Give Me Eighty Men: Women and the Myth of the Fetterman Fight

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Overview


“With eighty men I could ride through the entire Sioux nation.” The story of the Fetterman Fight, near Fort Phil Kearney in present-day Wyoming in 1866, is based entirely on this infamous declaration attributed to Capt. William J. Fetterman. Historical accounts cite this statement in support of the premise that bravado and contempt for the fort’s commander, Col. Henry B. Carrington, compelled Fetterman to disobey direct orders from Carrington and lead his men into an ambush by an alliance of Plains Indians.
 
In the aftermath of the incident, Carrington’s superiors positioned him as solely accountable for the “massacre” by suppressing exonerating evidence. In the face of this betrayal, Carrington’s first and second wives came to their husband’s defense by publishing books presenting his version of the deadly encounter. Although several of Fetterman’s soldiers and fellow officers disagreed with the women’s accounts, their chivalrous deference to women’s moral authority during this age of Victorian sensibilities enabled Carrington’s wives to present their story without challenge.
 
In this fascinating book, Shannon D. Smith reexamines the works of the two Mrs. Carringtons in the context of contemporary evidence. Fetterman emerges as an outstanding officer who respected the Plains Indians’ superiority in numbers, weaponry, and battle skills. Give Me Eighty Men both challenges standard interpretations of this American myth and shows the powerful influence of female writers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
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Editorial Reviews

Western Historical Quarterly - Michele Nacy

"Smith's depth of research and her ability to present clear and concise information will add significant resources for historians of nineteenth-century women."—Michele Nacy, Western Historical Quarterly
South Dakota History - Susan Badger Doyle

"Well-written and thoroughly documented, Give Me Eighty Men offers important new interpretations of the Fetterman Fight and how the myth developed. It is a significant contribution to the literature on the fight and the first months at beleaguered Fort Phil Kearny."—Susan Badger Doyle, South Dakota History
Great Plains Quarterly - Ronald Schultz

"Thoroughly researched and very well written, Shannon D. Smith's book joins the works of other recent writers, such as Sherry L. Smith, who have found in the writings of officers' wives not only important chronicles of the post-Civil War West, but the testimony to the growing importance of women in the American public sphere."—Ronald Schultz, Great Plains Quarterly
Annals of Wyoming - Jeffrey Ostler

"Give Me Eighty Men is essential for anyone interested in the Fetterman event. . . . More broadly, Give Me Eighty Men offers valuable insight into how historical narratives are constructed and maintained and reminds historians of the importance of questioning conventional wisdom."—Jeffrey Ostler, Annals of Wyoming
Journal of Military History

“[Smith] updates our understanding of [the Fetterman Fight] by applying the fresh perspective offered by women’s and gender scholarship. . . . Readers who might not necessarily pick up a book on gender history will see the value and importance of applying it to all avenues of scholarship, even—perhaps especially—military history.”—Journal of Military History

 

Annals of Wyoming

"Give Me Eighty Men is essential for anyone interested in the Fetterman event. . . . More broadly, Give Me Eighty Men offers valuable insight into how historical narratives are constructed and maintained and reminds historians of the importance of questioning conventional wisdom."—Jeffrey Ostler, Annals of Wyoming

— Jeffrey Ostler

South Dakota History

"Well-written and thoroughly documented, Give Me Eighty Men offers important new interpretations of the Fetterman Fight and how the myth developed. It is a significant contribution to the literature on the fight and the first months at beleaguered Fort Phil Kearny."—Susan Badger Doyle, South Dakota History

— Susan Badger Doyle

Chronicle of Higher Education
"Documents the influence of the first and second wives of Col. Henry B. Carrington, each of whom wrote books defending her husband from blame for a massacre that occurred near Wyoming's fort Phil Kearney in 1866 when Capt. William J. Fetterman led his men into an ambush by Plains Indians."
Great Plains Quarterly

"Thoroughly researched and very well written, Shannon D. Smith’s book joins the works of other recent writers, such as Sherry L. Smith, who have found in the writings of officers’ wives not only important chronicles of the post-Civil War West, but the testimony to the growing importance of women in the American public sphere."—Ronald Schultz, Great Plains Quarterly

— Ronald Schultz

Western Historical Quarterly

"Smith’s depth of research and her ability to present clear and concise information will add significant resources for historians of nineteenth-century women."—Michele Nacy, Western Historical Quarterly

— Michele Nacy

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803234253
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2010
  • Series: Women in the West Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 970,550
  • Product dimensions: 2.40 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Shannon D. Smith is a fellow at the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research. She also teaches history at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and is a doctoral student at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
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Table of Contents

1 Prelude to Disaster 1

2 To the Frontier 25

3 Ladies of the Regiment 41

4 Officers and Gentlemen 58

5 Hard Lessons Learned 75

6 The Battle of the Hundred-in-the-Hands 94

7 Blazing a Paper Trail 128

8 Women's Work 159

9 The Rest of the Story 188

Notes 201

Bibliography 219

Index 229

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