The Blue, the Gray & the Red is not about the “Gray” to any significant extent, for it is thoroughly focused on conflicts, generally bloody conflicts, between the Federal Army and Native American tribes. The connection to “Gray” is the time of these conflicts. They occurred during the years of the War Between the States. So, in this book of 274 pages, you learn about the cruel treatment of Native Americans during the Abraham Lincoln Administration.
This may be the first work dedicated solely to chronicling the numerous campaigns waged against the Indians in the West during the War Between the States, 1861-1865. Perhaps more Indians – and possibly more Americans — were killed during this time period than any other comparable four year period of the Indian Wars in our history. Yet most Americans are quite ignorant of all that transpired in these Indian campaigns no doubt due to the overarching dominance of that most sanguinary other War. Both Confederate and Federal soldiers had to maintain two front wars – against each other and the Indians. In each nation manpower drains for the main war were such that all too often the campaigns for frontier survival were fought with untrained and inexperienced militia. The Indians comprehended all of this and many acted with great mischief.
Concomitantly the War Between the States also divided the loyalties of many tribes with organized units fighting for both the Confederacy (who had Indian nations’ representatives in their congress with the intention of eventually bringing them in as their own states) and the Union. We must not lose sight of the fact that the last commissioned general in the Confederacy to surrender was Cherokee chief Brigadier General Stand Watie on 23 June, 1865.
Although this well written eminently readable book fills in a much needed gap in understanding our history of the many campaigns with the various Indian tribes during this time period, it is woefully lacking more in its analysis and descriptions of the campaigns in the Confederacy. There are only several paragraphs outlining these skirmishes and battles. The title of this work certainly suggests more than what is provided. Much has yet to be researched and written hereon. And, we know that there were many fights worth relating with the Indians on the “Southron” frontier.
You are also encouraged to view the Society’s review of Bourland in North Texas and Indian Territory during the Civil War: Fort Cobb, Fort Arbuckle & the Wichita Mountains by Patricia Adkins-Rochette.
Nonetheless, those campaigns described are fascinating. The author leads us through several of the bloody battles between partisan Indian tribes during the War Between the States explaining the politics of it all (this is well done – it can be most confusing) with the consequences to each side. Even history enthusiasts for the War are frequently uninformed with reference to the fratricidal intra-Indian campaigns. He then goes into the several Apache campaigns, the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862 in Minnesota wherein scores of quite innocent newly arrived German immigrants were massacred and worse, the Bear River Massacre, the Woolsey Expedition, Northern and Southern Plains vengeance, and ultimately the woeful Sand Creek Massacre.
Of note, the Sioux War of 1862 caused the burning of much of the town of New Ulm – 190 houses, and culminated after several set battles with the largest mass hanging under the colour of law in American history on American soil. On 26 December 1862, after receiving approval by Union President Abraham Lincoln, 38 Indians were publicly hanged for their depredations in this war.
This book is excellent. It is recommended – its noted blemishes aside – to the serious student of the Indian Wars.