- The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, an American Legend by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin
By Bob Drury and Tom Clavin. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013. 432 pp. Illustrations, photographs, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $30.00 cloth.
The story of Red Cloud, the powerful chief of the Oglala Sioux, is a familiar part of western history. Historians such as George Hyde, followed by R. Eli Paul and Robert Larson, documented his role as a leader of his people and a perennial thorn in the side of the United States government. His part in the Bozeman Trail War is well told by John D. McDermott and others.
Now the eastern publishing house of Simon and Schuster would lead us to believe that this new history by authors Bob Drury and Tom Clavin presents the “untold story” of this great figure of the American West. Granted, the work is an interesting read. One could question, however, whether a good story is necessarily good history. A closer examination exposes the authors’ lack of knowledge of western history and geography, casting doubt on the book’s value to the reader.
The Heart of Everything contains a number of careless statements. For example, on page 7 we read, “It was not unusual for Red Cloud to confuse his pursuers by planning and executing simultaneous attacks on civilian wagon trains and army supply columns.” If this did occur it was by pure coincidence. On page 22 [End Page 118] we read that by 1851, because of increased attacks, travelers passed “the skulls and bones of their predecessors,” with five thousand deaths, which we are to infer were caused by hostile warriors, in 1850 alone. Actually the number of immigrants killed by resisting tribesmen in 1850 was forty-eight. One could go on.
Likewise on page 206 we learn that after the 1865 Platte River Bridge battle, the small army post there was renamed Fort Caspar in honor of Lieutenant Caspar Collins who was killed in the fight. But what we never knew is that the renamed post was “eventually the site of Wyoming’s state capital.” This book is loaded with inaccuracies, ranging from the armament of the Regiment of Dragoons (no, they did not carry the Hawken rifle), to Scotts Bluff being the highest point in Nebraska (sorry, it is not). One could go on here too. It is too bad that the authors or the press did not have a capable historian review the manuscript before publication.
Any work that ignores known historical fact to fit its narrative does not warrant a place in the literature of the American West. Unfortunately, this book is no exception.