Magazine article Army

The Killing of Crazy Horse

Magazine article Army

The Killing of Crazy Horse

Article excerpt

The Killing of Crazy Horse. Thomas Powers. Alfred A. Knopf. 592 pages; black-and-white photographs; index; $30.

Few battles in American history have captured the public imagination as much as the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, in which a coalition of Native American warriors destroyed a large contingent of the U.S. Seventh Cavalry led by George Armstrong Custer.

Two recent books, James Donovan's A Terrible Glory and Nathaniel Philbrick's The Last Stand, have addressed the battle through the traditional lens of Custer versus Sitting Bull. In Thomas Powers' landmark history, Crazy Horse, arguably the greatest Sioux warrior of the 19th century, assumes center stage.

Powers has been enamored with Crazy Horse ever since he first read an account of Crazy Horse's death, which occurred a year after the warrior's historic victory over Custer. Days before Crazy Horse's death, BG George Crook had met with 13 leading chiefs of the Oglala Sioux to plan the killing of Crazy Horse. "Dead Indians are a common feature of American history," states Powers, "but the killing of Crazy Horse retains its power to shock."

Written from the perspective of the Native Americans, Powers' The Killing of Crazy Horse is a fitting epilogue to Dee Brown's monumental Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. What Powers does best is to present a well-balanced account of the clash of cultures and civilizations between the Native American tribes of the northern plains and the white men who encroached upon the Black Hills, sacred to the Lakota tribes. It is a familiar story, but Powers brings the characters to life better than any previous author.

The Battle of the Little Bighorn, however, occupies only a single chapter in Powers' narrative. Powers posits that Crazy Horse and the Sioux won a battle, not the campaign. …

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