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General George Crook: His Autobiographyby George Crook
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General George Crook was one Civil War general who didn’t win his reputation east of the Mississippi River. To him, the Civil War was just an interlude. Before and after this great conflict, Crook was an Indian fighter.
Crook fought the greatest of the Indian chieftains; served at frontier posts from the Columbia River to the Rio Grande, from Illinois to the Pacific. Yet he was as good at defending Indians as he was at fighting them. Crook understood and sympathized with them. He spoke plainly and often against injustices in the treatment of the Indian. And when he died, Red Cloud, chief of the Sioux, gave him his epitaph: “He, at least, had never lied to us.”
General George Crook: His Autobiography first came into print when Martin F. Schmitt, working in the archives of the Army War College in Washington, made the startling rediscovery of the Crook papers, which had been presented to the library of the War College by the widow of Walter S. Schuyler, one-time aid to General Crook. The existence of the autobiography had apparently not been previously suspected by any writer on the West, not even by the General’s friend, Captain John G. Bourke, who wrote the only existing sketch of his life.
A West Point graduate of 1852, General Crook spent his entire military career, with the exception of the four Civil War years, 1861 to 1865, on the frontier. His life paralleled western expansion during the latter half of the nineteenth century. In 1890, at the time of this death, he was commanding general of the Department of the Missouri, the largest and most active of all frontier commands. The Rogue River and Yakima wars in the eighteen fifties, Paiute pacification in the late sixties, the Apache campaigns of the seventies and eighties—all found Crook actively involved, fighting, counseling and making peace with the Indians.
His Civil War experiences, while not uniformly successful or profitable, brought him into close contact with the great military figures of the day. He was a favorite of Grant’s and a close associate of Sheridan, who had been in his class at West Point. His blunt, sometimes caustic opinions of his associates and the conduct of campaigns are new and often refreshing.General Crook’s autobiography covers the period from Crook’s graduation from West Point in 1852 to June 18, 1876, the day after the famous Battle of the Rosebud. The editor has supplemented it with other material, some from the Crook diaries and letters and contemporary clippings, on the other years of the General’s life.
General George Crook was one Civil War general who didn’t win his reputation east of the Mississippi River. To him, the Civil War was just an interlude. Before and after this great conflict, Crook was an Indian fighter. General Crook’s autobiography covers the period from Crook’s graduation from West Point in 1852 to June 18, 1876, the day after the famous Battle of the Rosebud. The editor has supplemented it with other material, some from the Crook diaries and letters and contemporary clippings, on the other years of the General’s life.
General Crook spent his entire military career, with the exception of the Civil War years, on the frontier. Fighting the Indians, he earned the distinction of being the lowest-ranking West Point cadet ever to rise to the rank of major general.
Crook’s autobiography covers the period from his graduation from West Point in 1852 to June 18, 1876, the day after the famous Battle of the Rosebud. Editor Martin F. Schmitt has supplemented Crook’s life story with other material from the general’s diaries and letters and from contemporary newspapers. Critics have been warm in their praise of this western Americana classic:
"A story straightforward, readable, accurate, and interesting, packed with detail and saturated with a strong western flavor.... The importance of this book lies not merely in its considerable contribution to our knowledge of military history and to the intimate and sometimes trenchant remarks made by Crook about his colleagues, but more particularly in the revelation of the character and aims of the general himself." - Chicago Tribune
"When Red Cloud, the Sioux chief, heard of the death of his old antagonist, the Army officer the called Three Stars, he told a missionary, ’...He, at least, never lied to us.’ ...General Sherman called Crook the greatest Indian fighter and manager the Army ever had. Yet this man who was the most effective campaigner against the Indians had won their respect and trust. To understand why, you ought to read General George Crook: His Autobiography, edited and annotated by Martin F. Schmitt." - Los Angeles Times
"No student of the Civil War or of the West can afford to ignore it." - New York Times Book Review
"The frank analysis of situations and blunt, occasionally caustic, judgements of men and situations make interesting reading. Students of this period will find much material in this objective and lively book." - Cavalry Journal
"A valuable book for the serious student of history...it also should prove stimulating to the casual reader who has a liking for adventure." - Western Folklore
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