Xlibris, $19.99, 266 pages
Guardians of the Frontier traces the personal history of three generations of the Cross Family as they explore and settle land in the Dakota territories in the middle to late nineteenth century. Author Joseph L. Gavett has written seven books on the history and people of North Dakota and uses a historian’s pragmatism in his storytelling. Guardians of the Frontier is historical fiction, but with the voice and feel of a factual first person chronicle. Gavett’s tone is established by the use of journals and letters to relate many of the personal landmarks in the lives of Isaac, Abraham and William Cross.
The lives of the characters in Guardians of the Frontier are interwoven with actual locations and historically significant events. The American Fur Company, Fort Union, Fort Pierre, Fort Randall and Fort Abercrombie were real but provide fictional context for the character’s lives as trading posts and military settlements. The Assiniboine Indian’s language, culture and tradition feature prominently throughout the book. A glossary of Native American words and phrases is included in the back.
The decades spanned by Guardians of the Frontier cannot be told without the devastation of the Civil War, in which one of the three main characters fights. The location and time also intersects with the increasing tension between the United States Cavalry and Native American tribes which finds the Battle of the Little Bighorn included in the story.
Marriages, births and deaths are cause for celebration and sorrow but Gavett does not romanticize the joys of the life chosen by the Guardians of the Frontier nor over-dramatize the hardships which plagued them. His writing is meticulously researched and historically accurate, supported by the historical information, people and places addendum at the end of the book.
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