Edwin R. Sweeney’s Passion for the West Revealed

BYWL_Edwin-R.-Sweeney_Cochise--Chiricahua-Apache-ChiefCochise biographer Edwin R Sweeney fell in love with the West like a lot of us: through television and a good school library.

Raised in and near South Boston, Massachusetts, he grew up watching the television series Broken Arrow, when he wasn’t rooting for his hometown Celtics and Red Sox. At 12 years old, after the family had moved to the suburbs, a school friend of his shared with him a biography of Cochise, and the story of the brave, honest Apache chief resonated with young Edwin. Ever since, Sweeney (an accountant by trade) has spent much of his spare time, and many vacations, researching the life of Cochise. Sweeney’s dedication to his Apache hero has resulted in his authoring or editing five books from the University of Oklahoma Press, including his first Cochise: Chiricahua Apache Chief, in 1991, and his latest: Cochise: First Hand Accounts of the Chiricahua Chief.

1. The Frontiersman: A Narrative (Allan W. Eckert, Little, Brown and Company): This book is a riveting read whose main character, Simon Kenton, was just as important as Daniel Boone (one of my heroes) during the settlement of Kentucky in the 1770s and 1780s. Eckert does painstaking research and masterfully integrates the narrative into the chronology.

2. The Outlaw Youngers: A Confederate Brotherhood (Marley Brant, Madison Books): I have been an avid reader of the James-Younger material for most of my life and this book quenched my thirst. It examines the myths
and legends of the Younger brothers. It is a carefully researched account of their outlaw activities, and provides thorough  analysis of their time behind bars in Minnesota after their capture and trial for their failed attempt to rob a bank in Northfield.

3. Conquest of Apacheria (Dan L. Thrapp, University of Oklahoma Press): This is Thrapp’s pioneer work on the Apache Wars. It still stands the test of time with its seminal content and perspective. Thrapp’s research brought forth a wealth of new primary source material from a variety of sources, including the National Archives. He was an example for other historians to follow the right path. He was my mentor and inspiration.

4. Geronimo (Robert M. Utley, Yale University Press): The best biography on Geronimo by the dean of America’s Western historians. This well researched biography is the consummate study of Geronimo, the man, with all of his strengths and faults.

5. Blood Brother (Elliott Arnold, Duell, Sloan and Pearce): This is a classic novel that focuses on the unique relationship between Tom Jeffords and Cochise. I read this book as a 12-year-old boy and became fascinated with Cochise. Arnold is attentive to the historical events that shaped Cochise’s life, and one of the first writers to address diligently the culture of the Chiricahua Apaches. Thus, his account treats them like human beings instead of barbaric savages.

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