A Splendid Savage: The Restless Life of Frederick Russell Burnham

A Splendid Savage: The Restless Life of Frederick Russell Burnham

by Steve Kemper
A Splendid Savage: The Restless Life of Frederick Russell Burnham

A Splendid Savage: The Restless Life of Frederick Russell Burnham

by Steve Kemper


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"Rich, detailed, and pitch-perfect, with the witty and wonderful skipping off every page." —Maxwell Carter, Wall Street Journal

Frederick Russell Burnham’s (1861–1947) amazing story resembles a newsreel fused with a Saturday matinee thriller. One of the few people who could turn his garrulous friend Theodore Roosevelt into a listener, Burnham was once world-famous as “the American scout.” His expertise in woodcraft, learned from frontiersmen and Indians, helped inspire another friend, Robert Baden-Powell, to found the Boy Scouts. His adventures encompassed Apache wars and range feuds, booms and busts in mining camps around the globe, explorations in remote regions of Africa, and death-defying military feats that brought him renown and high honors. His skills led to his unusual appointment, as an American, to be Chief of Scouts for the British during the Boer War, where his daring exploits earned him the Distinguished Service Order from King Edward VII.

After a lifetime pursuing golden prospects from the deserts of Mexico and Africa to the tundra of the Klondike, Burnham found wealth, in his sixties, near his childhood home in southern California. Other men of his era had a few such adventures, but Burnham had them all. His friend H. Rider Haggard, author of many best-selling exotic tales, remarked, “In real life he is more interesting than any of my heroes of romance.”

Among other well-known individuals who figure in Burnham’s story are Cecil Rhodes and William Howard Taft, as well as some of the wealthiest men of the day, including John Hays Hammond, E. H. Harriman, Henry Payne Whitney, and the Guggenheim brothers.

Failure and tragedy streaked his life as well, but he was endlessly willing to set off into the unknown, where the future felt up for grabs and values worth dying for were at stake. Steve Kemper brings a quintessential American story to vivid life in this gripping biography.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393353907
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 02/21/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 483,875
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Steve Kemper is the author of A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa and Code Name Ginger, as well as many articles for national magazines. He lives in West Hartford, Connecticut.


West Hartford, Connecticut

Date of Birth:

November 25, 1951

Place of Birth:

Louisville, Kentucky


B.A., University of Detroit, 1973; Ph.D., University of Connecticut, 1980

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Chapter 1 Child of the Frontier 5

Chapter 2 A Pueblo and Some Puritans 19

Chapter 3 Wanderings and Apprenticeships 33

Chapter 4 The Tonto Basin Feud 43

Chapter 5 Tombstone 58

Chapter 6 The Tigers of the Human Species 73

Chapter 7 Hunting Tigers with Tigers 87

Chapter 8 A Mine, a Wedding, a Change of Plans 99

Chapter 9 To Africa 117

Chapter 10 To the Frontier 128

Chapter 11 War in Matabeleland 140

Chapter 12 The King's Spoor 151

Chapter 13 The Shangani Patrol 157

Chapter 14 Spears into Pegs 169

Chapter 15 Cashing In 182

Chapter 16 War Again 195

Chapter 17 The Mouthpiece of God 209

Chapter 18 The Klondike 223

Chapter 19 Chief of Scouts 240

Chapter 20 Behind Enemy Lines 256

Chapter 21 Celebrity and Hinterlands 273

Chapter 22 British East Africa 291

Chapter 23 Prospects and Losses 305

Chapter 24 A President Saved, Another Fortune Postponed 320

Chapter 25 Hippos and Spies 336

Chapter 26 Scouting for Mines and for Roosevelt 344

Chapter 27 Closing the Circle 355

Chapter 28 After the Bonanza 362

Appendix: The Controversies 373

Acknowledgments 387

Notes 389

Selected Bibliography 411

Index 419

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