cover image Scalp Dance: Indian Warfare on the High Plains, 1865-1879

Scalp Dance: Indian Warfare on the High Plains, 1865-1879

Thomas Goodrich, Th Goodrich. Stackpole Books, $32.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-8117-1523-2

Beginning with the Sand Creek massacre in late 1864 and extending through the defeat of the Sioux and Cheyenne following their spectacular upset of Custer and his 7th Cavalry, Goodrich (Black Flag, 1995) takes the reader on a lurid journey through massacres, skirmishes, raids, pitched battles and the changeable weather of the Great Plains. Rather than emphasizing new facts or interpretations, Goodrich relies on the words of witnesses and survivors among the settlers to depict the atrocities committed by both Indians and whites alike. Along the way, the reader encounters the famous leaders of both sides--Custer, George Crook, Nelson A. Miles, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Red Cloud--as well as a host of lesser-known and largely forgotten subordinates. Wives who went west willingly, such as Libby Custer and Alice Baldwin, plus others who were less happy with their migration, speak their pieces. When Goodrich does intervene, he can't be accused of being politically correct (e.g., he writes of the ""many wild and semi-civilized Indian scouts"" who were hired by the Army). An added bonus are the reports of visitors to Indian camps during peaceful interludes, which give a fascinating glimpse into cross-cultural contact. Readers who don't mind graphic accounts of mutilation, rape, torture and pillage will relish Goodrich's you-are-there approach to a bloody period in American history. Illustrations; maps. (Sept.)