Thursday, May 18, 2017

Booknotes: The Three Battles of Sand Creek

New Arrival:

The Three Battles of Sand Creek: In Blood, in Court, and as the End of History
by Gregory F. Michno (Savas Beatie, 2017).

The most recent major work on Sand Creek is Ari Kelman's A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek (2013). I requested a review copy at the time of publication, didn't get it, and haven't picked up a copy yet. My local library buyers (fiction and non-fiction) are terrible so no luck there. A book I have had on the shelf for almost ten years now, and still haven't gotten around to reading, is Greg Michno's Battle At Sand Creek: The Military Perspective (2003).

His new book The Three Battles of Sand Creek is organized into three parts. "The first, 'In Blood,' details the events of November 29 and 30, 1864, in what is surely the most comprehensive account published to date. The second section, 'In Court,' focuses on the three investigations into the affair, illustrates some of the biases involved, and presents some of the contradictory testimony. The third and final section, 'The End of History,' shows the utter impossibility of sorting fact from fiction."

More from the description: "Living in a postmodern world of relativism suggests that all history is subject to the fancies and foibles of individual bias. The example of Sand Creek illustrates why we may be witnessing “the end of history.” Studying Sand Creek exposes our prejudices because facts will not change our minds―we invent them in our memories, we are poor eyewitnesses, we follow the leader, we are slaves to our preconceptions, and assuredly we never let truth get in the way of what we already think, feel, or even hope. We do not believe what we see; instead, we see what we believe." History has always had the kind of problems listed above, but certain topics (like the Indian Wars in North America) inarguably attract greater extremes. I surely don't envy being part of the firestorm that inevitably occurs when Indian Wars historians dare to question sacred cows of the most controversial sort.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this, Drew.

    We don't usually do Indian War material, but this was so unique I decided to publish it. It is everything from academically serious to a bit quirky (like when the author went on a spirit hunt with ghost hunters on the site of the engagement--an appendix). But the last part drilling down into the processing of facts and memories was the most interesting to me. And a tad worrisome, generally. Obviously nothing "new" here, but I have never read it presented so cogently.

    -- Ted


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