History Buffs & Michael Jewels

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by AaronS, Dec 7, 2005.

  1. Thanks for the compliment, Michael. I thought I would make note of the latest book I finished last night:
    Halfbreed: The Remarkable True Story of George Bent, Caught Between the Worlds of the Indian and the White Man by Halaas and Masich.
    This is a great book if you are interested in the 18th and 19th Century history of the Cheyenne, the plains Indians, mountain men, the Santa Fe Trail, Colorado, Kansas, Bent's Fort, the Civil War, the later Indian Wars, the Sand Creek Massacre, George Armstrong Custer, Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill Cody, Kit Carson, the removal of the plains tribes to reservations in Oklahoma, the destruction of the reservation system, and anything else happening between the Mississippi / Missouri Rivers and the Rocky Mountians in those years. The scholarship is amazing. It took two people 10 years to write and includes 60 pages of footnotes at the end.

    George Bent was the second son of William Bent, the early 19th Century fur and Indian trader, and his Cheyenne wife Owl Woman. He was born in 1843 and was raised in his mother's village until he was 11 or 12 when his father sent him to St. Louis for a "white man's education". He attended the best schools and was part way through his college education when the Civil War started. He joined the Confederate Army and was an artillaryman. In 1863 he was captured (or maybe deserted) and was interned as a POW. A friend of his father's found him in the POW camp and arranged to have him paroled to his father in Colorado.

    He had trouble keeping his rebel mouth shut around the "blue coats" who frequented his father's trading post, so he was sent to his mother's village headed by Black Kettle. A few months later when the village was camped at Sand Creek under a peace agreement with Governor Evans and Major Wynkoop, the commander of Fort Lyons, the village was attacked at dawn by Colonel Chivington's Colorado Volunteers despite the agreement and the fact that they were flying an American Flag from the tallest tepee pole. Hundreds of old men, women and children were killed (including one baby cut out of its pregnant mother's womb), bodies mutilated with body parts (including genitalia) cut off for trophys and the winter supply of food, clothing, blankets and shelter were burned. There were very few survivors, but Bent was one of them, only wounded in the hip. The Colorado Volunteers returned to Denver to parade their trophys through the streets and be acclaimed as heros. They hadn't fought the warlike Indians, but they had killed a lot of women and children in a peaceful treaty village and that made them heros. Col. Chivington had high political ambitions, but those were dashed when a Congressional investigation the next year determined that Sand Creek was a treacherous massacre and agreed to pay reparations to the Southern Cheyenne.

    As soon as he could ride Bent joined the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, the most un-compromising and warlike of the various warrior societies. He was a member of the Crooked Lances, a different society, but the Dog Soldiers were raiding white settlements on the plains and he wanted to be part of that revenge. His understanding of telegraph, artillary and white army logistics were quite helpful to the Cheyenne and their Arapaho and Lakota allies in this period. After about a year he decided he had enough revenge and went back to Black Kettle's village. Black Kettle didn't see a future in warring with the whites and was known as a peace chief who sought to accomodate white settlement while maintaining as much freedom as he could for the Cheyenne. Although after Sand Creek it was hard for him to trust whites again. Bent worked as an interpreter and negotiator between the Cheyenne and the whites. He spoke Cheyenne, English, Spanish, Arapaho, Kiowa and Commanche. He refused to scout for the Army, saying that he thought that they wouldn't want to pay a man who could never seem to find the Indians even after months of looking. Eventually he moved to Oklahoma with the Southern Cheyenne and became interested in preserving the history and culture of the tribe. He was the primary source for Grinnel, Mooney and Hyde and was trying to write a history of the Cheyenne himself when he died in the 1918 flu epidemic.

    It is a great book not only about US and Indian history, but also about what happens to one culture when it is overwhelmed by another and what happens to a man who achieves high levels of accomplishment in two conflicting cultures, but is ultimately trusted by neither.
  2. Thor

    Thor Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Very interesting, thanks for the tip.