Friday, September 20, 2013

"Hell with the fires burned out"

In early August 1864, skirmishing occurred around Petersburg, Virginia, the Confederate garrisons at Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan surrendered in Mobile Bay, both sides took a short break in the Atlanta campaign, and in Dakota Territory a Union force made one of the most horrific marches of the war. Brigadier General Alfred Sully aptly called the march through the Badlands, “Truly hell with the fires burned out.” Sioux Indians attacked the force for three days as it marched through the arid canyon 
land region. Admittedly, I used to view these Indian wars as totally separate and distinct from the Civil War, but in recent years my perspective has broadened. As Paul L. Beck points out in his recent book, Columns of Vengeance: Soldiers, Sioux, and the Punitive Expeditions, 1863-1864, the strategy and tactics used in the campaigns were like those employed in other theaters of the war, and operations in the eastern theaters impacted these campaigns against the Indians. Recently, I picked up a used copy of Gregory F. Michno’s Encyclopedia of Indian Wars: Western Battles and Skirmishes, 1850-1860 and found it fascinating to note that entries for the war years make up almost 30% of the book. This conflict was not just one between the Blue and the Gray.

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