» » Legends & Lies Kit Carson: Duty Before Honor (2015– )

Short summary

A profile of Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson (1809-68) explores his reputation as a mountain man, wilderness guide and Army officer.

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    • Author: White gold
    I never thought about it until seeing this episode, but of all the famous and infamous characters of the Old West, the one I know the least about is probably Christopher 'Kit' Carson. This episode of 'Legends and Lies' reveals the truly complex character of Carson, a man who combined heroic and brutal elements in his nature, and who lived a life of adventure that might have made dime novels of the era pale in comparison.

    Most of Carson's life pre-dated the Civil War. Born in 1809, the same year as Abraham Lincoln, a great deal of his time was spent living in the wilderness months at a time, surviving on wild game he hunted and living off the land in a very literal sense. Perhaps the defining moment of his life occurred in 1842 when he met the famous explorer John C. Fremont, who offered him a job as a guide after learning of Carson's background. For many years the men were inseparable, guided by President James K. Polk's vision of a 'Manifest Destiny' for a nation rapidly expanding westward.

    An ardent supporter of the country, Carson's allegiance to the United States positioned him against slavery during the Civil War, but at the same time, his obligation to duty at times seemed to compromise his sense of right and wrong. An ardent friend of Indian tribes like the Utes and Arapahos, Carson found himself in a quandary when faced with the task of removing Navajo Indians from their lands in the American Southwest to a reservation. Reluctantly taking his orders from a superior officer, Carson undertook a scorched earth campaign rather than fight the Navajo's directly, leaving him in his later years to regret the blood on his hands for forcing the tribe to relocate against their will.

    Not only is this episode an eye opening experience for viewers, but an unusual lesson about an era in history that's generally overlooked, positioned as it is between the country's founding during the Revolutionary War Years and the Civil War. Most of the Wild West's legends came to prominence during the 1870's and 1880's, so perhaps that's why we don't think of Kit Carson in the same way as men like wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James and Billy the Kid, but that doesn't make him any less fascinating once you learn of his life and exploits.
  • comment
    • Author: Villo
    I won't repeat my criticisms mentioned in other reviews of this series here but they pertain...what I will say is that, again, you have a cleansed and shallow presentation of the life of a complex man whose status as a hero is a highly controversial stand to take - especially given his anti-Indian campaigns. O'Reilly and crew, for instance, apologize for Carson's inhumane siege against the Navajos at Canyon De Chelley by quoting historians saying Carson "had to" do what he did. (One even claims the siege was done in "the most humane" way possible. Not a single Navajo was interviewed for their side of the story! Doesn't O'Reilly claim to be "fair" and "balanced"? Not so here.) Shallow, to say the least. The perpetuation of lies at worst. Sanitized history. Another inconvenient truth: Carson's involvement in the Civil War was not successful nor proud. In fact, he was so ineffective and his loyalties to the Union cause so suspect that he was relieved of duties shortly after being pressed into duty in the Union Army in New Mexico. None of this was presented here. To the contrary, O'Reilly and crew seem totally unaware of Carson's suspicious war record while claiming he served admirably and successfully. Dig into this yourself. It's not hard to discover the truth - although it was not presented here. Why? Carson and his family were said to be cursed, in fact, by Carson's questionable deeds as an Indian fighter. Most died tragically and while fairly young. None of this was brought out. Why? This is something considered so important that it was presented at the Kit Carson home museum in Taos, New Mexico. Any researcher should have gone there and gotten up to speed. Not so here, apparently. Duty first? Duty to who? O'Reilly has chosen a strange man to make a hero. Carson, to be kind, had a checkered past - as the Taos museum admits. In addition, I don't believe one should tackle a subject like Carson if one is not serious about doing the proper amount of research and the intent to present the unvarnished truth, from all sides of the story.
  • Episode cast overview, first billed only:
    Bill O'Reilly Bill O'Reilly - Himself - Host
    Dermot Mulroney Dermot Mulroney - Himself - Narrator (voice)
    Mike Marunde Mike Marunde - Kit Carson
    Carlos Thompson Carlos Thompson - James Beckwourth (as Carols Thompson)
    Alicia Harwich Alicia Harwich - Chipeta
    Mason Marunde Mason Marunde - Young Kit Carson
    Shaun Hagan Shaun Hagan - Francis Aubry
    Shaun Irving Shaun Irving - Lucien Maxwell
    Aaron T. Mott Aaron T. Mott - Dr. Henry Tilton (as Aaron Mott)
    Mark Cheshire Mark Cheshire - Jim Bridger
    Nicole Pisaniello Nicole Pisaniello - Josefa Carson
    Christopher Richardson Christopher Richardson - Dick Owens
    Richard Spencer Richard Spencer - Stephen Kearny
    Christopher Irving Christopher Irving - James K. Polk
    James Crooke James Crooke - Lindsey Carson
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