S.L.A. Marshall has written numerous books on matters martial including his memoir Bringing Up the Rear -- he's a Brigadier...

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CRIMSONED PRAIRIE: The Wars Between the United States and the Plains Indians During the Winning of the West

S.L.A. Marshall has written numerous books on matters martial including his memoir Bringing Up the Rear -- he's a Brigadier General, USAR (Ret.) -- and this one is no better nor worse than his average production, which is to say average military history presented in a style more brassy than commanding. There's a somewhat different twist here, however, as General Marshall breaks his rule that ""a writer should stick to those wars in which he has participated close up,"" a departure occasioned by the fact that he has faint Indian blood (mother's side) and in the '30's was adopted by the Sioux (given the tribal name Iron Eyes) and that the Plains wars lack critical analysis of battle engagement tactics, a situation he proposes to rectify. Hence Wounded Knee, Custer's Last Stand, and so on are scrutinized in terms of military strategy -- troop deployment, reconnaissance, mobility -- which will doubtless enthuse those who like to play tin soldiers. But it is a different matter when Marshall strides into the larger issues of the ""winning"" of the West: ""The root of the trouble lay in the Plains Indian's rootlessness,"" not the interloping white man who expropriated the Indian's land, because ""Freedom to pioneer is an American [i.e., white] birthright."" Blundering on, the General observes that ""Civilization may have had a clear duty to save these people from themselves,"" suggesting that ""something akin to apartheid"" would have done quite nicely. ""Civilization, however, is rarely that foresighted."" It seems clear, at least from the book critic's standpoint, that General Marshall should stick with battlefield reconstructs and let the historians handle the history.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1972

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Scribners

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1972