble: The Tumultuous Six Months that Gave America the Emancipation Proclamation and Changed the Course of the Civil War by Todd Brewster. We also have a nice variety of books on Theodore Roosevelt as President, Rough Rider and explorer. His own writings include Winning of the West and The Rough Riders. Of course books by and about Ulysses S. Grant are favorites of many of our customers.

What Book to Read Next – New or Old Favorite

Ball Ambush Bloody Run 001Many customers come into the store asking if a book is good or what book should they read next. There are different ways to pick a book. Richard Howley found a list of Civil War books that Brooks Simpson said were significant when he was in college so he decided to read them too. The Civil War Monitor each month lists new books and sometimes has noted scholars give their list of books to read. Stuart Rosebrook in True West Magazine reviews new books coming out on Western history, but will also list past favorites. Besides fuller book reviews, The Journal of Arizona History editor Bruce Dinges will mention other titles in his “Book Notes” section. A longtime customer of Guidon Books since the 1970s, Ed Porter has his own review, “Lone Star Book Review.” To receive his reviews, just email Ed at onecoolporter@msn.com. Of course, you can come into the bookstore and I can always recommend one of my favorites, such as Vanished Arizona, Ambush at Bloody Run, Rebel Yell, or Al Sieber. I hope to hear from you soon.

Valentine’s Day – Gifts for Your Sweetheart

Lowry Story Soldiers Dont tell CW 001Valentine’s Day is this Saturday – Flowers and candy are nice, but a lasting gift is a book. Something personal might be one of many books written by participants during the Civil War. Many soldiers both North and South wrote letters to their families. Frank and Mary Clarke corresponded over a 25 year time span and their letters were published in “Above a Common Soldier.” In a new book, former Confederate President Jefferson Davis sent “Letters from Prison” to his wife. Cornelia Hancock, a Quaker nurse, let her family know of the neglected wounded soldiers in “Letters of a Civil War Nurse.” For those who want something more, “The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell: Sex in the Civil War” might provide interesting conversation on Valentine’s Day. Of course, we have a multitude of books on “ladies of the evening” on the Western frontier, including Michael Rutter’s “Upstairs Girls: Prostitution in the American West.” Let us know what book you will give your Sweetheart this Saturday.

Sharpshooters and Snipers

Benson Barry Bensons CW BookKyle American GunWhile there is much discussion in the news about the movie “American Sniper,” such marksmen have been used in battle for centuries. During the American Civil War, the Union Army formed volunteer sharpshooter regiments from various states. Among the most famous is Berdan’s Sharpshooters (check out ” Berdan’s United States Sharpshooters of the Army of the Potomac 1864-65” by C.A. Stevens), who had special rifles and wore distinctive green uniforms (maybe the first camies?). The Confederate Army also had their own sharpshooter battalions. Tom McKenney wrote about Jack Hinson who served under General Nathan Bedford Forrest while Berry Benson penned his own memoirs of being a Confederate Scout and Sharpshooter. American Sniper Chris Kyle, besides writing his own story, authored a book “American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms.” These and other books are available at the store and on our website.

February Black History Month

Smith Black Soldiers

Glasrud Buffalo Soldiers WestThe United States observes the African-American’s contributions to its history in February. As the Civil War is nearing the end of its sesquicentennial observance, it is important to remember the activities of the Black soldiers in the Union Army. After the war, many Blacks remained in the military and served with distinction on the Western frontier, several regiments were stationed in Arizona. They became known as the Buffalo Soldiers. Guidon Books is pleased to carry a fine selection of books on the African-American troops as well as their life in the American West.

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

Murphy Two Armies Rio Grande

Johnson Gallant Little ArmyThe United States signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on this day Feb. 2, 1848, ending the Mexican-American War. Portions of Arizona and other western territories became part of the U.S. Douglas A. Murphy has written a new book, “Two Armies on the Rio Grande,” detailing the Matamoros Campaign. Another recent volume is “A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico” by Amy S. Greenberg. A classic history on the war is K. Jack Bauer’s “The Mexican War 1846-1848. Timothy D. Johnson’s “A Gallant Little Army: The Mexico City Campaign,” focuses on General Winfield Scott, while “Trailing Clouds of Glory: Zachary Taylor’s Mexican War Campaign and his Emerging Civil War Leaders” by Felice Flanery Lewis looks at Taylor and other officers who would become prominent in the American Civil War. The Mexican-American War added territory to the growing United States, but also was a training ground for Union and Confederate soldiers.