In addition to a biography of the great Native-American warrior, Utley (Little Bighorn Battlefield and Custer's Last Stand, 2011) takes readers on a tour of southern Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico.
The author examines the relevant geography, but he also provides a better understanding of how the legendary Geronimo became a brutal reservation Apache. The author’s long career as a Western American historian, his association with the National Park Service and his close attention to the topographic detail of the Apache homeland guarantee a true picture of the man who was neither hero nor thug. Geronimo was never a chief, but he had a mysterious, surreal power that left his people in awe, and often in fear, of him. The Apache people were trained from birth to survive in the treacherous mountains of the Southwest, to live off the land and to plunder. It was a way of life Geronimo excelled at, with his shamanlike ability to foresee trouble for his small band of loyal followers. Raiding and plunder were an integral part of their culture, as was breaking out of the reservation on a regular basis. Geronimo’s attacks in Mexico, where his first wife and children were massacred, were invariably brutal. The Apache nation had a number of true leaders, most of whom wished to live peacefully. Cochise is well-known to us, but the greatest of all chiefs and Geronimo’s mentor, Mangas Coloradas, has been decidedly unfamiliar to most of us until now.
This is no hagiography. Utley presents the culture, upbringing and external forces that made Geronimo the man he became, warts and all.