George Crook was one of the most prominent military figures of the
late-nineteenth-century Indian Wars. Yet today his name is largely
unrecognized despite the important role he played in such pivotal
events in western history as the Custer fight at the Little Big
Horn, the death of Crazy Horse, and the Geronimo campaigns. As Paul
Magid portrays Crook in this highly readable second volume of a
projected three-volume biography, the general was an innovative and
eccentric soldier, with a complex and often contradictory
personality, whose activities often generated intense controversy.
Though known for his uncompromising ferocity in battle, he
nevertheless respected his enemies and grew to know and feel
compassion for them. Describing campaigns against the Paiutes,
Apaches, Sioux, and Cheyennes, Magid's vivid narrative explores
Crook's abilities as an Indian fighter. The Apaches, among the
fiercest peoples in the West, called Crook the Gray Fox after an
animal viewed in their culture as a herald of impending death.
Generals Grant and Sherman both regarded him as indispensable to
their efforts to subjugate the western tribes. Though noted for his
aggressiveness in combat, Crook was a reticent officer who rarely
raised his voice, habitually dressed in shabby civilian attire, and
often rode a mule in the field. He was also self-confident to the
point of arrogance, harbored fierce grudges, and because he marched
to his own beat, got along poorly with his superiors. He had many
enduring friendships both in- and outside the army, though he
divulged little of his inner self to others and some of his closest
comrades knew he could be cold and insensitive. As Magid relates
these crucial episodes of Crook's life, a dominant contradiction
emerges: while he was an unforgiving warrior in the field, he not
infrequently risked his career to do battle with his military
superiors and with politicians in Washington to obtain fair
treatment for the very people against whom he fought. Upon hearing
of the general's death in 1890, Chief Red Cloud spoke for his Sioux
people: ""He, at least, never lied to us. His words gave the people
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