Sharply honed life of the only American Indian leader to definitively beat the United States in war, short-lived though the defeat might have been.
Popular military historians Drury and Clavin (Last Men Out: The True Story of America's Heroic Final Hours in Vietnam, 2011, etc.) offer a battle-and-skirmish account of Sioux leader Red Cloud’s war on the whites who invaded the Great Plains, though their narrative is strong on ethnohistorical matters as well. When a white officer sputtered “Horseshit” against Red Cloud’s claim that the Sioux had an ancestral claim to the Black Hills, for instance, the authors are able to explain that, be that as it may, the Sioux had developed an emergence story to back up their case—one that, as it happened, had its first mention on the Sioux calendar “the summer before America’s Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence.” Drury and Clavin frame their story with what has been called the Fetterman Massacre (here, better put, the Fetterman Fight), in 1866, when an unfortunate Army officer led his command into a trap that led to their deaths, but they pack it with details taken from many episodes in the early history of Sioux relations with the whites, as well as with other tribes. They credit Red Cloud with forming a powerful alliance of peoples, among them the Cheyenne and Shoshone, the only way the Indians could resist white encroachment into their homeland. Even so, as the authors note, when Red Cloud was invited to Washington to sign a peace treaty and was taken to a federal arsenal to see the assembled weaponry available to his enemy, he recognized that the days of his people’s suzerainty were numbered, even as he continued to mount “the most impressive campaign in the annals of Indian warfare,” which lasted from 1866 to 1868.
A well-researched and -written account of an often overlooked figure in the history of the Indian Wars.