From the defeat of the British at New Orleans in 1815 until the outbreak of the Civil War the principal duty of the United States Army dealt with territorial expansion and, in particular, with the removal of nomadic indigenous peoples who formed an impediment to that expansion. From 1861 through 1877 the Army was primarily concerned with the Civil War and resultant military occupation of the South. In part due to the failure of that occupation and equally due to the need for further pacification of the frontier the West and the Army both became instruments of the reunification of the country where force of arms and political opportunism had failed.
Although immortalized by the dime press and Hollywood with heroes[sic] like George Armstrong Custer living on in popular memory this was a relatively short period – 1877 to 1891 at Wounded Knee – in American history living more in headlines than the daily lives of a rapidly urbanizing and industrializing nation. Although some speculate that the rationale behind Custer’s ill considered expedition was to seize the popular imagination AND the presidential nomination his defeat and death foreclosed those possibilities. General Nelson Miles would spend the quarter of a century after his defeat of the Nez Perce trying to parlay his fame into a lease on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and fail finally going, like Winfield Scott before him, from old fuss and feathers to old fat and feeble.
The last Indian war : the Nez Perce story Elliott West Oxford [England] ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2009 Hardcover. 1st ed., later printing. xxix, 397 p. : ill., maps, plans ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 325-380) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
This volume in Oxford’s Pivotal Moments series offers a portrait of the Nez Perce War of 1877, the last great Indian conflict in American history. It is a tale of courage and ingenuity, of desperate struggle and shattered hope, of short-sighted government action and a doomed flight to freedom.
To tell the story, West begins with the early history of the Nez Perce and their years of relations with white settlers. In an initial treaty, the Nez Perce were promised a large part of their ancestral homeland, but the discovery of gold led to a stampede of settlement within the Nez Perce land. The settlers’ invasion provoked this tribe to war.
West offers an account of the flight of the Nez Perce across 1500 miles of mountainous and difficult terrain. He gives a reckoning of the campaigns and battles – and the unexpected turns, stratagems, and heroism that occurred along the way. And he brings to life the complex characters from both sides of the conflict, including cavalrymen, officers, politicians, and the Nez Perce themselves. The book sheds light on the war’s legacy, including accolades bestowed upon Chief Joseph, whose speech of surrender, “I will fight no more forever,” became as celebrated in the press as the Gettysburg Address.
Based on a rich cache of historical documents, from government and military records to contemporary interviews and newspaper reports, The Last Indian War offers a searing portrait of a moment when the American identity – who was and who was not a citizen – was being forged.