Balance is what Cozzens is seeking in this detailed recounting of random carnage, bodies burned, treaties broken and treachery let loose across the land. Although the book is not a seamless narrative, and its writing is sometimes stodgy, Cozzens admirably succeeds in framing the Indian Wars with acute historical accuracy ... Cozzens excels at showcasing how rogue officers often disregarded orders from Washington in pursuit of glory. At the same time, he is very clear that many Army officers behaved honorably.
A sweeping work of narrative history that synthesizes the work of countless historians, the book is intended as an evenhanded account that recognizes fragments of nobility and humanity amid epic tragedy ... Without implying any false equivalence, Cozzens emphasizes history’s tangled complexity. Outbreaks of violence were sometimes provoked by Indians, sometimes by whites. Neither side had a monopoly on cruelty ... Cozzens excels at crisp, muscular prose that offers clear pictures of men at war ... If individual battles are described with clarity and brio, the reader’s overall sense of things can nonetheless be blurred.
The book, set squarely in the past, is all narrative and short on analysis. The battle scenes, however, are painted with expert brushstrokes on a wide canvas, from the 1860s to 1891. While the book offers a valuable panoramic view and shows us the Army through fresh eyes, its depiction of native peoples is at a certain remove, and we feel their otherness more keenly than we do the injustices perpetrated against them ... A stronger framing of the native past, including spiritual traditions and linguistic diversity, would have helped readers appreciate what was lost when native ways of life were all but obliterated by the end of the 19th century ... Treachery on such an epic scale can bear many retellings, and this account stands out for its impressive detail and scope.
His detailed history sweeps across 25 years of U.S. Indian policy, gives clear accounts of battles and raids and introduces generals and chiefs, foot soldiers and warriors. But Cozzens’ most valuable contribution comes when he takes the story off the battlefields of the West and shows that the violence and treachery used against the Indians was the result of actions and planning by the Army, the White House and Congress ... None of the combatants had a monopoly on ghastly violence, and Cozzens details the torture, rapes, scalping and mutilation of corpses carried out by tribal warriors.
...a sweeping, sharp and stylish history of the Indian Wars of the second half of the 19th century — and their tragic consequences for the native people ... Cozzens retells familiar stories — the Little Bighorn, the Nez Perce exodus, the Ghost Dance, the Wounded Knee massacre — with panache. His sketches of scores of fascinating characters, including Sherman, Phil Sheridan, George Crook, Nelson Miles, Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph and Geronimo, are memorable. Cozzens adds vivid descriptions of ordinary people on both sides.