Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Recent Read

Sagebrush Soldier - Private William Earl Smith's View of the Sioux War of 1876 by Sherry L. Smith the great granddaughter of Private Smith was a fascinating read. Readers know that I like history and especially western history. My preference in reading history is first person historical narrative. It's hard to get any more "up close and personal" than that.

While this book is not quite a true first person historical narrative it still uses much of the journal kept by William Smith as well as some material from Colonel Richard Dodge and General George Crook's journals as well. This provides a very interesting view of the actual events. Most military journals that are published are done by officers and their "take" on things is decidedly different from that of an enlisted man. Having Private Smith's description of events from the "ground level" brings a realism to the story that provides for riveting reading.

This campaign culminated in the Dull Knife battle just five months after Custer met his demise at the Little Big Horn. The loss of life on either side was not great but the Northern Cheyenne tribes lost almost all of their belongings...horses, tents, food, clothing in the dead of Wyoming winter. This was a blow from which they would never recover.

At one point in the battle, Private Smith enters a tent to find an old squaw clutching a buffalo robe. Smith unsuccessfully tries to snatch it from her but can't and cannot bring himself to kill her. Later he goes back to the tent to find that someone else did not have his scruples and shot the squaw for the blanket.

The book is only 150 pages and I devoured it in about two sittings. If you're into western history, military history or Indian history I can heartily recommend this book.
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