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In-Depth Interview: Authors Will & John Gorenfeld Share the History of the US Cavalry in the West

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A trip back to the old West, on horseback, from father-son authors Will and John Gorenfeld, as we talk about the new book Kearny’s Dragoons Out West: The Birth of the US Cavalry.
John Gorenfeld is the webmaster for and the author of Bad Moon Rising: How Reverend Moon Created the Washington Times, Seduced the Religious Right, and Built an American Kingdom.  Will Gorenfeld is a retired Legal Aid attorney who also worked at the California Court of Appeal.

The new book centers on the use of mounted patrols in the American West, called “dragoons” at the start in 1834, renamed “cavalry” in 1861.  Early leaders of the dragoons included Henry Dodge, and the central figure of the book, Stephen Kearny.

For most readers, the book fills in historical gaps between the War of 1812 and the Civil War; mounted patrols helped explore the West and protect migrants and wagon trains.  From Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, Kearny’s dragoons helped develop the Santa Fe Trail, paving the way for the land grabs of New Mexico (including Arizona), Texas, California and Colorado during the Polk administration.

We discuss the research methods, going back as far as 180 years, used to create the rich narrative that places the reader in that era; we sketch the stories of Kearny and Dodge, and talk about the scourge of firepower, displacement of many Indian tribes from their historic lands, and the care and training of the horses that were so essential to the cavalry.  And we talk about the US-Mexican War of 1846-48 and briefly touch on Trump’s proposed border wall.