The Terrible Indian Wars of the West

The Terrible Indian Wars of the West

A History from the Whitman Massacre to Wounded Knee, 1846-1890

Jerry Keenan

Jefferson, North Carolina, 2016, 504 pages

Book Review published on: April 7, 2017

Jerry Keenan’s focus as an author has been the American West, with his previous writings generally concerning the Civil War and the Indian Wars. His intent for The Terrible Indian Wars of the West is creating a compilation of historical information on the Indian Wars in the western United States into a single publication. As such, his sources are mostly secondary.

In The Terrible Indian Wars of the West, the author assembled a vast array of material into a logical, easy to follow, and understandable framework. This, I feel, is the real genius that sets this book apart. The author’s framework is set between the years of 1846 through 1890, then divided into eight geographical regions. Additionally, as the history unfolds in one region the author reminds the reader of important events that are occurring in other regions simultaneously as part of the kaleidoscope of western U.S. history. The level of detail in the narrative is designed to enhance a broad understanding and place events in context. Key actors and events are identified and discussed effectively in the narrative without overburdening the reader with nonessential information.

The book is relatively free of difficult military language and detail, and does not require a thorough understanding of the individual campaigns or the overall national westward movement to understand the events relayed by the author. It is for Indian Campaign enthusiasts, novice and scholar alike, as well as military professionals interested in the clash of divergent cultures and the various approaches taken to resolve those conflicts.

The author has provided a timeline from 1823 through 1890, placing key events without regard to geographical region. This effectively allows the reader to place events broadly in context to the overall actions throughout the West. While the author provided an overall map of the nineteenth century Trans-Mississippi West with forts and locations of some key battles identified, I would like to have seen additional regional maps for clarity in order to more effectively follow the narrative of each region.

If your interest is of the Indian Wars of the western United States, I would recommend this book as an initial read to gain a broad understanding of events in time and space before delving into the detailed research of specific wars or campaigns.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Terrance M. Portman, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas