A sturdy overview of the Indian Wars.
Cozzens (Battlefields of the Civil War: The Battles that Shaped America, 2011, etc.) turns his attention westward to the combat between invading whites and Natives along the frontier. Traditional histories set the beginnings of that conflict with the Sioux Uprising of 1862, but Cozzens starts in 1866 with the better-studied war of resistance mounted by Red Cloud. His long narrative continues to the shameful massacre of the Sioux at Wounded Knee a generation later, a compressed period with many set pieces, from the Battle of Little Bighorn to the murder of Crazy Horse and the Geronimo Campaign. The author covers all the ground dutifully if without much flair; this is a narrative of facts more than ideas, and it sometimes plods. Still, Cozzens is not without insight—“the Indians who had gone to war against the government had usually done so reluctantly,” he writes, “and they had lost their land and their way of life anyway”—and there is much merit in having a readable history of the Indian Wars in one volume. Cozzens promises to “bring historical balance” to the story, and he does, but this mostly means demonstrating to readers that not all whites were devils and not all tribes that were not wholeheartedly in resistance were sellouts, the view we have been accustomed to since Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970). As Cozzens notes on the latter score, many Native groups saw the federal government as a reliable protector against rival tribes, and regardless, instances were few where there was monolithic opposition to the whites even within a group. Still, as Gen. George Crook noted of the Indians, “all the tribes tell the same story. They are surrounded on all sides, the game is destroyed or driven away, they are left to starve, and there remains but one thing for them to do—fight while they can.”
A useful one-volume history refreshingly without many bones to pick but also without much fire.