CHEYENNES AND HORSE SOLDIERS: The 1857 Expedition and the Battle of Solomon's Fork by William Y. Chalfant

CHEYENNES AND HORSE SOLDIERS: The 1857 Expedition and the Battle of Solomon's Fork

KIRKUS REVIEW

Meticulous history of an oft-overlooked chapter in US-Indian relations--the 1857 US Cavalry expedition against the Cheyenne Indians. Chalfant, an attorney, has detailed this story with tremendous care. Most accounts of Indian affairs concentrate on the post-Civil War era, lured by the drama of such events as Custer's Last Stand or Geronimo's surrender. But Chalfant has plugged the gap in the history of Indian hostilities that took place between the Mexican and the Civil Wars. As white travelers moved over the Sante Fe and Oregon-California Trails in ever-increasing numbers, slaughtering the buffalo, nature's bounty to generations of Indians, the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes became more and more embittered. Fearful settlers killed Indians for real or perceived slights; Indians retaliated. Finally, the government sent out the First Cavalry to chase these tribes away from the white man's routes. Led by future Civil War leaders like Col. Sumner, John Sedgewick, and J.E.B. Stuart (who was shot in the chest during the battle of Solomon's Fork), the Army faced off with such Indian legends as Tall Bull and Crazy Horse of Little Big Horn fame. The expedition itself consumed 140 days, climaxing on July 29, 1857, on the South Fork of the Solomon River in what is now northwestern Kansas, in a running battle over some five to seven miles--followed by days of pursuit of the fleeing Cheyennes, as the expedition chased them back to the Arkansas River. In all, only two soldiers and a dozen or so Indians were killed. Chalfant has a flair for the dramatic (""as one the troopers reached down, and then 300 sabres arced above them, the bright afternoon sunshine flashing across the burnished steel as if the air were tom by a shower of flame. . ."") that makes of this a charming as well as an informative treatment.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma Press