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The book's title should also include, not for the faint hearted...
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on February 22, 2014
The book's title should also include, not for the faint hearted. Bob Drury and Tom Clavin don't mince words when describing the horrors of the battlefield, or maybe the mutilation field is a better term. I'm aware of the habits of the Sioux Indians, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse, because I read the Dan Simmons novel,' Black Hills' . As a matter of fact, his main character was Paha Sapa, which means Black Hills. But for the life of me, I can't remember reading about Red Cloud, so this non-fiction work was a real eye opener for me. With all the violence around him and in him, it's hard to believe that he died a peaceful death at the age of 87 in 1909. The book's about Red Cloud's War, but focuses on the Battle of the Hundred-in-the-Hands on 12/21/1866 in the Great Plains. Somehow Red Cloud was able to unite the Lakota (all seven Sioux tribes), Cheyenne, Arapaho, and others in an attempt to eradicate the White man from the Great Plains once and for all.
A lot of things contributed to the all out war against the U.S. Army. The dribble of white settlers heading west became a flood of wagons after gold was discovered in California. Also the wholesale killing of the buffalos and the spreading of diseases that Indians had no immunity for didn't set well with the Great Plains tribes. During the mid 1860s, the white man would reduce the buffalo population from 30 million to 1,000 in the next forty years. The buffalo meat was important to the Indians, but worthless to the white man. Broken treaties and conniving Indian Agents added fuel to the fire. In 1856 all the tribes of Lakota met to form united front to stop the white threat. It is said that 10,000 Indians attended that meeting. The Lakota Indians are not farmers, nor do they stay in one place long. They are raiders of other Indian tribes, horse stealers, and buffalo hunters. They only tolerated the Cheyenne. The Lakota believe they are warriors and want to stay that way. They take pride in Counting Coup (touching an enemy with a coup stick during battle and leaving unharmed). They heavily attacked white wagons heading west with one wagon out of eleven never making it passed the Rockies. Things got worse for the pioneers in the west when the U.S. Army left the Great Plains to fight the Civil War in 1861.
After the Civil War, many soldiers were released from duty, leaving very few to defend Fort Reno, Fort Phil Kearny, and Fort C.F. Smith, which were there to protect the migration of the Easterners, who were following the Bozeman Trail to Virginia City, Montana and then to the Oregon Trail . The U.S. Army was heavily outnumbered and were slaughtered and mutilated on many occasions. Red Cloud's battle with Captain Fetterman's 2nd Battalion of the 18th Infantry Regiment is epic. I thought the savagery of the book was a bit too much, but I guess the authors wanted to tell it like it was. The sidebar characters were strong. I enjoyed the Mountain man, Jim `Old Gabe' Bridger, a friend of the famous, Jedediah Smith. I admired the tactics Crazy Horse used to lure the U.S. Army into ambushes. Most of Red Cloud's thoughts were conveyed to a French Canadian fur trader named Sam Deon, who did the great chief's autobiography. Sam Deon was probably the only white man who was befriended and protected by Red Cloud. Some of the incidents in this book inspired other novels; such as, Nelson Gile, who drove a herd of 3,000 longhorns and a wagon train from Texas to Montana, while fighting thousands of hostile Indians. This episode became Larry McMurtry's famous novel, 'Lonesome Dove' .
Finally, I thought the authors slightly favored the Lakota (whose favorite meal was boiled dog and buffalo tongue), but in retrospect, I guess the book was fair. The White man might of won the West, but he paid dearly for it in human life. This was a non-fiction history book, but Drury and Clavin put so much excitement in the chapters that I thought I was reading fiction. And that is exactly how I like to read history. This book is a must for the Wild West fans and history buffs. I highly recommend this enlightening narrative.