Perilous Pursuit

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Bob Rea
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Wed Jul 10, 2002 11:31 am

"Perilous Pursuit: The U.S. Cavalry and the Northern Cheyennes"
Stan Hoig, University Press of Colorado, 2002
Distributed also through Oklahoma University Press.

Many of you will recognize the author's name from his many books such as Battle of the Washita, Sand Creek Massacre, etc. This is the latest and probably the best book to date on the exodus by the Northern Cheyenne from the Indian Territory reservation in the fall of 1878. I think I have seen most everything published to date on this subject. Marie Sandoz's "Cheyenne Autumn" was the first real attempt, nicely written but it is full of errors. John Monnet's "Tell Them We Are Going Home" came out about two years ago. While well written it has some short comings in research and did not go deep enough. Hoig's book is better researched and goes a little farther but not quite as deep as I would have preferred.

The title is a little misleading as there were probably as many doughboys in the chase as cavalry and some were even mounted infantry. Sandoz and others often stated that thousands of troops were involved. Most of the time, especially at the fights there were not over 3-4 understrength companies.

The book describes the plight of the Northern Cheyennes sent south to the Southern Cheyenne reservation in 1877. Sheridan wanted all Northerners south because he blamed them for all the trouble on the Northern Plains. Well, the south was not for them so in the fall of 1878 a portion of them slipped away from the reservation and headed home. Two companies of the 4th Cavalry gave chase. Three battles and smaller skirmishes were fought along the way in which the Cheyennes managed to escape each time. The band separated in Nebraska with Dull Knife's people surrendering and being taken to Fort Robinson. In Jan. '79 they broke out of confinement there were hunted down and practically anilated.

The book carries you through all of this and continues on the little known aftermath. The aborted trials of some of the leaders in Kansas for killings and theft of livestock in that state. Also, the Army needed a scapegoat for their failure to stop the flight. Three officers were court-martialed at Fort Supply in the spring of '79. Two were acquitted.

I will have to state here that I can not be totally unbiased about the book as I helped with the research. I provided information on the battles. I also had the transcript of the entire court-martial proceedings with maps.



Bob Rea
Rick Throckmorton
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Wed Jul 10, 2002 1:58 pm

Thanks for posting this, Bob. I for one, will be looking for this book. Being originally from the area and fortunate enough to have tramped around the subject sites, it is one my more favorite subject areas. Not enough is done about Ft. Reno and the Darlington Agency. There is much history in those places and they are greatly overlooked and certainly misrepresented (example cited: the desert-like portrayal of Darlington in the movie, "Cheyenne Autumn.").
Best regards,
Rick Throckmorton
Bob Rea
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Sat Jul 13, 2002 11:20 am

Rick,
Stan Hoig's book previous to Perilous Pursuit was on Fort Reno. It was a general coverage if I remember up to the Remount. I would have liked to have seen it in 2 volumes like Tom Buecker's book on Fort Robinson which was one of the other remount stations and around as long as Reno. I am working on an article about the Cheyenne and Arapaho Transportation Company. Off the military beat, but interesting as the first successful Indian freighting company and the pattern on which other Plains tribes built their supply hauling outfits.

Still have not found Turkey Springs, but have a pretty good handle on the Sand Hill (near Darlington in 1875) and Antelope Hills (1858). Waiting on cool weather and dead weeds.

Bob Rea
Rick Throckmorton
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Sat Jul 13, 2002 12:46 pm

Bob,
I read Hoig's book on Ft. Reno. Much information I wasn't aware of especially the cattle lands leasing/public lands era. A very overlooked time the military was involved in (kind of like referees!). Do you know Mr. Hoig? Some of his information on weapons put down in the Ft. Reno book was incorrect and written in a way that made me think he was totally unfamiliar with them. Is he a book researcher or does he actually get out and walk the sites? Lots of detail on other subject matter that I would have had a hard time committing to paper, so I was surprised to see him get the other wrong. In any event, I like his subjects and hope to see more on the wars of the southern plains, particularly the Oklahoma/Indian Territories.

Good luck on your site work. I'm very envious. Is there anything left of Sand Hill site? I heard that it has all been washed downstream after numerous floods.
Rick
Bob Rea
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Sun Jul 14, 2002 4:27 pm

Rick,
I have known Hoig for several years but had not spent much time around him until he was researching the latest book. The stuff about Turkey Springs and the court-martial cases were all mine.
Along with some other people, we attempted to find the Turkey Springs site where he thought it was, but wasn't. He is not a field person. Discouraged too easy. I know he visited all of the other sites in the book as close as possible.
He is a retired professor emeritus of journalism (not history)at the University of Central Oklahoma. He does do good research but does not know very much about the material culture. He had his weapons wrong in the book until we happened to discuss that part. He is a little stubborn about his opinion or ego. I thought as much research as I provided that I would get to review the book before it went to press, but no I didn't...???
All reports say that the big floods of the 1920s took the sand hill down stream.
A few do not think so. However, previous experience with events in flood plains leaves me a little skeptical about finding anything. Unless, we get far enough south to pick up 50.70 cases from the Gatling Gun.
Maybe one of these days I will have the Clark book done. I have some interesting stuff but it is slow going.


Bob Rea
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