Time in the Wilderness


Time in the Wilderness

The Formative Years of John “Black Jack” Pershing in the American West

Tim McNeese

448 pages
23 photographs, 1 illustration, index


December 2021


$38.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

December 2021


$38.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

December 2021


$38.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Nebraska Book Award, Biography Honor

Most Americans familiar with General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing know him as the commander of American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during the latter days of World War I. But Pershing was in his late fifties by then. Pershing’s military career began in 1886, with his graduation from West Point and his first assignments in the American West as a horsebound cavalry officer during the final days of Apache resistance in the Southwest, where Arizona and New Mexico still represented a frontier of blue-clad soldiers, Native Americans, cowboys, rustlers, and miners.

But the Southwest was just the beginning of Pershing’s West. He would see assignments over the years in the Dakotas, during the Ghost Dance uprising and the battle of Wounded Knee; a posting at Montana’s Fort Assiniboine; and, following his years in Asia, a return to the West with a posting at the Presidio in San Francisco and a prolonged assignment on the Mexican-American border in El Paso, which led to his command of the Punitive Expedition, tasked with riding deep into Northern Mexico to capture the pistolero Pancho Villa.

During those thirty years from West Point to the Western Front, Pershing had a colorful and varied military career, including action during the Spanish-American War and lengthy service in the Philippines. Both were new versions of the American frontier abroad, even as the frontier days of the American West were closing.

All of Pershing’s experiences in the American West prepared him for his ultimate assignment as the top American commander during the Great War. If the American frontier and, more broadly, the American West provided a cauldron in which Americans tested themselves during the nineteenth century, they did the same for John Pershing. His story was a historical Western.

Author Bio

Tim McNeese is a professor of history at York College. He has written more than 130 books and educational materials, many for young readers, including Complete Myths of Native America, Revolutionary Spies: Intelligence and Espionage in America’s First War, Political Revolutions of the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Centuries, and Discovering U.S. History, a twelve-volume series. McNeese has appeared on the History Channel, the American Heroes Channel, Discovery’s CuriosityStream network, and Nebraska Educational Television. He lives in York, Nebraska, with his wife, Beverly.


"A superb presentation on Pershing's connection with the American West."—Stan "Tex" Banash, RoundUp Magazine

"This volume would make a worthy addition to any library devoted to American military history."—Roger D. Cunningham, Journal of America's Military Past

"Tim McNeese's Time in the Wilderness is a masterful account of the life and military career of John J. Pershing that successfully argues that Pershing's upbringing and formative years in the West shaped both the man and his future service as the commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in World War I."—Christopher M. Rein, Nebraska History

"[Time in the Wilderness] is deeply researched with a narrative which seems to encourage the reader to study the style and imagine him/herself in the action."—Chuck Parsons, Tombstone Epitaph

"For people interested in military history, this is an excellent biography and introduction to one of the military’s most revered generals."—Jeff Broome, Denver Posse

“Tim McNeese is a fine storyteller. He describes and effectively integrates in detail the environments, conditions, and people who populate this book. The depth and breadth of Pershing’s experiences are truly monumental in American history. McNeese’s book brings many of these significant events and details to life.”—Bernard R. McCoy, writer and producer of the award-winning documentary Black Jack Pershing: Love and War

“Tim McNeese has done a superb job synthesizing secondary books and articles on Pershing, as well as published primary sources. His writing is gripping, with great descriptions of people and places. McNeese has written a very readable and well-constructed book on an important . . . figure in military history.”—Mitchell Yockelson, author of Forty-Seven Days: How Pershing’s Warriors Came of Age to Defeat the German Army in World War I

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Canyon, June 1889
1. Childhood, 1860–73
2. Community, 1873–82
3. Cadets, 1882–87
4. Cavalry, 1887–90
5. Cloak, 1890–91
6. College, 1891–95
7. Cree, 1895–98
8. Cuba, 1898
9. Colony, 1898–1903
10. Courtship, 1903–9
11. Conquest, 1909–13
12. Calamity, 1913–16
13. Chase, 1916–17
Conclusion: Civilian, 1917–48


Nebraska Book Award, Biography Honor

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