Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Booknotes: Edward J. Steptoe and the Indian Wars

New Arrival:

Edward J. Steptoe and the Indian Wars: Life on the Frontier, 1815 - 1865 by Ron McFarland (McFarland, 2016).

From the publisher: "This definitive biography of Steptoe chronicles the career of a field officer who served nearly four years in the Second Seminole War, won commendation for gallantry during the Mexican War, performed admirably (though controversially) in the Utah Territory, undertook construction of forts at Walla Walla in the newly defined Washington Territory and engaged with various tribes throughout his deployments. His personal letters reveal a thoughtful, sensitive commander who came to question his choice of career even before his final battle." Edward Steptoe is probably most widely associated with the Indian Wars of the Pacific Northwest, particularly the so-called disaster he suffered at Pine Creek (a.k.a. Battle of Tohotonimme) at the hands of a vastly superior force of Coeur d'Alene, Palouse and Spokane warriors in what is today eastern Washington. In the wake of the widely publicized defeat, Steptoe would go on sick leave and in failed health (he suffered perhaps two strokes) resign from the army in 1861 and die at home in Virginia in 1865 at the age of 49. McFarland's book is a full biography of Steptoe's short life, his Virginia upbringing, West Point education, and military career. The bibliography looks impressive, with the author examining Steptoe's scattered papers and a great deal of other primary source material.

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