Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Frontiersmen in Blue

I just got done reading Frontiersmen in Blue: The United States Army and the Indian, 1848-1865 by Robert M. Utley and I simply must recommend it to anyone interested in American, Western, or American Indian history.

The book pulls describes how the United States Army primary purpose from 1783 to 1865 and for a while longer was not keeping foreign armies at bay but protecting western expansion, keeping the peace between whites and Indians (both ways), and building western infrastructure.

The books pulls no punches in the describing the triumphs and tragedies that occurred out west. Congresses unwilling to pay the price for Manifest Destiny, bureaucratic infighting between the War Department and Department of the Interior, corrupt Bureau of Indian Affairs Agents, overly aggressive army officers, and Indian chiefs unable to control their warriors all led to a series of problems in the Great Plains.

Peace was surprisingly maintained. Only about 200 engagements were fought past the Mississippi River in the years between the Mexican-American and Civil War. The average solider out west (only 10,000 in the whole army) may see one fight in his five years of service.

Details are abound in this book. The events before, during, and after the Battle of Ash Hollow are described in detail. Conflicting signs along the Oregon Trail gave me mixed messages on what happened by Utley cleared everything up for me.

Final thought: a fine book on American history.

Category: Books

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