American West •  U.S. History and Medicine

$29.95 hardcover

Add to Cart

An Army Doctor on the Western Frontier: Journals and Letters of John Vance Lauderdale, 1864-1890

Edited by Robert M. Utley

Winner of the 2014 Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Award for Journals, Memoirs, and Letters

Assigned to the District of Utah during the Civil War, physician John Vance Lauderdale spent the next twenty-five years on army posts in the American West, serving in California, Arizona, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Texas. Throughout his career he kept a detailed journal and sent long letters home to his sister in upstate New York. This selection of Lauderdale’s writings, edited and annotated by a premier historian of the American West, offers an insightful account of army life that will teach readers much about the settlement and growth of the West in a time of rapid change.

Lauderdale’s observations are keen and critical. He writes about fellow officers, his army superiors, the civilians and American Indians he encountered, life on officers’ row, and the day-to-day functioning of the army medical service. Particularly valuable are his insights into military interactions with local communities of Mormons, American Indians, and Hispanos.


Robert M. Utley, formerly the chief historian of the National Park Service, is the author of seventeen distinguished books on the history of the American West, most recently Geronimo.


“A fascinating view, not only of frontier army life and of domestic arrangements on a military post, but also of the man who made the observations.”


The Journal of America's Military Past

“This new personal account is a meaningful addition to the field.”


The Journal of Arizona History

“Robert Utley has provided a valuable service in researching, transcribing, and annotating a large selection of these writings. . . . We are fortunate to have such a well-documented glimpse of this unique time and place in American history.”


The Chronicles of Oklahoma

“(Utley’s) transcriptions and annotations of Lauderdale’s letters and journal offer a valuable window into an army doctor’s life as well as the experiences of settlement in the American West.”


H-Net Reviews

“A fascinating account of officer life.”


On Point: The Journal of Army History

“This is a memoir of people and pueblos, of friends and fiends, all a part of the American frontier. It is not how-the-West-was-won but more interestingly, how-the-West-was-lived.”


Southwestern Historical Quarterly

6 x 9 in. 208 pages 34 halftones, 6 maps