During his thirty-eight-year career as a military officer, Henry Clay Merriam received the Medal of Honor for his service in the Civil War, rose to prominence in the Western army, and exerted significant influence on the American West by establishing military posts, protecting rail lines, and maintaining an uneasy peace between settlers and Indians.
Historian Jack Stokes Ballard’s new study of Merriam’s life and career sheds light on the experience of the western fort builders, whose impact on the US westward expansion, though less dramatic, was just as lasting as that of Indian fighters such as Custer and Sheridan. Further, Merriam’s lengthy period in command of black troops offers a study in leadership and important understandings about the conditions under which African Americans served on the Western frontier.
During the course of his service, Merriam crisscrossed the country, from Brownsville, Texas, to the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver Barracks, serving in eastern Washington, California, and Denver.
Drawing extensively on the many letters and records associated with Merriam’s long army career, Ballard presents his service in a wide range of settings, many of which have become the stuff of Western history: from conflict with Mexican revolutionaries on the Rio Grande to the miners’ riots in Coeur d’Alene.
Ballard’s careful research provides a vivid picture of the military’s role in the westward expansion.
What Readers Are Saying:
“This first ever biography of General Henry Clay Merriam superbly illuminates many aspects of Western history. In his wide-ranging army career, Merriam commanded Black troops in the Civil War and later on the Rio Grande. For heroism during the Civil War, he received the Medal of Honor. The general established army posts in Spokane, Coeur d’Alene and Denver, and commanded Fort Laramie, Vancouver Barracks and the Presidio in San Francisco during the Spanish-American War. He restored order during the Western Federation of Miners strikes and riots in the Idaho Coeur d’Alene mining district. He saw action in the Civil War, Indian wars and labor wars. Knowing that soldiers were only as good as what they carried, General Merriam invented a backpack (the Merriam Pack) for army use. This book also skillfully scrutinizes the process of the founding of key Western forts during the post-Civil War period. Those forts not only dealt with Indian and labor insurrections, they became a key to Western town promotion and urban growth. Author Jack Stokes Ballard, a 27-year Air Force veteran, wrote two books on aviation history before switching to Western history. He earned his history Ph. D at UCLA and taught history at the U. S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Since 2001, he has worked to preserve one of General Merriam’s accomplishments, Fort Logan in Denver. That fort contains a restored officers’ quarters and a crackerjack museum. Ballard took his passion further, devoting three years of research and writing to this fine work now in your hands. Utilizing a treasure-trove of previously un-tapped personal letters, a diary, and other primary materials, Ballard has produced a well-written, thoroughly documented, highly informative, and absorbing biography. Any readers interested in the development of the American West and/or military history will find this work an engrossing and most worthy addition to any library.”--Tom Noel, Professor of History & Director of Public History, Preservation & Colorado Studies, University of Colorado Denver
“Ballard has fashioned an exemplary biography. This is a book that can be pleasurably read by academic and armchair historians alike.”—Michael L. Tate, Montana: The Magazine of Western History
"...Ballard...has dutifully plumbed Merriam's papers and other logical sources and crafted an interesting look at his long life and career...Merriam's story is well told and often uniquely insightful, particularly because those substantial papers allowed for understandings not commonly found in biographies of this sort."--Paul L. Hedren, Nebraska History
"...a most interesting biography of a talented Gilded Age Army officer whose career was so closely linked to the development of the American West."--Roger D. Cunningham, The Journal of America's Military Past
"A thoroughly researched study, the biography is presented with authority. As a result, we now have a clear understanding of the work and leadership of this Civil War officer and military commander in the American West."--Paul H. Carlson, Texas Tech University, Emeritus
"In this well-written book...Ballard brings Merriam's thirty-eight year career in the United States Army to life and situates him at the center of several critical moments in American history from the Civil War to the Spanish-American War. This volume will be of interest to Western historians as well as other scholars of late nineteenth-century America...overall...this is a very good book."--Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai, Angelo State University