The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend

The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend

4.3 55
by Bob Drury, Tom Clavin

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An acclaimed New York Times bestseller, selected by Salon as a best book of the year, the astonishing untold story of the life and times of Sioux warrior Red Cloud: “a page-turner with remarkable immediacy…and the narrative sweep of a great Western” (The Boston Globe).

Red Cloud was the only American Indian in history to


An acclaimed New York Times bestseller, selected by Salon as a best book of the year, the astonishing untold story of the life and times of Sioux warrior Red Cloud: “a page-turner with remarkable immediacy…and the narrative sweep of a great Western” (The Boston Globe).

Red Cloud was the only American Indian in history to defeat the United States Army in a war, forcing the government to sue for peace on his terms. At the peak of Red Cloud’s powers the Sioux could claim control of one-fifth of the contiguous United States and the loyalty of thousands of fierce fighters. But the fog of history has left Red Cloud strangely obscured. Now, thanks to the rediscovery of a lost autobiography, and painstaking research by two award-winning authors, the story of the nineteenth century’s most powerful and successful Indian warrior can finally be told.

In The Heart of Everything That Is, Bob Drury and Tom Clavin restore Red Cloud to his rightful place in American history in a sweeping and dramatic narrative based on years of primary research. As they trace the events leading to Red Cloud’s War, they provide intimate portraits of the many lives Red Cloud touched—mountain men such as Jim Bridger; US generals like William Tecumseh Sherman, who were charged with annihilating the Sioux; fearless explorers, such as the dashing John Bozeman; and the memorable warriors whom Red Cloud groomed, like the legendary Crazy Horse. And at the center of the story is Red Cloud, fighting for the very existence of the Indian way of life.

“Unabashed, unbiased, and disturbingly honest, leaving no razor-sharp arrowhead unturned, no rifle trigger unpulled....a compelling and fiery narrative” (USA TODAY), this is the definitive chronicle of the conflict between an expanding white civilization and the Plains Indians who stood in its way.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For all of our culture’s fascination with the American Indian, it’s almost impossible to believe that one of the most well-known Indians of his time, the Oglala Sioux warrior chief Red Cloud, could be largely forgotten until now. Yet that’s exactly what we discover in this illuminating account by Drury and Clavin (Halsey’s Typhoon). As the de facto leader of the Western Sioux nation—an unprecedented feat in itself given the Sioux’s rigorous individualism and a “culture consisted of fluid, haphazard tribal groups”—Red Cloud and his army stand alone in history as the only Indians to ever defeat the United States in a war, which took all of two years (1866–1868). A history inconveniently at odds with the accepted American narrative, the manuscript for Red Cloud’s 1893 autobiography lay in a drawer at the Nebraska State Historical Society into the 1990s. Thanks to that work and the authors’ extensive, additional scholarship, readers now have access to a much more thorough, comprehensive understanding of the Plains Indians’ brutal and tragically futile efforts to protect their land and way of living from the progress of ”civilization.” Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel-Weber Associates. (Nov.)
S. C. Gwynne
“The word ‘epic’ is overused these days. Not here. This is big, blazing history, writ large on the High Plains. Clavin and Drury handle it beautifully. Through the striking historical figure of Red Cloud, they tell story of the Sioux Nation and of the fight for the American West.”
Indian Country Today
“Riveting . . . Meticulously researched . . . One of the biggest stories in American history . . . The authors uncovered a wealth of material from diaries and letters written by U.S. military officers and their wives and children, and wilderness trackers, plus a treasure trove of historical information gleaned from the letters and journals of the pioneers who crossed the Great Plains during the 1800s.”
author of Empire of the Summer Moon - S.C. Gwynne
“The word ‘epic’ is overused these days. Not here. This is big, blazing history, writ large on the High Plains. Clavin and Drury handle it beautifully. Through the striking historical figure of Red Cloud, they tell story of the Sioux Nation and of the fight for the American West.”
author of Flight of Passage - Rinker Buck
“Finally we have the full story of Red Cloud, told without the sentimentality and delusional romance that too many white historians bring to the American native tribes. The Powder River country of the West entrapped two equally objectionable groups—the soldiers that Washington sent to decimate the tribes, and the tribes themselves, who had been slaughtering each other for centuries. That stirring but bloodthirsty era deserves an honest treatment like this.”
Charles Frazier
“Histories of the Sioux Wars have too often cast all other warriors into the shadow of Crazy Horse. Drury and Clavin shine welcome light on Red Cloud, a brilliant leader and military strategist whose life was an important part of this brutal and decisive movement in America’s history. This is an absorbing and evocative examination of the endgame in the three-hundred-year war between Native Americans and settlers of European descent.”
From the Publisher
“Histories of the Sioux Wars have too often cast all other warriors into the shadow of Crazy Horse. Drury and Clavin shine welcome light on Red Cloud, a brilliant leader and military strategist whose life was an important part of this brutal and decisive movement in America’s history. This is an absorbing and evocative examination of the endgame in the three-hundred-year war between Native Americans and settlers of European descent.”

“The word ‘epic’ is overused these days. Not here. This is big, blazing history, writ large on the High Plains. Clavin and Drury handle it beautifully. Through the striking historical figure of Red Cloud, they tell story of the Sioux Nation and of the fight for the American West.”

“Finally we have the full story of Red Cloud, told without the sentimentality and delusional romance that too many white historians bring to the American native tribes. The Powder River country of the West entrapped two equally objectionable groups—the soldiers that Washington sent to decimate the tribes, and the tribes themselves, who had been slaughtering each other for centuries. That stirring but bloodthirsty era deserves an honest treatment like this.”

Ken Burns
“Red Cloud is one of the great figures in nineteenth-century America’s tortured relationships with the many peoples who occupied our country before we took it. Finally, there is a portrait worthy of the man, fully drawn and realized, all the complicated undertow acknowledged and embraced.”
Kirkus Reviews
Sharply honed life of the only American Indian leader to definitively beat the United States in war, short-lived though the defeat might have been. Popular military historians Drury and Clavin (Last Men Out: The True Story of America's Heroic Final Hours in Vietnam, 2011, etc.) offer a battle-and-skirmish account of Sioux leader Red Cloud's war on the whites who invaded the Great Plains, though their narrative is strong on ethnohistorical matters as well. When a white officer sputtered "Horseshit" against Red Cloud's claim that the Sioux had an ancestral claim to the Black Hills, for instance, the authors are able to explain that, be that as it may, the Sioux had developed an emergence story to back up their case--one that, as it happened, had its first mention on the Sioux calendar "the summer before America's Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence." Drury and Clavin frame their story with what has been called the Fetterman Massacre (here, better put, the Fetterman Fight), in 1866, when an unfortunate Army officer led his command into a trap that led to their deaths, but they pack it with details taken from many episodes in the early history of Sioux relations with the whites, as well as with other tribes. They credit Red Cloud with forming a powerful alliance of peoples, among them the Cheyenne and Shoshone, the only way the Indians could resist white encroachment into their homeland. Even so, as the authors note, when Red Cloud was invited to Washington to sign a peace treaty and was taken to a federal arsenal to see the assembled weaponry available to his enemy, he recognized that the days of his people's suzerainty were numbered, even as he continued to mount "the most impressive campaign in the annals of Indian warfare," which lasted from 1866 to 1868. A well-researched and -written account of an often overlooked figure in the history of the Indian Wars.
“Valuable . . . Meticulous . . . [A] remarkable story . . . The writers don’t shy away from the atrocities on both sides of the gruesome, long-running conflict between the Indians and the U.S. forces. But when, for the umpteenth time, U.S. officials break a contract as soon as the glint of gold is spotted in the hills, one cannot help but feel that there’s all the more reason to celebrate one of the Sioux’s most impressive fighters.”
Salon - Laura Miller
“A ripping yarn . . . A quintessentially Western tale of bold exploits, tough characters, brutal conditions and a lost way of life, this sounds like the sort of story that practically tells itself. Yet you only realize how little justice most popular histories do to their source material when you come across a book, like this one, that does everything right. It’s customary to say of certain nonfiction books — gussied up with plenty of 'color' and psychological speculation — that they 'read like a novel,' but truth be told, most of the time we’d have to be talking about a pretty mediocre novel. The Heart of Everything That Is, on the other hand, resembles the good ones. There were times, turning its pages, when I could almost smell the pines of the Black Hills, feel the icy wind tearing down from Canada across the prairie and hear the hooves of the buffalo pounding the earth.”
USA Today
“Exquisitely told . . . Remarkably detailed . . . The story of Red Cloud's unusual guile and strategic genius makes the better-known Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse pale in comparison. . . . This is no knee-jerk history about how the West was won, or how the West was lost. This historical chronicle is unabashed, unbiased and disturbingly honest, leaving no razor-sharp arrowhead unturned, no rifle trigger unpulled. . . . A compelling and fiery narrative.”
The Wall Street Journal Christopher Corbett
“Vivid . . . Lively . . . A tale of lies, trickery, and brutal slaughter . . . In telling the story of Red Cloud, Messrs. Drury and Clavin appropriately bring a number of the larger-than-life figures from that time onstage . . . [and] chronicle in considerable detail the shameful treatment of the Indians across the plains and the destruction of their ancient way of life.”
The Boston Globe Kate Tuttle
“A page turner . . . Drawing on archives, letters, and a long-lost autobiography written toward the end of Red Cloud’s life, the narrative has a remarkable immediacy . . . [and] the narrative sweep of a great Western.”
The Wichita Eagle
“Astounding . . . A tour de force of historical storytelling . . . The Heart of Everything That Is is grand in scope and beautifully observed. . . . Together, [Drury and Clavin] have managed a feat of scholarship that interweaves ethnological brilliance and an insightful reinterpretation of Indian culture from the point of view of the Sioux.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“The authors paint a full and vivid picture of the Oglala Sioux leader . . . The story of Red Cloud is presented here with all the tension and excitement of a good Western novel. . . . The narrative is gripping but not sentimental, and it is well-sourced, drawing, for example, on Red Cloud’s autobiography, lost for nearly a century, and the papers of many others who knew Red Cloud’s War.”
Library Journal
★ 09/01/2013
Red Cloud (1822–1909) was an Oglala Sioux war chief who successfully led Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Sioux warriors against the U.S. Army. The war was sparked by the 1863 construction of the Bozeman Trail, which connected Montana's gold fields to the Oregon Trail in violation of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty. From 1866 to 1868, Red Cloud proved such a brilliant tactician that the United States sued for peace to end what became known as Red Cloud's War. The resulting Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 found the United States pledging to stay out of the Sioux hunting grounds and to close the Bozeman Trail. In exchange, Red Cloud and his people pledged to live in peace on the Great Sioux Reservation. Journalists Drury and Clavin (coauthors, The Last Stand of Fox Company) have written a gripping narrative that illuminates Red Cloud's battlefield prowess. They also show how Red Cloud, a shrewd politician, rejected the overtures of Sitting Bull to join the disastrous 1876–77 war over the Black Hills. By choosing peace, Red Cloud ultimately accomplished more for his followers than he could have gained on the battlefield. VERDICT This fascinating book is highly recommended to anyone interested in the history of the Old West. Readers should also consider Autobiography of Red Cloud: War Leader of the Oglalas, edited by R. Eli Paul. [See Prepub Alert, 5/13/13.]—John R. Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
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6.32(w) x 9.48(h) x 1.27(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Heart of Everything That Is

  • The Bluecoats, many of them veterans of the Civil War, had survived the most brutal deprivations—the “Hornet’s Nest” at Shiloh, Stonewall Jackson’s “River of Death” on the banks of the Chickahominy, the bloody Sunken Road at Antietam. They had held firm to cover the retreat at Bull Run and stood with Kit Carson at Valverde Ford. But the onset of the winter of 1866 was introducing them to a new kind of hardship as they broke trail through the rugged Powder River Country, the only sounds the creak of their frozen tack and the moan of the north wind as it tore through the stunted branches of scrub oak that choked the river corridors.

    It was November 2, and it had taken the sixty-three officers and enlisted men of Company C of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry more than a month to traverse the nearly 700 miles from the flatlands of eastern Nebraska to the head of the Bozeman Trail in south-central Wyoming. They had traced the great bend of the North Platte across gale-scoured plains, climbed onto mile-high prairie whose altitude made their lungs wheeze and their heads ache, and forded more than two dozen ice-crusted rivers and streams. Now, veering west from the South Powder, they disappeared into the rolling buttes that buckled and folded to the northern horizon. The riders were still a day’s journey from their destination, the isolated Fort Phil Kearny, a seventeen-acre redoubt on the fork of Little Piney Creek and Big Piney Creek just shy of the Montana border. With their black woolen sack coats cinched tight and their greasy kepis and Hardees pulled low against their foreheads, from a twilit distance the party could well have been mistaken for a column of wizened buffalo picking its way through the rugged Dakota Territory.1 Along the trail they had passed a great many grave sites holding the remains of white men and women murdered by Indians.

    The soldiers, reinforcements from the East, were unaccustomed to the ferocity of the poudrerie whiteouts that funneled down from the Canadian Plains. Though the biting northers had left the tops of the surrounding foothills and tabletops bald and brown, Company C’s horses and wagon mules pushed through creek bottoms and coulees piled high with snowdrifts that sometimes reached their withers. That night they bivouacked in a narrow gulch, where a spinney of bare serviceberry trees formed a windbreak. Above them loomed the east face of the Bighorn Mountains, a 12,000-foot fortress of granite that few whites had ever seen. Platoon sergeants hobbled horses, posted pickets, and passed the word that fires could be lit for cooking. The men huddled close to the flames and methodically spooned up a supper of beans, coffee, molar-cracking hardtack, and sowbelly remaindered from the Civil War. Company C was nominally under the command of Lieutenant Horatio Stowe Bingham, a gaunt, hawk-nosed Québécois who had fought with the 1st Minnesota Volunteers from Bull Run to Antietam, where he had been wounded. But every enlisted man recognized that the most senior officer accompanying them, the coal-eyed Captain William Judd Fetterman, was the man who would lead them on their paramount mission: to find, capture, or kill the great Oglala Sioux warrior chief Red Cloud.

    For more than a year Red Cloud had directed an army of over 3,000 Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors on a campaign across a territory that spanned a swath of land twice the size of Texas. It was the first time the United States had been confronted by an enemy using the kind of guerrilla warfare that had helped secure its own existence a century earlier, although this irony went largely unappreciated in dusty western duty barracks or eastern boardrooms where railroad barons, mining magnates, and ambitious politicians plotted to create an empire. Red Cloud’s fighters had ambushed and burned wagon trains, killed and mutilated civilians, and outwitted and outfought government troops in a series of bloody raids that had shaken the U.S. Army’s general command. The fact that a heathen “headman” had rallied and coordinated so large a multitribal force was in itself a surprise to the Americans, whose racial prejudices were emblematic of the era. But that Red Cloud had managed to wield enough strength of purpose to maintain authority over his squabbling warriors and notoriously ill-disciplined fighters came as an even greater shock.

    As was the white man’s wont since the annihilation of the Indian confederacies and nations east of the Mississippi, when he could not acquire Native lands through fraud and bribery, he relied on force. Thus at the first sign of hostilities on the Northern Plains the powers in Washington had authorized the Army to crush the hostiles. If that did not work, it was to buy them off. One year earlier, in the summer of 1865, government negotiators had followed up a failed punitive expedition against Red Cloud and his allies with the offer of yet another in a succession of treaties, this one ceding the vast Powder River Country as inviolable Indian land. Yet again gifts of blankets, sugar, tobacco, and coffee were proffered while promises of independence were read aloud. In exchange the whites had asked—again—only for unimpeded passage along the wagon trail that veined the dun-colored prairie. Many chiefs and subchiefs had “touched the pen” at a ceremony on the same grasslands of southern Wyoming where, fourteen years earlier, the United States had signed its first formal pact with the Western Sioux. Now, as he had in 1851, Red Cloud refused. He argued at council fires that to allow “this dangerous snake in our midst . . . and give up our sacred graves to be plowed under for corn” would lead to the destruction of his people.

    “The White Man lies and steals,” the Oglala warrior chief warned his Indian brethren, and he was not wrong. “My lodges were many, but now they are few. The White Man wants all. The White Man must fight, and the Indian will die where his fathers died.”

    By November 1866 the forty-five-year-old Red Cloud was at the pinnacle of his considerable power, and the war parties he recruited were driven by equal measures of desperation, revenge, and overinflated self-confidence in their military mastery of the High Plains. The nomadic lifestyle they had followed for centuries was being inexorably altered by the white invasion, and they sensed that their only salvation was to make a stand here, now; otherwise, they would be doomed to extermination. Red Cloud’s warnings would prove prescient: the mid-1860s were a psychological turning point in white-Indian relations in the nation’s midsection. Earlier European colonialism had involved not only the destruction of Native peoples, but also a paternalistic veneration—partly influenced by James Fenimore Cooper—of the cultures of the “Noble Savages . . . their fate decreed by a heartless federal government whose deliberate policy was to kill as many as possible in needless wars.”

    Now, however, Cooper’s romanticism was a receding memory, a newly muscular America replacing it with a post–Civil War vision of Manifest Destiny. The old attitudes were reconfigured with cruel clarity, particularly among westerners. Even whites who had once considered Indians the equivalent of wayward children—naifs like Thomas Gainsborough’s English rustics, to be “civilized” with Bibles and plows—were beginning to view them as a subhuman race to be exterminated or swept onto reservations by the tide of progress. By the summer of 1866 the United States had broken the previous year’s flimsy treaty and constructed three forts along the 535-mile Bozeman Trail, which bisected the rich Powder River basin—an area delineated by the Platte River in the south, the Bighorns to the west, the wild Yellowstone River in the north, and, in the east, the sacred Black Hills: to the Sioux, Paha Sapa, “The Heart of Everything That Is.”

    Moreover, a much more immediate motivation for what newspapers would soon refer to as Red Cloud’s War propelled the politicians in Washington. Four years earlier, in 1862, gold had been discovered in great quantities in the craggy mountain canyons of western Montana—gold now needed to fund Reconstruction and pay down the skyrocketing interest on the national debt. Nearly half a decade of civil war had left the Union on the verge of bankruptcy, and the government depended on the thousands of placermen and panners who had already made their way to the shanty boomtowns of Montana’s “Fourteen-Mile City” via a serpentine route that skirted the western flank of the Bighorns and Sioux territory. But the most direct path to the fields ran directly through Red Cloud’s land, which had been ceded to his people by treaty.

    Small trains of miners and emigrants had already begun picking their way through this country, pioneers with hard bark who had no use for either American treaties or Indian traditions. Facing persistent attack, they were not shy in their disdain for laws that blocked their passage. The gold hand Frank Elliott spoke for most when he wrote to his father back east, “They will make many a poor white man bite the dust since they spare neither women or children. Something has to be done immediately. I tell you we are getting hostile. The Indians have to be chastised & we are going to give them the best in the shop.” Federal officials wrung their hands over such attitudes, claiming that they lacked sufficient military force to rein in the white interlopers. Few politicians, however, had any real desire to do so. As a result, any treaty boundary lines that existed on paper dissolved on the ground.

    This enormous pressure created tension from saloons to statehouses and forced General of the Army Ulysses S. Grant to send troops to reopen the Bozeman Trail. The wagon route, whose wheel ruts are still visible in places today, had been blazed in 1863 by the adventurers John Bozeman and John Jacobs and traced ancient buffalo and Indian paths. It angled north by northwest from the long-established Oregon Trail, and coursed directly through the heart of hallowed Indian hunting grounds teeming with fat prairie chickens, grouse, and quail; with wolves and grizzlies; and with great herds of elk, mule deer, and pronghorn antelope. The land was bountiful to the tribes. But above all, this was one of the last redoubts of the great northern herd of the sacred buffalo, millions upon millions of which migrated through the territory. It was the buffalo—the animal itself and what it represented to Indian culture—for which Red Cloud fought. And no American statesman or soldier had counted on the cunning and flint of the elusive Sioux chief in defense of his people’s culture. In just a few months in the summer and fall of 1866 Red Cloud had proved the equal of history’s great guerrilla tacticians.

    •  •  •

    From literally the first day European emigrants set foot on the New World’s fatal shores,2 whites and Indians had engaged in bloody, one-sided, and near-constant combat. Four centuries of these wars of conquest had combined with starvation and disease to result in the relocation, if not the extinction, of perhaps half of North America’s pre-Columbian population. Gone or penned up on hard land were the Pequots and the Cherokee, the Iroquois and Choctaw, the Delaware and Seminoles and Hurons and Shawnee. With few exceptions the newcomers accomplished this with such relative ease that by the mid-nineteenth century a flabby complacency toward fighting the Indians had set in. This arrogance was exacerbated in the post–Civil War era. As the historian Christopher Morton notes, “Imagine: soldiers who had recently outfought Stonewall Jackson, J. E. B. Stuart, and the great Robert E. Lee are shipped west. It is described to them that they’ll see a few Indians here, a few Indians there. Scraggly. Lice-ridden. Bows and arrows against rifles. Naturally they have no idea what they’re getting into.”

    Thus from the outset of Red Cloud’s War the U.S. Army’s field commanders failed to recognize that this was a new kind of Indian conflict. For all their historic ruthlessness, the tribes had always lacked long-range planning, and their habitual reluctance to press a military advantage had ultimately led to their defeat and subjugation. Yet here was a military campaign, as described by the historian Grace Raymond Hebard, led by “a strategic chief who was learning to follow up a victory, an art heretofore unknown to the red men.” It was not unusual for Red Cloud to confound his pursuers by planning and executing simultaneous attacks on civilian wagon trains and Army supply columns separated by hundreds of miles. Nor was Red Cloud afraid to confront U.S. soldiers—and their deafening mountain howitzer, “the gun that shoots twice”—within shouting distance of their isolated stockades.

    Sioux braves slithering on their bellies through the saltbush and silver sage came within a few yards of sentries in guard towers before shooting them off their posts; soldiers assigned to hunt, fetch water, and chop wood were harassed almost daily by hails of arrows fired from sheer cutbanks and hidden glens; dispatch riders simply disappeared into the emptiness of the rolling prairie with alarming regularity. It was like a fatal game, and thus by ones and twos the bulk of the undermanned and outgunned 2nd Battalion of the 18th U.S. Infantry Regiment stationed at Fort Phil Kearny was depleted. The cavalry of Company C was riding to their rescue.

    The infantry battalion—eight companies of approximately 100 men each spread among three Bozeman Trail forts—was under the command of the forty-two-year-old Colonel Henry Beebee Carrington, a politically connected midwesterner who through four bloody years of civil war had never fired a shot in anger. His stooped posture and graying hair betrayed the vestiges of a sickly youth; his deep-set rheumy eyes appeared to be permanently weeping; Red Cloud and the Plains Indians had taken to referring to him derisively as the “Little White Chief.” Carrington had chosen as his headquarters Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming, about midway between Reno Station, sixty miles to the south, and Fort C. F. Smith, a further ninety miles to the northwest across the Montana border. He had begun construction on the post in July 1866, and during the compound’s first six months of existence he recorded over fifty “hostile demonstrations,” resulting in the deaths of 154 soldiers, scouts, settlers, and miners, as well as the theft of 800 head of livestock. Carrington’s impotence in the face of this creeping if deadly harassment—“Scarcely a day or night passes without attempts to steal stock or surprise pickets” was typical of the tone of his pleading dispatches—led to constant requests for more soldiers, better mounts, and modern, breech-loading rifles to replace his troop’s cumbersome, antiquated muzzle-loaders. For various reasons his petitions went largely unheeded.

    Yet, surprisingly, in neither his official reports nor his personal journals did Carrington much note the devastating psychological toll Indian warfare was taking on his troops. The Natives’ astonishing capacity for cruelty was like nothing the whites had ever experienced. The Plains Indians had honed their war ethic for centuries, and their martial logic was not only fairly straightforward, but accepted by all tribes without challenge—no quarter asked, none given; to every enemy, death, the slower and more excruciating the better. A defeated Crow, Pawnee, Cheyenne, Shoshone, or Sioux not immediately killed in battle would be subjected to unimaginable torments for as long as he could stand the pain. Women of all ages were tortured to death, but not before being raped—unless they were young enough to be raped and then taken as captive slaves or hostages to be traded for trinkets, whiskey, or guns. Crying babies were a burden on the trail, so they were summarily killed, by spear, by war club, or by banging their soft skulls against rocks or trees so as not to waste arrows. On occasion, in order to replenish their gene pool—or particularly after the tribes recognized the value of white hostages—preteens of both sexes were spared execution, if not pitiless treatment. This was merely the way of life and death to the Indian: vae victis, woe to the conquered. All expected similar treatment should they fall. But it was incomprehensibly immoral to the Anglo-European soldiers and settlers for whom memories of the Roman Colosseum, the barbarities of the Crusades, and the dungeons of the Inquisition had long since faded.

    Even Carrington’s most hardened veterans, their steel forged in the carnage of the Civil War, were literally sickened by what newspapers from New York to San Francisco euphemistically referred to as Indian “atrocities” and, in the case of women, “depredations.” Captured whites were scalped, skinned, and roasted alive over their own campfires, shrieking in agony as Indians yelped and danced about them like the bloody-eyed Achilles celebrating over the fallen Hector. Men’s penises were hacked off and shoved down their throats and women were flogged with deer-hide quirts while being gang-raped. Afterward their breasts, vaginas, and even pregnant wombs were sliced away and laid out on the buffalo grass. Carrington’s patrols rode often to the rescue, but almost always too late, finding victims whose eyeballs had been gouged out and left perched on rocks, or the burned carcasses of men and women bound together by their own steaming entrails ripped from their insides while they were still conscious. The Indians, inured to this torture ethos, naturally fought one another to their last breath. The whites were at first astonished by this persistence, and most of the soldiers of the 18th Infantry had long since made unofficial pacts never to be taken alive.

    Captain Fetterman, the relentless and adaptive Civil War hero, was charged with ending this Hobbesian dystopia. The Army’s general staff considered Fetterman a new breed of Indian fighter, and as such he carried orders to Fort Phil Kearny installing him as second in command to Carrington, his old regimental commander. The final instructions he received before his departure from Omaha had been terse: “Indian warfare in the Powder River Country can be successfully ended once and for all by engaging in open battle with the Indians during the winter.” These orders underlined the War Department’s undisguised position that previous campaigns against Red Cloud, if indeed they could be called such, had stalled owing to a combination of incompetence and the American field commanders’ aversion to cold-weather combat. In truth, even newcomers to the frontier such as Carrington soon learned that giving chase with horses, infantry, and supply trains consistently bogged down in deep snow was fruitless. But the eastern generals, who had conducted the majority of their Civil War marches in the South, were ignorant of Plains weather, and Washington expected the Army to drain this blood-soaked western swamp.

    In the summer of 1866 the new commander of the Military Division of the Missouri, General William Tecumseh Sherman, undertook two long inspection tours of his vast western defenses. On the trail he became even more convinced that his troops’ failure to apprehend or kill Red Cloud stemmed from reluctance to meet savagery with savagery. The craggy forty-six-year-old Sherman was already an expert on human misery, and he held no illusions that peace between the white and red races could be achieved. In his typical brusque view, all Indians should be either killed outright or confined to reservations of the Army’s choosing. He had an eye toward the transcontinental railroad—whose tracks already extended 100 miles west of Omaha—and his genocidal judgments were succinct. “We are not going to let a few thieving, ragged Indians check and stop progress,” he wrote to his old commander General Grant. “We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination—men, women and children.”

    Sherman recognized that the piecemeal destruction of the eastern tribes had been a centuries-long process, and was still continuing to some extent. He also understood that this slow, systematic eradication would not work in a West bursting with natural resources the United States needed immediately. The raw frontier he was charged with taming was too vast, and on his circuitous inspection tours he spent long, gritty days in the saddle, traveling (it seemed to him) to Creation and back. Wherever he rode he had been made to feel like a visitor, or worse, an interloper, by warriors who shadowed his every move, just out of rifle range, over hills, through ravines, and along alkaline creek beds. Finally, during a brief two-day stopover at Nebraska’s Fort Kearney,3 Carrington informed him, with no apparent attempt at irony, “Where you have been, General, is only a fraction of Red Cloud’s country.”

    This caught Sherman’s attention. Red Cloud’s country? Over the past four years so many good men, in President Lincoln’s words, gave the last full measure of devotion to preserve the Union. And a heathen considered this land his country? Carrington’s choice of words was just another manifestation of the white-red cultural divide, however. Red Cloud no more considered the Powder River territory “his country,” in the American sense of the phrase, than he would claim ownership of the moon and the stars. At best he was fighting to preserve a country that the Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, had provided for Indians’ use. That Washington had deigned to cede to his tribe the right to occupy it in a succession of treaties and “friendship pacts” dating to 1825 only proved how confused these whites were about the grand scheme of the universe. Unlike the conciliatory Indian headmen who a year earlier were willing to cease hostilities in exchange for “protection” and “trade rights,” Red Cloud was making war to halt the increasing intrusion of whites into Sioux hunting grounds—no more, no less.

    The simplicity of this oft-stated purpose eluded Sherman. The general was a manic-depressive whose mental illness had forced him to temporarily relieve himself of command in the early stages of the Civil War—this relief, when discovered by the wire services, had prompted the headline “General William T. Sherman Insane.” Now his inner demons were made terrifyingly manifest by a scalping, torturing tribe of “savages” his troops could not even find, much less kill. It came as a further blow to his fragile ego when, during a stopover at Fort Laramie, an officer produced a primitive map that displayed all the territory Red Cloud and the Western Sioux had secured over the past two decades. This largely uncharted expanse of primeval forests, undulating prairie, sun-baked tableland, cloud-shrouded peaks, and ice-blue kettle lakes encompassed 740,000 square miles, extending south from the Canadian border into Colorado and Nebraska, and west from the Minnesota frontier to the Great Salt Lake in Utah. It was bisected by over a dozen major rivers and numberless creeks and streams flowing out of the Rockies and Black Hills, and was home to an abundance of tribes that the Sioux had either conquered or reduced to vassal status.

  • Meet the Author

    Bob Drury and Tom Clavin are the New York Times bestselling authors of Halsey’s Typhoon, Last Men Out, and The Last Stand of Fox Company, which won the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s 2010 General Wallace M. Greene Jr. Award for nonfiction. They live in Manasquan, New Jersey, and Sag Harbor, New York, respectively.

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    The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend 4.3 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 55 reviews.
    a_reader25 More than 1 year ago
    Wonderfully written, every page is as if you are standing in the middle of history. The authors draw you in and with each page it is more difficult to put this book down. There is not a dry page in this book and every word counts. I wish I could give this book 10 stars. It deserves a Pulitzer Prize and every other award out there. 
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Good read, having lived in Wyoming most of my life I found the authors' grasp of Wyoming geography a little confusing, then I got to Chapter 19 and they said the modern city of Casper, Wyoming, was the capital of Wyoming. Not true, the capital of Wyoming is Cheyenne. Made me a little doubtful of their research from that point forward.l I still learned things about the Plains Indians that I did not know from reading other books on the subject.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I am a big fan of the history of native America. This books ranks among the best that I have read. The authors did their homework well to document the facts of this part of the history of the West. Their writing skills paint a vivid picture of Sioux's war to protect and preserve the Powder River Country in the Black Hills, or, as they called it, The Heart of Everything That Is.
    UKTrojan69 More than 1 year ago
    This story is compelling and as relevant today as it was +150 years ago. I made so many notes and underlined so many passages that the book now looks like it may have been written contemporaneously to the events recounted. Drury and Clavin weave this history in such a manner that it brings to life the trials and tribulations of both our Native American brothers, as well as the Western European immigrants. This history is detailed, well-researched, provides unique perspective, and will help you learn a substantially untold story. In the end, this is a story of a proud American hero: Red Cloud. On a personal level, "The Heart of Everything That Is" gave me a little insight into myself. Having ridden through the Black Hills, as well as the surrounding plains, I feel in my soul the area truly is the heart of everything that is. I hope this review helps.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    A wonderful history, and non-diluted documentation, of Red Cloud and how the United States went about forcing the Native Americans from their native and sacred lands. Written in a neutral tone that explains both sides of the Indian Wars during the 1800's.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I love this book and reccomend it
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I normally don't write reviews, but I thought this was an exceptional book. If you have any interest in the history of the Indian and US conflict in the West, this book has to be at the top of the list. It seemed to be a fair presentation of a brutal time in our history.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    If you enjoy reading the same description chapter after chapter of how Red Cloud and his tribe dismembered, cut tongues out and gouged eyes out (while some were alive), scalped, cut private parts from men and women and carried them for trophies, then this is the book for you. I made myself finish it thinking it might get better. I even saw this book in DC at the national archives and wanted to post a sign not to waste your money. No need to read it, I've told you what happens in the book. If you want to read a good book about Indian life, read Empire of the Summer Moon.
    usmcLS More than 1 year ago
    will demand your attention and thought. truly a story of a person, p3eople who have had all taken away from them and yet, at the time of red cloud were people who stood proud. after all these years the u.s. government has reduced them to being all but a non-enity. These people are the true Americans..
    play4fun More than 1 year ago
    This book is well researched and provides a historical perspective from a different point of view. But it tends to ramble and becomes easily diverted from the subject. It took me a long time to get through this because I could only read 10 or so pages at a time
    Anonymous 6 months ago
    Anonymous 10 months ago
    I just finished reading this book and I can honestly say it is an outstanding book about one of the greatest Americans in history.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Easy to read and hard to put down. I learned a lot regarding the settling of the west by the destruction of the native and the relationship between tribes
    Freebirdcsmi More than 1 year ago
    This book was simply amazing! I have studied the Lakota for a long time, yet I still learned new things from The Heart of Everything That Is. The writing is superb (it reads like a novel), the story is engrossing, and the research is impeccable. More than just the story of Red Cloud, this is the story of the mighty Sioux and how they suffered at the hands of the invading white man. I would recommend this book to anyone. You do not have to be a scholar of history to read or appreciate this book. You just have to enjoy a good story and a well-written book.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    If you're looking for a history lesson, you're in luck! If you're looking for a great, fast moving read, you get that too! If you're looking for a worn out, same old, "cowboys / Indians" stuff - this isn't it!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    ellid More than 1 year ago
    I tried to read this and the stereotyped language and attitudes toward Red Cloud and the other First Nations all but made me physically ill.  "Happy Hunting Grounds?"  In the 21st century?  Was the author serious?
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Well written and apparently factual
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Good reading!! New information I hadn't heard before. Good book.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Masterfully written. History comes alive again within it's pages.
    CMKmom More than 1 year ago
    I very much enjoyed this book. Loved the history lesson along with the story. The book gave a human quality to the reasons behind the winning of the west. This is one of those books I wish I had bought as a book and not as a Nook book. I will read this one again.
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    Orel70 More than 1 year ago
    Excellent book. Lots of information about Red Cloud in particular and about Indian life on the plains during the 1800s in general. Fast read.