The Heart of Everything That Is: The untold story of Red Cloud , An American Legend
ob Drury and Tom Clavin. Simon & Shuster, 2013
This is a new, and indeed the only, biography on the Sioux leader Red Cloud, the Plains Indian figure who is attributed with having achieved the only Indian victory in a war against the United States. It's a good one, and well worth reading.
There really aren't any new sources on Red Cloud, it's just that his story has become overshadowed by later events. Launching his campaign against the United States shortly after the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado, and carrying it through until 1867 at which time the United States withdrew from the Powder River country, his successful Sioux campaign, remarkable for its coordination and strategy, tends to be forgotten except for the Fetterman Fight. The campaigns of the 1870s, resulting in the spectacular Army defeat at Little Big Horn, are the reason. It's a shame as Red Cloud's effort was much more planned and much more skillfully executed than the efforts of the 1870s he did not participate in.
Combing what sources there are (including an autobiography dictated by Red Cloud that omits as much as it relates) the authors have done an excellent job of piecing his life together and telling it in an entertaining fashion. They spare no details on anyone and they do not fall victim to the temptation to romanticize the subject. The nature of Indian inter tribal warfare is fully and graphically explored, for example, which is rarely the case in more recent books focused on Indian topics.
The book is excellent in most details, but it does include a few material detail errors that a good pre-publication reader should have picked up and which will prove to be aggravating to the readership here. At one point, minor though it is, the authors describe the Army's greatcoats of the period as being black, when of course they were blue (they may have appeared black, however, after some field use. Casper is correctly noted as having sprung up where Platte Bridge Station (which the authors curiously refer to as Bridge Station) existed, but they refer to the future city as the future capitol of Wyoming, which it most definitely is not. The most aggravating errors, to a careful knowledgeable reader, are minor errors regarding firearms, which while they are only minor, are a bit aggravating. All plains rifles, for example are "Hawkens", which was never the case (although in the popular imagination they tend to be). The Regiment of Mounted Rifles at Ft. Laramie is reported as being equipped with Hawkens, which of course it never was. But by and large most of the details are correctly reported. Living in the region where this drama took place, and being familiar with most of the locations discussed in the book, the authors have done a very good job otherwise in relating details and locations.
This book really nicely fills in a topic that's been omitted, or when it has been addressed has been subject to some very partisan writing. Well worth reading.
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