Monday, January 6, 2014

Guest Review: The Heart of Everything That Is

Summary: The great Sioux warrior-statesman Red Cloud was the only American Indian in history to defeat the United States Army in a war, forcing the government to sue for peace on his terms. At the peak of Red Cloud’s powers the Sioux could claim control of one-fifth of the contiguous United States and the loyalty of thousands of fierce fighters. But the fog of history has left Red Cloud strangely obscured. Now, thanks to the rediscovery of a lost autobiography, and painstaking research by two award-winning authors, the story of our nation’s most powerful and successful Indian warrior can finally be told.

Born in 1821 near the Platte River in modern-day Nebraska, Red Cloud lived an epic life of courage, wisdom, and fortitude in the face of a relentless enemy—the soldiers and settlers who represented the “manifest destiny” of an expanding America. He grew up an orphan and had to overcome numerous social disadvantages to advance in Sioux culture. Red Cloud did that by being the best fighter, strategist, and leader of his fellow warriors. As the white man pushed farther and farther west, they stole the Indians’ land, slaughtered the venerated buffalo, and murdered with impunity anyone who resisted their intrusions. The final straw for Red Cloud and his warriors was the U.S. government’s frenzied spate of fort building throughout the pristine Powder River Country that abutted the Sioux’s sacred Black Hills—Paha Sapa to the Sioux, or “The Heart of Everything That Is.”

The result was a gathering of angry tribes under one powerful leader. “The white man lies and steals,” Red Cloud told his thousands of braves at council fire. “My lodges were many, now they are few. The white man wants all. They must fight for it.” What came to be known as Red Cloud’s War (1866–1868) culminated in a massacre of American cavalry troops that presaged the Little Bighorn and served warning to Washington that the Plains Indians would fight, and die, for their land and traditions. But many more American soldiers would die first.

In The Heart of Everything That Is, Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, the New York Times bestselling authors of Halsey’s Typhoon and The Last Stand of Fox Company, restore Red Cloud to his rightful place in American history in a sweeping and dramatic narrative based on years of primary research. As they trace the events leading to Red Cloud’s War they provide intimate portraits of the many and various men and women whose lives Red Cloud touched—mountain men such as the larger-than-life Jim Bridger; U.S. generals like William Tecumseh Sherman who were charged with annihilating the Sioux; fearless explorers such as the dashing John Bozeman; and the warriors whom Red Cloud groomed, the legendary Crazy Horse in particular. And residing at the heart of the story is Red Cloud, fighting for the very existence of the Indian way of life.

This fiery narrative, fueled by contemporary diaries and journals, newspaper reports, eyewitness accounts, and meticulous firsthand sourcing, is a stirring chronicle of the conflict between an expanding white civilization and the Plains Indians who stood in its way. The Heart of Everything That Is not only places the reader at the center of this remarkable epoch, but finally gives Red Cloud the modern-day recognition he deserves. -- Simon and Schuster

THE HEART OF EVERYTHING THAT IS: THE UNTOLD STORY OF RED CLOUD, AN AMERICAN LEGEND by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin is a pretty big book about history, so it should come as no surprise that I passed it along to my dad. Here are his thoughts:

The Black Hills mountain range was known to the Indian Nations as Paha Sapa, translated to mean “the heart of everything that is.” Authors Bob Drury and Tom Clavin used this translation as the title of their book THE HEART OF EVERYTHING THAT IS, THE UNTOLD STORY OF RED CLOUD, AN AMERICAN LEGEND. It is a story about the Native Americans battle to retain its land in the midst of the American westward movement.

Red Cloud was the son of an alcoholic father who rose to the highest level of leadership in the Sioux nation. Red Cloud’s life centered on the philosophy to kill his peoples’ enemies, whether Indian or White man. Red Cloud, a Sioux war chief, was a fierce and brutal warrior, feared by his enemies and recognized for his leadership and military genius.

The main story takes place as the Civil War was ending and puts the reader in the midst of the western movement as America was fulfilling its “manifest destiny”. The Native Americans were confronted with an influx of settlers, mountain men, trappers, soldiers and gold seekers. It was a time of significant racism in the United States and the military actions taken against the tribes reflected that culture. As the Americans took more of the Native Americans’ land and food and continued their string of broken promises, Red Cloud rallied more than 4,000 Indians from various tribes to take a stand. This resulted in a brutal massacre of 81 soldiers in a 30 minute battle later called “Red Cloud’s War”. This battle significantly changed the United States approach to the Native American issues. Red Cloud later traveled to Washington D.C. and observed firsthand the size and might of the United States and recognized that the Native Americans could not stop the western movement and concluded that peace was the only alternative.

Red Cloud is lesser known than his contemporaries Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse and his victory over the U.S. Army in December of 1866 is overshadowed in history by the1876 Battle of Little Big Horn. However, “Red Cloud’s War” is the only Native American victory over the U.S. Army that resulted in a treaty that forced the United States to concede land from western Minnesota to Idaho, including the sacred Black Hills. Of course, like other treaties with the Native Americans, this one didn’t last either.

THE HEART OF EVERYTHING THAT IS is an interesting book about a significant chapter in American history. The authors did a great amount of research and relied on a long lost autobiography of Red Cloud to tell their story. The storytelling techniques used by the authors further enhanced the novel and their detailed descriptions of the characters and the settings brought the book to life. I recommend this book to anyone interested in this important segment of American history.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book and to Booking Pap Pap for his review.


bermudaonion said...

As you know, I don't read a lot of history but really feel like I should read about Native Americans because what I was taught in school was so incorrect. This sounds like a great book!

Carol said...

I have to admit that studying with Amber for her history tests this year has made me a little more interested than I usually am.