The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke - Vol. 2

The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke - Vol. 2

The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke - Vol. 2

The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke - Vol. 2


John Gregory Bourke kept a monumental set of diaries beginning as a young cavalry lieutenant in Arizona in 1872, and ending the evening before his death in 1896. As aide-de-camp to Brigadier General George Crook, he had an insider's view of the early Apache campaigns, the Great Sioux War, the Cheyenne Outbreak, and the Geronimo War. Bourke's writings reveal much about military life on the western frontier, but he also was a noted ethnologist, writing extensive descriptions of American Indian civilization and illustrating his diaries with sketches and photographs.

Previously, researchers could consult only a small part of Bourke's diary material in various publications, or else take a research trip to the archive and microfilm housed at West Point. Now, for the first time, the 124 manuscript volumes of the Bourke diaries are being compiled, edited, and annotated by Charles M. Robinson III, in a planned set of six books easily accessible to the modern researcher.

This volume opens as Crook prepares for the expedition that would lead to his infamous and devastating Horse Meat March. Although Bourke retains his loyalty to Crook throughout the detailed account, his patience is sorely tried at times. Bourke's description of the march is balanced by an appendix containing letters and reports by other officers, including an overview of the entire expedition by Lt. Walter Schuyler, and a report by Surgeon Bennett Clements describing the effects on the men. The diary continues with the story of the Powder River Expedition, culminating in Bourke's eyewitness description of Col. Ranald Mackenzie's destruction of the main Cheyenne camp in what became known at the Dull Knife Fight. With the main hostile chiefs either surrendering or forced into exile in Canada, field operations come to a close, and Bourke finishes this volume with a retrospective of his service in Tucson, Arizona.

Extensively annotated and with a biographical appendix on Indians, civilians, and military personnel named in the diaries, this book will appeal to western and military historians, students of American Indian life and culture, and to anyone interested in the development of the American West.


This second volume of the John Gregory Bourke Diaries includes the period from July 29, 1876, through April 7, 1878, during which he served as Brig. Gen. George Crook’s aide-decamp. It is comprised of manuscripts designated Volumes 7 through 22 at the United States Military Library at West Point, which holds the collection. Altogether, the Bourke Diaries at West Point, with one additional volume in the library of the University of Arizona for March 26 through June 21, 1881, consist of 124 manuscript volumes and several subvolumes, beginning on November 20, 1872.

The first volume in this series covers the period of November 20, 1872, through July 28, 1876. It begins with Lt. Col. (Bvt. Maj. Gen.) George Crook’s “Grand Offensive” against the Apaches in Arizona. Then, with Crook promoted to the active grade of brigadier general and given command of the Department of the Platte, it continues into the Great Sioux War of 1876–77. That volume ends and this one begins during Crook’s Big Horn and Yellowstone Expedition. Although there were other volumes as far back as 1869, Bourke himself noted that they were “mislaid, destroyed or stolen.”

1. “Bourke” is merely a Gallicized version of the old Irish name “Burke” or “Burk.” the “o” is not pronounced.

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