American Indian Wars

explanatory Essay
1593 words
1593 words

American Indian Wars

There is perhaps a tendency to view the record of the military in terms of conflict, that may be why the U.S. Army’s operational experience in the quarter century following the Civil War became known as the Indian wars. Previous struggles with the Indian, dating back to colonial times, had been limited. There was a period where the Indian could withdraw or be pushed into vast reaches of uninhabited and as yet unwanted territory in the west. By 1865 the safety valve was fast disappearing. As the Civil War was closed, white Americans in greater numbers and with greater energy than before resumed the quest for land, gold, commerce, and adventure that had been largely interrupted by the war. The besieged red man, with white civilization pressing in and a main source of livelihood, the buffalo, threatened with extinction, was faced with a fundamental choice: surrender or fight. Many chose to fight, and over the next 25 years the struggle ranged over the plains, mountains, and the deserts of the American West. These guerrilla wars were characterized by skirmishes, pursuits, raids, massacres, expeditions, battles, and campaigns of varying size and intensity.
In 1865, there was a least 15 million buffalo, ten years later, fewer than a thousand remained. The army and the Bureau of Indian Affairs went along with and even encouraged the slaughter of the animals. By destroying the buffalo herds, the whites were destroying the Indian’s main source of food and supplies. The only thing the Indians could do was fight to preserve their way of life. There was constant fighting among the Indian and whites as the Indians fought to keep their civilization. Indian often retaliated against the whites for earlier attacks that whites had imposed on them. They often attacked wagon trains, stage coaches, and isolated ranches. When the army became more involved in the fighting, the Indians started to focus on the white soldiers.
In 1862, when the north and south were locked in Civil War, Minnesota felt the fury of an even more fundamental internal conflict. The Santees, an eastern branch of the Sioux Nation, having endured ten years of traumatic change on the upper Minnesota River, launched the first great attack in the Indian wars. Eleven years earlier the tribe had sold 24 million acres of hunting ground for a lump sum of $1,665,000 and the promise of future cash annuities.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that the american indian wars were characterized by skirmishes, pursuits and raids.
  • Explains that the army and the bureau of indian affairs encouraged the slaughter of the buffalo herds, destroying the indian's main source of food and supplies.
  • Analyzes how the santees, an eastern branch of the sioux nation, launched the first great attack in the indian wars.
  • Describes how the indians killed more than 450 settlers before they were defeated by a hastily assembled group of raw recruits led by colonel henry sibley.
  • Describes how red cloud emerged as a major leader in 1863, when settlers and miners began to pour over the powder river trail, or the bozeman trail after the scout who blazed it.
  • Narrates how carrington rebuilt fort reno and establishing forts phil kearny and c.f. smith to protect the road through sioux country, but soon after he arrived at fort
  • Describes how the sioux war amounted to harassments. the indians cut off the mail route, attacked wagon trains and either destroyed them or forced them to turn back.
  • Narrates how a headstrong captain, william j. fetterman, became angry about the raiding of fort kearny. crazy horse coaxed the 80 soldiers to follow the indians into pano creek.
  • Explains that fetterman's massacre was not a major engagement, but it was like an exclamation point in the war of harassment that red cloud pursued and would continue to press for months to come.
  • Narrates how george custer, on a reconnaissance mission with his cavalry, reported the discovery of gold in the black hills.
  • Describes how custer's army planned a campaign against the hostile indians, then gathered in the southeastern montana territory. he disregarded orders and prepared to attack at once.
  • Narrates how the sioux began practicing a religion taught by wovoka, who promised the return of native lands, the rise of dead ancestors, and the disappearance of the whites.
  • Explains that the allotment act of 1887, or dawes act, converted communally owned indian reservation lands into individually owned parcels and sold excess acreage to white settlers.
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