Posts Tagged With: Custer

The West that Was

Like many topics, the expansion into the West and the wars with the Indians (Native Americans) gets some short blurbs in history class before moving onto the next era. The Oregon Trail, ’49 Gold Rush, Pony Express, famous cowboy outlaws, Transcontinental Railroad, wagon trails and Custer’s Last Stand are among the familiar touchstones.

Yet he details of this history are far more vivid, fascinating and, sometimes, disturbing.

These three books, by different authors, serve as a trilogy to the western expansion and the “Indian Wars” of the 1800s: The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend, Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History and The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Most now understand that pushing out the natives was often driven by greed and viewing them as primitives. Custer is no longer a hero. Few, though, know how brutal those wars were, or the hardships of settlers caught in the middle. Nor were many of the Indian nations peaceful peoples. Even fighting among themselves, their warfare was barbaric. That doesn’t justify their extermination; nor does their defense justify all of their own actions. Sometimes, in real history, it’s hard to pick out the villains and heroes. Other times, they aren’t who you thought they were.

For better or for worse, this was a defining era in U.S. history. It is a reminder, that in the not so distant past, people could be convinced to take terrible actions. A much greater nation managed to emerge from the blood and dust, so we should be thankful for that. Now we must respect the past so the wrongs don’t become our future, and those who should have lived are finally remembered.

Advertisements
Categories: History, Native Americans | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

History Unshackled

Some people are under the impression that studying history is dull or of no interest. Maybe we can blame the way it’s presented in education: Quick, little bites that don’t get into the personalities, the drama and the earth-changing events. Don’t get me wrong, I had some history teachers that knew their stuff and were great at teaching, but they were always limited by time.

Education shouldn’t end at graduation. That’s a mistake most people make. It’s a mistake that can be overcome. Many authors are gifted with research and telling history that is every bit has exciting as a novel or film.

If Pilgrims arriving on the Mayflower and having the first Thanksgiving is about the extent of your backgrounder on the subject, Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower will unveil a far more exciting and nation-shaping series of events. Similarly, after reading his The Last Stand, the Indian Wars and Custer will never be quite the same. Some parts of history don’t always end well, but we must learn from them just like any other.

If you ever wondered why so much focus has been put on a single battle like Gettysburg, Noah Andre Trudeau’s Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage, told largely through the eyes of those who fought, will show how war reveals the best, and worst, of men.

Everyone thinks of the Cuban Missile Crisis as the close call of the Cold War, but we were at the brink far more times than that. Books like 15 Minutes and The Dead Hand detail the frightening world that few knew existed.

So start stockpiling some books before winter sets in and prepare to fascinated, amazed and shocked. You’ll wonder why you ever stopped learning or thought it dull or unnecessary.

You are in charge of your education. That education didn’t stop years ago. It only barely had begun.

Categories: Books, History, Modern History, Native Americans | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: