by Harvey Meyerson
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2019. Pp. xliv, 322.
Illus., notes, index. $19.24 paper. ISBN: 0700629505
The Army and the National Parks
Originally published in 2001, Nature’s Army told part of a still little-known chapter in the history of the U.S. Army; its role in establishing and preserving the National Parks, a mission it performed from the 1870s into the First World War.
Journalist and historian Myerson divides his subject into three parts. About a fifth of the text is devoted to the now often overlooked role of the Army in the exploration of the West, internal development, and civil engineering. Then he gives us a long look at how a series of cavalry regiments delineated, and mapped the park at Yosemite, followed by an account of the evolution of the park, and the army, over the years from 1890 onwards.
Nature’s Army is a good read, full of useful information and insights into both the origins of the national park system and military life in the late nineteenth century, populated by Civil War veterans, some famous -- George Crook, S.M.B. Young – and most not, plus appearances by early conservationists such as John Muir and Gifford Pinchot, some politicians, including Theodore Roosevelt, and many others, even including cameo appearances by Geronimo and Sitting Bull.
Nature’s Army, a volume in the UPK series “Modern War Studies”, is an interesting read for anyone interested in the frontier army, the role of the military in nation building, and, of course, the national parks.
Note: Nature’s Army is also available in hard cover and e-editions.
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