Friday, December 26, 2014

Book Review: American Frontier Lawmen, 1850-1930. Osprey Elite -96.

American Frontier Lawmen, 1850-1930. Osprey Elite -96.

Written by Charles m. Robinson III, and Illustrated by Richard Hook, Copyright 2005, 72 pages.

Scope – Vast
Completeness – Low
Appeal – High (to me)
Accuracy -- *

This is sort of an oddball title for Osprey as it deals with a non-military subject. Instead it covers law enforcement figures of the western USA during the period 1850-1930. (It does not cover Canada during this period.)

For better or worse, what it basically offers is a very interesting survey of gunfights and lawmen of the period. It does not specifically focus on uniforms (which were rare, more on this later) or weapons (which were largely a matter of personal choice selected by individuals.) Even when it states that a law enforcement agency was uniformed and equipped with issued weapons, such as with the Native American Indian police forces described, it does not take the time to focus and give a detailed description of what exactly it was that the force wore or carried. For instance, on p. 49 he states the Apache tribal police were at one incident issued with “defective” .50 caliber, government issue, Springfield rifles, but he does not say in what way were the weapons specifically defective, and although he does give a couple pictures, one a period photo in black and white, the other a painted illustration, of the tribal police in uniform, the exact details were left unexamined.    

So what does the book give? It offers a very readable and interesting history of gunfights of the old west along with representative photos of some of the events and people and places described. Many of these are so well known that they could be considered almost a house hold word, at least in the USA, i.e. the gunfight at the OK Coral, the story of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Wild Bill Hickock among others. However, there’s nothing wrong with telling these stories again, (although in common Osprey fashion, its done without footnotes) and if they were not included they would be conspicuous by their absence.

Other incidents, such as the aforementioned story of   John P. Clum and the creation of the Apache tribal police in 1874, were new to me, as was the story of the Johnson County war, a range war between various factions of ranchers, farmers and governmental groups in Wyoming of the late 1880s, early 1890s.

In conclusion, this book is a good introduction to the subject but if the reader wishes to do much with the period, including wargaming some of the gunfights, they should expect to have to do supplemental research elsewhere.   

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