Kit’s Crit: The Earth Is Weeping (Peter Cozzens)

The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story Of The Indian Wars For The American West

(Peter Cozzens)

The Earth Is Weeping is one of the most comprehensive and well-written accounts of the American Indian Wars of 1861-1891.  Peter Cozzens’ impeccably-researched, objective portrayal of the acts of bravery and incomprehensible atrocities committed on both sides makes compelling reading.  He examines the trusts and betrayals – mistrusts and support – vengeance – greed – long standing rivalries and hatreds that made up the causes and effects of the wars for the plains.

Cozzens takes pains to point out that there was no government extermination policy, but rather a lot of good and bad intentions in the name of Manifest Destiny.  Inter-tribal battles and inter-racial tensions helped escalate a volatile situation into the ultimate tragedy at Wounded Knee, where the Native Americans became overwhelmed by a technically-stronger invading force.  There is no romanticizing of men like Custer and Geronimo either.  Cozzens examines their strengths and weaknesses, achieving a candid balance to this bloody period in American history.

The Earth Is Weeping makes excellent addition to Dee Brown’s classic, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.  Highly recommended.

Indian Wars: Sand Creek (1864)

The Sand Creek Massacre

sand-creek-by-howling-wolf (Drawn by Cheyenne survivor, Howling Wolf)

Date:             November 29, 1864.

Opponents:  Colonel John Milton Chivington and the Colorado U.S. Volunteer Cavalry.

                        v.

                        Chief Black Kettle and the Southern Cheyenne, with their Arapaho allies.

Place:             Sand Creek in Eastern Colorado.

Factors:       * Colonel Chivington was a Methodist preacher, freemason, and opponent of slavery, with an intense hatred of Native Americans:  “Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! . . . I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God’s heaven. . . . Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.”

                       * Chief Black Kettle flew an American flag over his lodge to show his friendly intent.  He wanted peace.

                       * In 8 hours the Cheyenne way of life was changed forever.

                       * 675 soldiers attacked a village of 700 predominantly elders, women, and children while the warriors were away from camp.  Over 100 soldiers refused to fire on unarmed non-combatants, risking their careers, reputations, and even their own lives.  Sand Creek was one of the most brutal massacres of the Indian Wars.  Those braves who raced to defend their families met an overwhelming well-armed force.

                      * Bodies were mutilated for jewelry, scalps, and body-part trophies.  Babies and pregnant women were butchered, their fetuses and genitalia put on public display.

                       * Some people survived by digging holes in the river bank and hiding inside until the soldiers left.

Results:       * Of the 135 villagers killed, 105 were women and children.

                      * The army lost 24 men and had 52 non-fatal casualties.

                      * 8 important leaders from The Council of 44 were killed.  This caused a serious disruption in the Cheyenne power system, allowing the young Dog Soldiers to challenge the traditional ruling of the tribal elders who wanted to make peace with the government.

                      * The warrior Roman Nose was incensed by this event and retaliated by killing settlers throughout the Platte Valley.

                     * Chief Black Kettle survived and continued to negotiate for a peaceful solution.

                     * One of the soldiers who refused to take part in the massacre – Captain Silas Soule – was later assassinated after giving evidence before Congress.

Sources:

U.S. National Park Service, “Sand Creek Massacre” at https://www.nps.gov/sand/index.htm

Wikipedia, “Sand Creek Massacre” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sand_Creek_massacre