The best books on the American Indian Wars

Peter Cozzens Author Of Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation
By Peter Cozzens

The Books I Picked & Why

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

By S. C. Gwynne

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

Why this book?

In Empire of the Summer Moon, author S. C. Gwynne offers the most exhilarating and even-handed account of the history of an American Indian tribe and its tragic clashes not only with encroaching Americans but also with other Indian peoples that I have ever read. He adroitly juxtaposes the tale of the fierce Comanches with the fate of Cynthia Ann Parker, a white captive who wed a Comanche, and her extraordinary son, the mixed-race Chief Quanah Parker, whose remarkable life exemplified the complexities of white interactions with the Indians of the West.


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A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn - The Last Great Battle of the American West

By James Donovan

A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn - The Last Great Battle of the American West

Why this book?

More books have been written about George Armstrong Custer and the iconic Battle of the Little Bighorn than any other clash in the Indians Wars for the American West. James Donovan’s account is by far the best. A Terrible Glory is a nuanced, deeply researched, and compelling narrative that deftly presents the story of the Little Bighorn, its antecedents, and its legacy through the perspective of both army and native participants.


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Autumn of the Black Snake: George Washington, Mad Anthony Wayne, and the Invasion That Opened the West

By William Hogeland

Autumn of the Black Snake: George Washington, Mad Anthony Wayne, and the Invasion That Opened the West

Why this book?

The bloodiest and most decisive Indian wars occurred not in the American West but in the Ohio Valley shortly after the United States gained its independence. The little known struggles with the formidable tribes of the Midwest opened the way for westward expansion. Autumn of the Black Snake is a scrupulously balanced account of what is sometimes called President George Washington’s Indian War, enhanced with an intriguing recounting of the often dirty policies behind the creation of the United States Army. Author William Hogeland also offers engaging portraits of towering but largely forgotten Indian leaders such as Little Turtle and Blue Jacket and their peoples. Read this book before turning to the Indian Wars in the West.


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On the Border with Crook

By John G. Bourke

On the Border with Crook

Why this book?

Drawn from a 128-volume diary that Capt. John G. Bourke during his long service in the American West, On the Border with Crook is the finest first-person account of the Indian Wars for the American West written by an army participant. A highly literate and dispassionate observer, Bourke served as aide to General George Crook, himself a towering figure in the conflicts. Like his commander, Bourke was sympathetic to the native peoples and their plight. Bourke’s service took him from the desert Southwest to the Northern Plains, giving his recollections an inclusiveness that no other offers.


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The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull

By Robert M. Utley

The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull

Why this book?

The Lance and the Shield is a model biography of a native leader; in this case, one of the most storied figures in American Indian history. Utley immerses the reader in Lakota (Sioux) culture and evokes all the pathos of the enigmatic Sitting Bull’s struggle to preserve the Plains Indian way of life. Utley is the dean of Western Historians, and all his books are well worth reading.


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