The Nebraska Indian Wars Reader, 1865-1877

Article excerpt

The Nebraska Indian Wars Reader, 1865-1877. Edited by R. Eli Paul. University of Nebraska Press, 1998. 245 Pages. $15.00, Softbound. Reviewed by Lieutenant Richard D. Starnes, U.S. Army Reserve, Cullowhee, North Carolina.

The United States Army campaigns against the Plains Indians were some of the most arduous and tactically challenging in American history. In The Nebraska Indian Wars Reader, 1865-1877, R. Eli Paul, a historian at the Nebraska Historical Society, republishes ten important essays that illuminate the missions, strategies, and tactics of the campaigns on the Nebraska frontier. Individually, these essays offer detailed treatment of individual campaigns and commanders. Collectively, they give tremendous insight into the character of the frontier army, the relationship between military authorities and the civilian population, and the strategy, goals, and missions of Native American leaders.

Until the late 1860s, campaigns against the Plains Indian tribes were not a national military priority. The area of operations was remote, the affected civilian population was small, and the pressures of the Civil War and Reconstruction dominated operations and resources. Even after the war, these campaigns were almost always undertaken with ill-equipped, poorly supplied troops who often lacked the guidance to accomplish their poorly defined missions. Yet, according to James T. King in his essay on the Republican River Expedition of 1869, the leadership of officers seasoned in frontier warfare helped to compensate for inadequate logistics, eventually bringing about victory. …