The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke - Vol. 1

The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke - Vol. 1

The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke - Vol. 1

The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke - Vol. 1


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.

Volume 1 begins with Bourke's years as aide-de-camp to General Crook during the Apache campaigns and in dealings with Cochise. Bourke's ethnographic notes on the Apaches continued with further observations on the Hopis in 1874. The next year he turned his pen on the Sioux and Cheyenne during the 1875 Black Hills Expedition, writing some of his most jingoistic comments in favor of Manifest Destiny. This volume culminates with the momentous events of the Great Sioux War and vivid descriptions of the Powder River fight and the Battle of the Rosebud.

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.


John Gregory Bourke was one of the most prolific and influential authors to write about the nineteenth century American West. An officer of the 3rd Cavalry, he is most famous as Brig. Gen. George Crook’s aide-de-camp for fourteen years, serving in every major campaign in Arizona and on the Northern Plains. His memoir, On the Border With Crook, written over a century ago and often reprinted, is one of the great military classics of the Indian Wars, and established Bourke’s reputation as “Crook’s Boswell.”

Yet Bourke was more than simply a writer of military memoirs. His long service on the frontier led to an interest in Indian life, and he became a devoted scholar of their beliefs, customs, and traditions. His interest and his constant note-taking prompted the Apaches to call him naltsus-bichidin, or “Paper Medicine Man.” Ultimately, he became a respected ethnologist, and it is a tribute to his work that some of his Indian studies, such as Apache Medicine-Men, remain standard works. Even On the Border With Crook, and An

1. O’Neal, Fighting Men, 48.

2. Porter, Paper Medicine Man: John Gregory Bourke and His American West, 181. Much of the material in this section is taken from Porter’s biography. For a discussion of Bourke’s contributions to Southwestern ethnology, see Turcheneske, “Historical Manuscripts.”

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