Thursday, October 11, 2007
Army Life in Dakota, by Phillipe Regis Denis de Trobriand is another of the fantastic little Lakeside Classics series. This edition of the "little books" that I have become so fond of, was published in 1941 and was the 39th volume in the series at that time.
General de Trobriand was the son of one of Napoleon's generals. Born in 1816, he led a privileged life in both Europe and the United States. He visited the U.S. for the first time in the 1840's and settled down to a gentleman's live in New York.
Despite the fact that he had no formal military training, in 1861, he was appointed a Colonel in the newly formed French Regiment of New York. He served ably throughout the Civil War and by war's end had attained the rank of Brevet Major General.
When the army was reorganized at the end of the war he was one of the officers chosen to be retained in service and was commissioned as a Colonel in the regular army. Between 1867 and 1879 he served on the Indian frontier in the Dakotas and Montana.
This volume is a copy of his journal from 1867 to 1869 when he was military commander of several forts on the Upper Missouri with headquarters at Fort Rice in the Dakotas.
A true first person historical narrative and a diary as well, the author tells the reader the day to day happenings in the dangerous and unforgiving landscape of Indian occupied Dakota Territory. A seasoned writer and wonderful observer, de Trobriand describes good Indians, bad Indians, good white men and bad white men. Reading his journal, it is easy to transport yourself back in time and stand by his side as he interfaces with some of the most famous Indian chiefs of all times. Medicine Bear, Running Antelope, Sitting Bull, Four Horns and Bloody Knife were just a few of the Indian chiefs he had direct dealings with.
At the time of this writing most of the troops on the frontier were infantry and not cavalry. It was therefore next to impossible to engage hostile Indians because of their mobility and de Trobriand was reduced to an occupation and defensive stance. Woe be it to any small force dispatched that let their guard down for the Indians were expert in deception and surprise. The forts themselves and large bodies of troops were relatively safe because the Indian style of warfare kept them from any large direct confrontation.
Indians, blizzards, wildfires, mountain men, a virgin frontier, this book has it all. It's as if you were reading a letter from a family member who recently left home for a new job. Incredible stuff.
Thanks for visiting.