Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

by Dee Brown

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Summary and Analysis Chapter 6: Red Cloud's War

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Colonel Henry Maynadier: Army colonel, engaged in treaty negotiations with Red Cloud.

Colonel Henry B. Carrington: Head of 18th Infantry Regiment, led Battle of the Hundred Slain/Fetterman Massacre, and was dismissed after losing the battle.

General William T. Sherman: Negotiator at the peace council to end Red Cloud’s war and later helped direct anti-Indian campaigns.

In the winter of 1866, the Army, intent on pacifying the Indians and winning the right to build trails and railroads through Indian territory, sends five Sioux into the Powder River country to convince Indian chiefs to sign treaties at Fort Laramie. The chiefs and 2000 other Indians come to the fort in May. However, treaty talks collapse on June 13, 1866, after the chiefs learn of the Army’s intent to build a road through the Powder River country. The Army continues with its plan, and Indians follow the regiment assigned to build the road, called Bozeman Road, and scout for a possible attack at the newly built Fort Kearny.

Upon deciding against an attack, the Indians instead turn to harassing and besieging traffic on the road. Red Cloud then assembles a force of 3000 to ambush Army soldiers at Peno Creek in late December, 1866. All 81 soldiers are killed in the battle, which is called the Fetterman Massacre by whites, even though the Indians suffer nearly 200 dead and wounded. The Army’s response is to send in reinforcements and dispatch a new peace commission, but the commission fails to accomplish anything. Indian attacks on white soldiers near Fort Smith on August 1, 1867, fail badly: These two engagements are called the Hayfield and Wagon Box fights. A new peace commission again fails to negotiate a peace treaty. Army soldiers abandon the Powder River country in summer 1868, and a triumphant Red Cloud signs a treaty declaring mutual peace between Indians and the U.S.

Brown’s continuing use of first-person Indian accounts as prefaces to his chapters is a way to firmly introduce the Indians’ perspective. The description of not just Spotted Tail’s sorrow over his daughter’s death but also of Colonel Maynadier’s surprise that Indians could cry highlights the myth of the stoic Indian. Those tears contrast with the fact that most of the chapter describes the Indians’ warfare with the Army and the heroic deeds of their warriors. The Indians, although still relying on horses in their fights and still unfamiliar with much of the whites’ technology, had managed to devise ways to wreak havoc on the railroads and win Red Cloud’s War.

The conflicting attitudes of whites and Indians toward the Fetterman Massacre and the Hayfield and Wagon Box fights show that the goals and expectations of the two sides in Red Cloud’s War were deeply divergent. For example, whites considered the battle at Peno Creek a “massacre” because all the Army soldiers were killed, even though those soldiers also inflicted nearly 200 Indian casualties. This, along with the collapse of peace talks at Fort Laramie in October 1867 and again in the next spring, shows that the Indians and whites were fighting for two very different things. Namely, the Indians sought to preserve their land and way of life, while the whites sought to settle and develop new lands, and profit from that development.

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Summary and Analysis Chapter 5: Powder River Invasion


Summary and Analysis Chapter 7: “The Only Good Indian Is a Dead Indian”