Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Review of Duane Schultz’s Month of the Freezing Moon

Schultz, Duane. Month of the Freezing Moon: The Sand Creek Massacre, November 1864. New
York: Published by St. Martin’s Press. 1990. Print.

Duane Schultz meant to tell war stories. Month of the Freezing Moon was Duane Schultz’s first failure. The work was published in 1990, 20 years after it was written and was preceded by two novels and five historical titles (“Home”). Duane Schultz is a courtesy professor of psychology at the University of South Florida (“Home”) and his love of history and psychology shines in Month of the Freezing Moon: The Sand Creek Massacre.

The psychologist comes through in the first 2 pages of the narrative. The book contains no preface, introduction, or thesis. It starts with a map and the word “Testimony”. In a call and answer style,
Professor Schultz uses the words provided by history to lay out his premise:

QUESTION: Were there any acts of barbarity perpetrated there that came under your own observation?
ANSWER: Yes, sir. I saw the bodies of those lying there all cut to pieces, worse mutilated than any I ever saw before—the women all cut to pieces (Schultz, p. 2).

Was there a betrayal perpetrated at Sand Creek? Were these native Americans under the assumption that they had the protection of the American Flag? Were there horrible consequences for this attack? The answer is “yes” to all of these questions.

Professor Schultz launches right into his narrative of the Sand Creek Massacre then rolls back to prior events to explain its context and the ramifications of the attack. Sand Creek was a horrific betrayal of those who were protected by the United State’s flag. How the Cheyenne came to have that flag and the aftermath of the barbaric attack led to the obvious counter attack at Greasy Grass, otherwise known as The Little Big Horn.

Schultz does more than describe the Massacre itself, he explains the milieu in which it occurred. While endless detail could be provided, Schultz’s coverage of Chivington’s life from childhood to his time in Colorado and beyond is apt enough.

As a child John Chivington was well cared for, educated and trusted by his loved ones. After the passing of his father, he stepped into the family lumber business. He found that he had a talent for marketing over woodcraft and shifted his role in the company to take advantage of his persuasiveness. Chivington continued to evolve and he found two passions, religion and abolitionism. This was followed by a firmity, a certainty of logic in these two principles.

In Missouri, during the guerrilla warfare that boiled over the border with Kansas, he gave a particularly harsh sermon against the institution of slavery. Chivington was threatened with tarring and feathering if he spoke from the pulpit again (Schulz, p. 49). The following Sunday, he entered the church to find several men with hot tar waiting for him. His answer was simple and clear. He opened his robe and pulled out two guns and placed them on either side of the bible. He announced, “By the grace of God and these two revolvers… I am going to preach here today” (Schulz, p. 49). Chivington handled everything thing he perceived as evil in the same forthright fashion. He entered the Civil War as a part of the Colorado Militia and conducted himself in the same fashion. Laws, regulations and orders were subjected to his own internal logic, which happened to be good for conducting warfare. Professor Schultz tells a good war story.

While Chivington was righteous, powerful and even very quotable, it becomes obvious how such attitudes can be less than noble and reasonable. If Chivington has journeyed east instead of west, if had not found a place in the Militia, or become interested in a “stable Colorado” (pg. 63), he would have been remembered as a different sort of man. Grandios, brave, heroic. But with his mind set on a Colorado as he desired it, this was not to be.

Very often, nations have desires as men do. And America under President Andrew Johnson had a very different idea of how Colorado and the treatment of native Americans should be conducted (Schulz, p. 163). It isn’t fair to say that Johnson’s administration has more enlightened ideas about native Americans, but the Office of the President was enlightened enough to know that it should be the sole power on this stage. Men like Chivington stirred the pot, gave Americans and natives alike pause for thought.

The Johnson administration made sure that Chivington and his allies were done. However, this was hardly the solution the country needed. Chivington and the other perpetrators, even men who refused to participate were thoroughly investigated. Not once, but three times (Schulz, p. 166). Chivington had his opportunity to address his accusers, Captain Soule in particular, who refused to attack. This led to further public disasters (Schulz, p. 167). Soule was assassinated after his testimony, which sobered many Chivington supporters (Schulz, p. 171).

As a backdrop to all of this, the actual aggrieved party, the native Americans, who were not considered Americans at this time by the Johnson administration were working to strike back. Throughout the narrative, Schulz touches on the Black Kettle and other leaders of the Sioux and Cherokee. Many of these were not footnoted and may be astute conjecture on Professor Schulz’s part. But they ring true. The last third of Schultz’s work becomes a who’s who of American history, Custer, Kit Carson, Sherman and may others come into play, attempting finish what Chivington started. And Custer is the last soldier mentioned by Schultz. He launched two important attacks on the array of native tribes and just as Chivington had flaw, so did Custer. During the Civil War he engaged an enemy without scouting first (Schulz, p. 205). Schultz describes how this flaw followed him to the end, and his luck ran out on the third time he struck without scouting.

Schultz book was an excellent delivery of both historical fact and reasonable conjecture. Where the record was accessible, he often quoted it directly with no interpretation. When describing the chiefs such as Black Kettle, Schultz did not have a written account to work from and instead filled in the blanks to stitch their history and lore into the fabric of his work. Month of the Freezing Moon: The Sand Creek Massacre, was a fast paced, informative work on a great tragedy in American history.


Schultz, Duane. "Home." Duane Schultz. Accessed February 20, 2017.

Schultz, Duane. Month of the Freezing Moon: The Sand Creek Massacre, November 1864. New
York: Published by St. Martin’s Press. 1990. Print.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Review of Lakota Noon by Gregory F. Michno

     Lakota Noon is the second book review in a series for Professor Carson's Class at the University of Buffalo. Typically, I edit these documents down into a suitable review for my website. In doing so, I remove much of my original paper's intent so as not to provide a vehicle for student plagiarism. However, I was so fascinated by this book and Dr. Carson's class, I felt that I should leave the entire document as a whole. The conversations that this reading sparked was amazing. I hope to revisit this class and take more courses with Dr. Carson.

      If you have the chance take one of Dr. Carson's classes, do it. I've taken at least 3 of them. Each one was better than the last. 

Lakota Noon

     This book covers old ground in the retelling of the Battle of Little Bighorn. The previous review, Month of the Freezing Moon by Duane Schultz was also about conflict with natives as settlers moved westward. Michno is cut from a completely different cloth than Schultz. The two men use data to interpret historical events. Where Schultz attempted to insert the thoughts of the natives into his work by vignettes (Schultz), Michno takes a different tact. Michno uses the standard historical narrative and inserts information gathered from the survivors, meaning only the Lakota, to clarify. Michno laments that previous authors on this subject discounted native testimony as they were an “alien race” (Michno, p. ix-xiv). He quotes William A. Graham as saying the native witnesses, “contradicted each other so much to an extent that I found them irreconcilable” (Michno, p. x). Michno rejects that attitude, writing “we must use both white and Indian sources; further, we must realize that the Indian sources are more important and should take precedence whenever any apparent conflict arises between the two.” (Michno, p. ix-xiv). Theoretically, pragmatic, because the voices of the winners and those who held the field at the end was the only primary source besides forensic details.
     Michno statement of intent was that he was not interested in the study of warfare, morality, or cause. He wrote from a discontent of the framework and structure of descriptions of the Battle of Little Bighorn by others. He wished to build his own study of the Battle and from there, reassess his own thoughts and preconceptions. Michno desired an educational outcome, one that he found satisfying. Michno found the prior work on this topic short on details about the native defenders. In case studies from their perspective, their testimony to events watered down with secondary sources not of native hands. To address this concern in his work, he breaks the battle down into 10 minute segments to present the historical account of the soldiers, plus the discounted statements by Indians and follows both with a detailed analysis of events to correlate or highlight discrepancy between accounts. In this way he shapes an excellent description of the chain of events in the battle. Time studies and motion studies have long been a practice when reviewing this segment of history as these were the only source of information not derived from the Indians. While many of these works are spectacularly clear and clean cut, there is a certain amount of fear when history loses it’s fog of time. Michno takes advantage of both the fog of the past and the rational tradition of time studies to reframe the events of the Battle of Little Bighorn.
     “A Word to the Wise” was the introductory chapter from William A. Graham’s book and is quoted by Michno. It is useful regarding this title, also. Michno and artist Jennifer Hamelman, have created a curious, almost avant-garde book to recount Custer’s last days. The word “book” instead of “title” is used purposefully here. Physically, the book is like no other. The table of contents are broken down by timestamp and page, 13 figures a presented on a table followed by 25 “time-segment” maps. The author wrote a one paragraph acknowledgements page before a two page centerfold map, with key features superimposed on the current site of modern day I-90 for reference. The next page holds a legend labeled “Individual and Tribal Symbol Key”. Cheyenne, Oglala, Minneconjou, Hunkpapa, BrulĂ©, Arapaho and Two Kettle tribes appear on the key, each with their own characteristic shape. Divided by tribe, 58 names of Indians appear, each individual shares the symbol of his tribe but also has a unique two letter identifier. What these symbols are for is not explained until page xiii. Each entry of the narrative has a timestamp, a name and an sequence indicator. For example: “5:50-6:00, White Bull [last 5:40, next 6:10]”. The author explains that this indicates the reader has reached 5:50 to 6:00 in time, in the narrative of White Bull, his prior entry was at 5:40 and the next is at 6. Ingenious, but Michno takes this approach a step further. On page 315 begins a tribe by tribe breakdown of historical personages and at what time they appear in the narrative. Because the author has assigned a symbol to each tribe and person, it is possible to flip through the book and read a single tribe or person’s role in the book sequentially. While this style of reading is always possible using an index, Michno includes none and the endeavour is a visual experience as opposed to a test of hand-eye dexterity. This level of creativity in presentation may be off-putting, but the structure works very well.
     In Michno’s first chapter, he addresses two historical conundrums: the vast array of tipis (or teepees) reconnoitered by Reno and Custer’s desire to attack such a large force. The author abandons historical arguments as illogical. Custer was an able commander and very aware his enemy, if confronted by a vast superior force as the history maintains, any logical person would withdraw. What Michno did was a spacial analysis of how the tipis could have filled the valley in a tight arrangement (Michno, p.3-20). Using Wooden Leg’s description of the camp, it hugged the river and was entirely east of the I-90 (Michno, p.17). Comparing that statement to Captain Moylan’s description of only being 200-300 yards wide, 1,900 lodges would have fit within the space of a quarter square mile (Michno, p.18). This 1,900 lodge number was on the high side of estimates. Some are as low as 1000 lodges, which require far less space or a more sparse arrangement. What this meant for Custer was he was not using Reno’s force as an anvil to his hammer, his movements were meant to draw Indians away from Reno’s force, reducing the threat, not riding headlong into it (Michno, p.19). Strangely, adding the Indian side of the story established Custer as well reasoned as opposed to someone suffering from either myopia or delusions. The first chapter is a solid work of puzzling and reasoning which was of great importance to the following chapters.
     There is the idea that Custer walked into an ambush, a terrible end for a well regarded tactician. From the details of the various defenders, it was Custer who was ambushing them. Ill prepared for combat, forces drew out for battle with Custer’s men on the north side of the village (Michno, p.33). In one hour, by 4 in the afternoon, the Battle was not going well for Major Reno’s men (Michno, p.87). They had taken refuge in a wood and in an attempt to withdraw, suffered horrible casualties. One Bull, having seen the men retreat, ordered his men to let them go to tell the tale (Michno, p.84). Citation is designed for order and comprehension, Michno’s work does a fair bit to disorder this as Reno’s part appears after One Bull’s in the narrative. However, the effect of this style was very effective.
In the last three chapters, Michno returns the tradition of style of discussion and analysis. His analysis pushes away the idea of a single last stand. While Custer’s forces held the hill, some men fled into the gully. Michno notes dryly that “dead men don’t run”. Historical accounts must give way to reason. Beard, a Minneconjou, recounts that he desired to capture Custer but ultimately found him dead, still holding the reins of his horse. The battle was over.
     Why had it ended with Custer dead and his enemies victorious? Custer had done the unthinkable by dividing his forces. Well, yes. But there is one set of rules for strategy and one for tactics. Strategy dictates one should never divide one’s strength. However, as a purely practical matter, tactics are dictated by the environment. Separation was a requirement of the engagement (Michno, p. 294). Custer lead a cavalry regiment, not a phalanx.
     Michno’s account of the battle ranges from mathematical to bone chilling in its details. This title was an offbeat, yet wonderfully readable recount of the battle with a strong focus on all of the voices from the various tribes and companies. This book was designed for study, reading and rereading. The wonderful documentation in the form of footnotes, the photographs, charts, maps and symbols make this title an excellent addition for any history bookshelf.


Gregory F. Michno. Lakota Noon. Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing. 1997. Print.

Schultz, Duane. Month of the Freezing Moon: The Sand Creek Massacre, November 1864. New

York: Published by St. Martin’s Press. 1990. Print.