Building Your Western Library

bywl-leadU.S. Army Colonel Thom Nicholson and his wife retired to Highland Ranch, Colorado. He was born in Missouri and raised around Fort Smith, Arkansas. After obtaining a Nuclear Engineering degree from the Missouri School of Mines, he joined the U.S. Army and as a green beret for 30 years, served in Vietnam, South America and other less desirable locations. In Vietnam he was first an A-team XO and then a raider company commander for a cross-border operations unit of MACV-SOG. He retired from the Army in the late 1990s and has been writing ever since. He has had twenty books published and his most recent is Home to Texas (Five Star).

Nicholson says he has “long been fascinated by the story of the Frontier army in the winning of the Trans-Mississippi West. These brave men, ill-educated, ill-equipped, ill-supplied, ill-fed, and often ill-led, rode into the unknown to fight a determined enemy, who asked for no quarter and gave none.”

He says, “The following are among the books in my library that I particularly enjoy and believe will provide the reader with a better understanding of the subject.”

1. Crimsoned Prairie, The Indian Wars on the Great Plains (S.L.A. Marshall, Charles Scribner’s Sons): Written by one of America’s preeminent military historians, the book focuses on the 25 years between 1865 and 1890, when the majority of combat action between the army and Indians occurred. He completely overviews the more major and famous battles, giving the reader a feel for the action, in the manner he is so good at.

2. Geronimo (Robert M. Utley, Yale University Press): One of numerous biographies of the infamous Apache leader. For ten years the Apache mystic lead the army on long, hard chases in the unimaginable harshness of the Southwest. His campaigns are still studied today as examples of guerilla warfare at its best.

3. Fighting for Uncle Sam: Buffalo Soldiers in the Frontier Army (John P. Langellier, Schiffer Publishing): With both narrative and pictures, the author provides a sense of the impact of these fine men in the winning of the Trans-Mississippi west. A book I could not put down.

4. Custer: The Controversial Life of George Armstrong Custer (Jeffry D. Wert, Simon & Schuster): Okay, I admit it. I am a dyed in the wool George A. Custerphile. I can’t get enough of this brave, impetuous, narcissistic, neurotically flawed soldier. I have over fifty books on him, or by him and Libby, his wife. Wert’s is on my favorites just because I like the way he writes.

5. Spurs to Glory: The Story of the United States Cavalry (James Merrill, Rand McNally): A comprehensive history of the U.S. Cavalry from 1834 to 1917, Merrill’s is my favorite, a great book. Also try Don Rickey Jr.’s Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay and John Langellier’s Sound the Charge, The U.S. Cavalry in the American West, 1866-1917.

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