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Diane Merkel

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Washita: The U.S. Army and the Southern Cheyennes, 1867-1869

by Jerome A. Greene
2004, University of Oklahoma Press

ISBN 0-8061-3551-4

Review by Brad J. Buttruff

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In my opinion, Jerome Greene does a good job of giving a detailed explanation of the events leading up to Custer's attack on the Cheyenne camp on the Washita. He starts with the infamous Sand Creek Massacre and then follows the chain of events resulting from the 1864 event up to the assault at Washita. Greene remains impartial and does a good job of presenting all sides of the story. I consider it the mark of a good historian who can relate the facts of any event and manage to avoid coloring it too much with their own opinions.

He does a good job of showing how various Indian raids in Kansas provided the justifiable cause for Sheridan to have the operation staged. He also shows that Black Kettle was attempting to appeal for peace but had little control over the warrior factions. I found it a terrible irony that Black Kettle and his wife were among the first to die during the morning of the assault on Washita.

The book also has a chapter devoted to the repercussions of the Washita and a chapter covering the controversies surrounding the event. There is a considerable amount of information presented around the loss of Elliot and his men during the fighting and the long term effect this had on the 7th Cavalry. Greene also shows how Custer's relative success in 1868 might have influenced his thinking later at the Little Bighorn. Now this last bit definitely slides into the realm of speculation, but Greene tends to remain objective in his history of the battle.

At this point, I really do have to recommend the book. I am already looking up anything and everything else he has written on the Frontier Army and the Plains Indian wars.