Peter Cousins, Custer, Phil Sheridan discussed on John Batchelor


Absolutely. I'm John Batchelor. This is the John Batchelor show. Peter cousins is here. Yes. We'll get to Custer soon enough and Custer's first blundering onto the planes when he shoots his own horse. But we begin with two Indian cheats who tell the truth. Peter cousins, his new book, the earth is weeping. The epic story of the Indian wars. One is set Tanta who is something of a blowhard. But when he gets a chance he delivers the message to the peace commission that comes out to be to talk the Indians into not resisting having their low land stolen. I know I'm going very fast, Peter, but it's very difficult than amateur reader to hold myself back your judicious. I'm the reader. I'm not Setanta says the building of the homes for us is nonsense. We would all die. My country is small enough already. He's telling them the truth. They don't listen. Do they Peter the peace counselors think he's lying to them? The they think he's foolish. They think he wants more when he's when he tells them. No, it's not so much that they think he's lying or that. He wants more. It's just again, one one of the common interests instances of people talking across purposes, and the and wanting very different things, the peace commission was operating on the principle a principle that had guided in very mad at the stations and with some some subtle. Differences had guided US Indian policy at least. As it was articulated since the foundation of the public, and it became more crystallized in the west. And that was the purposes were first and foremost to get the Indians off the overland travel routes where they posed as from the government perspective. Eight danger to settlers who are translating a Great Plains. Obviously any perspective. It was quite different. These tragedies sellers who are translating Great Plains destroying game filed following the country and and also had begun to settle on the planes. They wanted to so the government's purpose. What hit the Indians off overland travel routes to settle them on reservations, well, removed from the rows and much smaller than the land that they traditionally enjoyed remember these these were nomadic people you had tribes likes Atanta skyway who really never number more than say perhaps twenty. Five hundred souls who were accustomed to roaming across. Every everything from western Kansas. Southward. Deep into Texas. They roamed over huge swaths of land as the government's purpose was intention was to get them on smaller tracts of land. And then and then with within the context of the nineteen th century and nineteenth century thinking. There was a certain humane logic to the intent that was intent was not to physically exterminate them. But essentially to. In the powerless today. Chretien is and civilize them and turn these nomadic Indians into. Red. So to speak version of white farmers to make them into the image of the white man and make them into responsible respectable farmers on small small much smaller tracts of land. So from the things that the commissioners were offering the Indians, offering them houses schools farm implements from the government's perspective that was completed logical and had a had a a. Humanitarian rationale do it again from the point of from the perspective of the time. The of course, this was entirely foreign to them as one general later said you you might as well take a plains Indian and and put him into Elgin watch factory and expect them to become a watchmaking effort as it. Try to turn him into a farmer says something utterly foreign to them utterly foreign away of life that govern was proposing from a pneumatic life moving across the plains at their at their pleasure to suddenly being being shut up in a small cabinet and and compelled to work a small bit of land on land that frankly, the whites at that time believe was unsuitable for farming. So it was they were rejecting a way of life. That was utterly foreign to them. They were not asking for anything more anything with us. They simply wanted to continue their traditional way of life. As buffalo chips says you give us presence and take our lands that produces war. I have said all Sheridan comes to the same opinion. Sherman says there are attempts meaning the Indians attempts at civilization or simply ridiculous. So let's go to Custer who's a rascal and is charismatic at the same time. So it's impossible to get around him. Even though I very much appreciate the Indian chiefs in the war leaders Custer's first entry and Peter's book, he shoots his own. He's out on him. But that's sixty seven let's go to sixty eight because this with the seventh cavalry making a what Sherman calls predatory war at the battle of ouachita. Why does Custer attack? What does he believe he's going to achieve by attacking? Is acting under orders from is is immediate superior general Phil Sheridan that preceding summer and fall the tribes that he was going after specifically the southern Cheyenne, the southern arapaho had launched the numerous raids against settlers on the western Kansas and eastern Colorado frontiers in retribution for for white settlers taking their land and other provocations. These are these raids were quite grizzly and were again, and they were they were according to white way of thinking women being being gang-raped again bodies being mutilated. So and the army had proven himself absolutely incapable of fighting the Indian wars on their own terms during the summer and fall during. During fair weather. Thinking was okay. Let's go Astrum in the dead of winter when they're hunkered down in ten twenty thirty below. Weather in their teepees war ponies were gone in Hungary. They have no maneuverability. Let's go after them. Then when they're most fun and pay them back for the raise that they conducted that fall and summer and to show them that they are vulnerable that winter is not there ally. As India's always assumed it was the Indians never believe anyone could hit them in the wintertime. Particularly the plotting white whites and the plotting military who they were easily eluded during better times as year. So the strategy was hit them in in their villages in the winter and show them that they could be tracked down anywhere anytime, and if that involved collateral losses, well that was unfortunate. But that was part of the total war that Sherman and Sheridan were advocating against India's to their credit. It must be said. And it's it has to be said that. Neither neither Sheridan nor Custer ever advocated killing women and children as a matter of policy that although both Sheridan and Sherman made some some influence, it is public utterances country in their hearts, I do not believe they ever attended that. But that was in a in a scape. -able consequence of the sort of war that they were calling upon Custer to make attacking Indian villages at daylight, you know, in in morning twilight in the dead of winter attacking the Indians in their TV's. Obviously, these collateral losses were inescapable, and they were attacking they attack black kettles village attack black kettle because black village happened to be the first village he came upon when he was searching for the southern Cheyenne and arapaho and the great tragedy of it was very very few of the Indians who had stage these raids during the preceding fall. All in summer had actually come from black kettles village and those few who did acted without is a thorny effect acted contrary to black kettles wishes that was one of the that was perhaps the greatest tragedy of this tragic attack. Right black kettle ties. His wife dies much of the villages captured and Custer and his seventh cavalry, take ninety female hostages for plunder. They act like pirates back to the Ford. The rules of engagement are extraordinary at this time did Sherman and Sheridan. No, they were taking Indian women. Do they understand that back in Washington? Well, he certainly understood that there were women and children taken prisoner. And that was that was extremely expected and was of course, obviously preferable to in the eyes of the higher command and the government preferable to killing them outright on the field of battle. And also, you it was a matter of policy to take women and children prisoners because they were in a sense. They were marketing ships to bring warriors who were still inclined to make war to bring them to terms which is. At work that we're both ways because the Indians would then take white women and children hostages as well. And that becomes a trigger for many of the dramas that Peter has an endless number of dramas. We're just skipping between them we're going. Now. This is the first instance of Custer or going now to the last effort the last effort to make peace, but it's failing. So they make war on the southern plains and control it we now go to the politics of this because Peter has attention to that back in Washington. There's such thing as the Indian ring, what is that Peter. The Indian ring was a a sort of Lucy defined consortium and the term Indian ring was applied to those who were appalled by the corruption that was rampant throughout the bureau of Indian affairs, which then as now was charged with magic. Relations with the Indians when they were not at war with the government. And then as now was part of the department of the interior, although there was a throughout the Indian wars. There was there was wrestling between the war department and the interior department as who should have the Indian bureau under their control and within congress. There was a lot of back and forth on this because the Indian ring was seen as a consortium, and it was legitimate. So of corrupt Indian bureau officials in Washington corrupt Indian agents newfield who connived with Indian traders that is to say those people who are licensed to trade goods with the Indians. And also with nefarious local politicians in the west potential purpose of cheating. The Indians out of their annuity. Monies an annuity good. That is to say when the Indians signed treaty for the government. They were promised annuities. Either goods being blankets, clothing, farm, implements or cash and the he's corrupt Indian agents would cook the books and engaged in often resell these annuities through through Indian traders and through other other, you know, crooked person on the on the west and higher ups in Washington would look the other way or intern be paid off themselves for looking the other way. And then you had the politicians in the west, you know, senators and congressmen for whom. These positions as engineers were political patronage jobs there were ways of rewarding those who had who had supported their candidate season and helped them into office. So it was it was a it was a nasty mix of people, and it was very real. It was the grant administration there were attempts to clean it up and clothing, bringing the Quakers in the book is the earth is weeping. The epic story of the Indian west for the American Indian wars the American west Peter cousins is.

Coming up next