The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend

The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend

by Bob Drury, Tom Clavin

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An acclaimed New York Times bestseller, selected by Salon as a best book of the year, the astonishing untold story of the life and times of Sioux warrior Red Cloud: “a page-turner with remarkable immediacy…and the narrative sweep of a great Western” (The Boston Globe).

Red Cloud was the only American Indian in history to defeat the United States Army in a war, forcing the government to sue for peace on his terms. At the peak of Red Cloud’s powers the Sioux could claim control of one-fifth of the contiguous United States and the loyalty of thousands of fierce fighters. But the fog of history has left Red Cloud strangely obscured. Now, thanks to the rediscovery of a lost autobiography, and painstaking research by two award-winning authors, the story of the nineteenth century’s most powerful and successful Indian warrior can finally be told.

In The Heart of Everything That Is, Bob Drury and Tom Clavin restore Red Cloud to his rightful place in American history in a sweeping and dramatic narrative based on years of primary research. As they trace the events leading to Red Cloud’s War, they provide intimate portraits of the many lives Red Cloud touched—mountain men such as Jim Bridger; US generals like William Tecumseh Sherman, who were charged with annihilating the Sioux; fearless explorers, such as the dashing John Bozeman; and the memorable warriors whom Red Cloud groomed, like the legendary Crazy Horse. And at the center of the story is Red Cloud, fighting for the very existence of the Indian way of life.

“Unabashed, unbiased, and disturbingly honest, leaving no razor-sharp arrowhead unturned, no rifle trigger unpulled....a compelling and fiery narrative” (USA TODAY), this is the definitive chronicle of the conflict between an expanding white civilization and the Plains Indians who stood in its way.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451654707
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 11/05/2013
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 44,960
File size: 31 MB
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About the Author

Bob Drury is the author/coauthor/editor of nine books. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Men’s Journal, and GQ. He is currently a contributing editor and foreign correspondent for Men’s Health. He lives in Manasquan, New Jersey.

Tom Clavin is the author or coauthor of sixteen books. For fifteen years he wrote for The New York Times and has contributed to such magazines as Golf, Men's Journal, Parade, Reader’s Digest, and Smithsonian. He is currently the investigative features correspondent for Manhattan Magazine. He lives in Sag Harbor, New York.

Read an Excerpt

The Heart of Everything That Is

  • The Bluecoats, many of them veterans of the Civil War, had survived the most brutal deprivations—the “Hornet’s Nest” at Shiloh, Stonewall Jackson’s “River of Death” on the banks of the Chickahominy, the bloody Sunken Road at Antietam. They had held firm to cover the retreat at Bull Run and stood with Kit Carson at Valverde Ford. But the onset of the winter of 1866 was introducing them to a new kind of hardship as they broke trail through the rugged Powder River Country, the only sounds the creak of their frozen tack and the moan of the north wind as it tore through the stunted branches of scrub oak that choked the river corridors.

    It was November 2, and it had taken the sixty-three officers and enlisted men of Company C of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry more than a month to traverse the nearly 700 miles from the flatlands of eastern Nebraska to the head of the Bozeman Trail in south-central Wyoming. They had traced the great bend of the North Platte across gale-scoured plains, climbed onto mile-high prairie whose altitude made their lungs wheeze and their heads ache, and forded more than two dozen ice-crusted rivers and streams. Now, veering west from the South Powder, they disappeared into the rolling buttes that buckled and folded to the northern horizon. The riders were still a day’s journey from their destination, the isolated Fort Phil Kearny, a seventeen-acre redoubt on the fork of Little Piney Creek and Big Piney Creek just shy of the Montana border. With their black woolen sack coats cinched tight and their greasy kepis and Hardees pulled low against their foreheads, from a twilit distance the party could well have been mistaken for a column of wizened buffalo picking its way through the rugged Dakota Territory.1 Along the trail they had passed a great many grave sites holding the remains of white men and women murdered by Indians.

    The soldiers, reinforcements from the East, were unaccustomed to the ferocity of the poudrerie whiteouts that funneled down from the Canadian Plains. Though the biting northers had left the tops of the surrounding foothills and tabletops bald and brown, Company C’s horses and wagon mules pushed through creek bottoms and coulees piled high with snowdrifts that sometimes reached their withers. That night they bivouacked in a narrow gulch, where a spinney of bare serviceberry trees formed a windbreak. Above them loomed the east face of the Bighorn Mountains, a 12,000-foot fortress of granite that few whites had ever seen. Platoon sergeants hobbled horses, posted pickets, and passed the word that fires could be lit for cooking. The men huddled close to the flames and methodically spooned up a supper of beans, coffee, molar-cracking hardtack, and sowbelly remaindered from the Civil War. Company C was nominally under the command of Lieutenant Horatio Stowe Bingham, a gaunt, hawk-nosed Québécois who had fought with the 1st Minnesota Volunteers from Bull Run to Antietam, where he had been wounded. But every enlisted man recognized that the most senior officer accompanying them, the coal-eyed Captain William Judd Fetterman, was the man who would lead them on their paramount mission: to find, capture, or kill the great Oglala Sioux warrior chief Red Cloud.

    For more than a year Red Cloud had directed an army of over 3,000 Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors on a campaign across a territory that spanned a swath of land twice the size of Texas. It was the first time the United States had been confronted by an enemy using the kind of guerrilla warfare that had helped secure its own existence a century earlier, although this irony went largely unappreciated in dusty western duty barracks or eastern boardrooms where railroad barons, mining magnates, and ambitious politicians plotted to create an empire. Red Cloud’s fighters had ambushed and burned wagon trains, killed and mutilated civilians, and outwitted and outfought government troops in a series of bloody raids that had shaken the U.S. Army’s general command. The fact that a heathen “headman” had rallied and coordinated so large a multitribal force was in itself a surprise to the Americans, whose racial prejudices were emblematic of the era. But that Red Cloud had managed to wield enough strength of purpose to maintain authority over his squabbling warriors and notoriously ill-disciplined fighters came as an even greater shock.

    As was the white man’s wont since the annihilation of the Indian confederacies and nations east of the Mississippi, when he could not acquire Native lands through fraud and bribery, he relied on force. Thus at the first sign of hostilities on the Northern Plains the powers in Washington had authorized the Army to crush the hostiles. If that did not work, it was to buy them off. One year earlier, in the summer of 1865, government negotiators had followed up a failed punitive expedition against Red Cloud and his allies with the offer of yet another in a succession of treaties, this one ceding the vast Powder River Country as inviolable Indian land. Yet again gifts of blankets, sugar, tobacco, and coffee were proffered while promises of independence were read aloud. In exchange the whites had asked—again—only for unimpeded passage along the wagon trail that veined the dun-colored prairie. Many chiefs and subchiefs had “touched the pen” at a ceremony on the same grasslands of southern Wyoming where, fourteen years earlier, the United States had signed its first formal pact with the Western Sioux. Now, as he had in 1851, Red Cloud refused. He argued at council fires that to allow “this dangerous snake in our midst . . . and give up our sacred graves to be plowed under for corn” would lead to the destruction of his people.

    “The White Man lies and steals,” the Oglala warrior chief warned his Indian brethren, and he was not wrong. “My lodges were many, but now they are few. The White Man wants all. The White Man must fight, and the Indian will die where his fathers died.”

    By November 1866 the forty-five-year-old Red Cloud was at the pinnacle of his considerable power, and the war parties he recruited were driven by equal measures of desperation, revenge, and overinflated self-confidence in their military mastery of the High Plains. The nomadic lifestyle they had followed for centuries was being inexorably altered by the white invasion, and they sensed that their only salvation was to make a stand here, now; otherwise, they would be doomed to extermination. Red Cloud’s warnings would prove prescient: the mid-1860s were a psychological turning point in white-Indian relations in the nation’s midsection. Earlier European colonialism had involved not only the destruction of Native peoples, but also a paternalistic veneration—partly influenced by James Fenimore Cooper—of the cultures of the “Noble Savages . . . their fate decreed by a heartless federal government whose deliberate policy was to kill as many as possible in needless wars.”

    Now, however, Cooper’s romanticism was a receding memory, a newly muscular America replacing it with a post–Civil War vision of Manifest Destiny. The old attitudes were reconfigured with cruel clarity, particularly among westerners. Even whites who had once considered Indians the equivalent of wayward children—naifs like Thomas Gainsborough’s English rustics, to be “civilized” with Bibles and plows—were beginning to view them as a subhuman race to be exterminated or swept onto reservations by the tide of progress. By the summer of 1866 the United States had broken the previous year’s flimsy treaty and constructed three forts along the 535-mile Bozeman Trail, which bisected the rich Powder River basin—an area delineated by the Platte River in the south, the Bighorns to the west, the wild Yellowstone River in the north, and, in the east, the sacred Black Hills: to the Sioux, Paha Sapa, “The Heart of Everything That Is.”

    Moreover, a much more immediate motivation for what newspapers would soon refer to as Red Cloud’s War propelled the politicians in Washington. Four years earlier, in 1862, gold had been discovered in great quantities in the craggy mountain canyons of western Montana—gold now needed to fund Reconstruction and pay down the skyrocketing interest on the national debt. Nearly half a decade of civil war had left the Union on the verge of bankruptcy, and the government depended on the thousands of placermen and panners who had already made their way to the shanty boomtowns of Montana’s “Fourteen-Mile City” via a serpentine route that skirted the western flank of the Bighorns and Sioux territory. But the most direct path to the fields ran directly through Red Cloud’s land, which had been ceded to his people by treaty.

    Small trains of miners and emigrants had already begun picking their way through this country, pioneers with hard bark who had no use for either American treaties or Indian traditions. Facing persistent attack, they were not shy in their disdain for laws that blocked their passage. The gold hand Frank Elliott spoke for most when he wrote to his father back east, “They will make many a poor white man bite the dust since they spare neither women or children. Something has to be done immediately. I tell you we are getting hostile. The Indians have to be chastised & we are going to give them the best in the shop.” Federal officials wrung their hands over such attitudes, claiming that they lacked sufficient military force to rein in the white interlopers. Few politicians, however, had any real desire to do so. As a result, any treaty boundary lines that existed on paper dissolved on the ground.

    This enormous pressure created tension from saloons to statehouses and forced General of the Army Ulysses S. Grant to send troops to reopen the Bozeman Trail. The wagon route, whose wheel ruts are still visible in places today, had been blazed in 1863 by the adventurers John Bozeman and John Jacobs and traced ancient buffalo and Indian paths. It angled north by northwest from the long-established Oregon Trail, and coursed directly through the heart of hallowed Indian hunting grounds teeming with fat prairie chickens, grouse, and quail; with wolves and grizzlies; and with great herds of elk, mule deer, and pronghorn antelope. The land was bountiful to the tribes. But above all, this was one of the last redoubts of the great northern herd of the sacred buffalo, millions upon millions of which migrated through the territory. It was the buffalo—the animal itself and what it represented to Indian culture—for which Red Cloud fought. And no American statesman or soldier had counted on the cunning and flint of the elusive Sioux chief in defense of his people’s culture. In just a few months in the summer and fall of 1866 Red Cloud had proved the equal of history’s great guerrilla tacticians.

    •  •  •

    From literally the first day European emigrants set foot on the New World’s fatal shores,2 whites and Indians had engaged in bloody, one-sided, and near-constant combat. Four centuries of these wars of conquest had combined with starvation and disease to result in the relocation, if not the extinction, of perhaps half of North America’s pre-Columbian population. Gone or penned up on hard land were the Pequots and the Cherokee, the Iroquois and Choctaw, the Delaware and Seminoles and Hurons and Shawnee. With few exceptions the newcomers accomplished this with such relative ease that by the mid-nineteenth century a flabby complacency toward fighting the Indians had set in. This arrogance was exacerbated in the post–Civil War era. As the historian Christopher Morton notes, “Imagine: soldiers who had recently outfought Stonewall Jackson, J. E. B. Stuart, and the great Robert E. Lee are shipped west. It is described to them that they’ll see a few Indians here, a few Indians there. Scraggly. Lice-ridden. Bows and arrows against rifles. Naturally they have no idea what they’re getting into.”

    Thus from the outset of Red Cloud’s War the U.S. Army’s field commanders failed to recognize that this was a new kind of Indian conflict. For all their historic ruthlessness, the tribes had always lacked long-range planning, and their habitual reluctance to press a military advantage had ultimately led to their defeat and subjugation. Yet here was a military campaign, as described by the historian Grace Raymond Hebard, led by “a strategic chief who was learning to follow up a victory, an art heretofore unknown to the red men.” It was not unusual for Red Cloud to confound his pursuers by planning and executing simultaneous attacks on civilian wagon trains and Army supply columns separated by hundreds of miles. Nor was Red Cloud afraid to confront U.S. soldiers—and their deafening mountain howitzer, “the gun that shoots twice”—within shouting distance of their isolated stockades.

    Sioux braves slithering on their bellies through the saltbush and silver sage came within a few yards of sentries in guard towers before shooting them off their posts; soldiers assigned to hunt, fetch water, and chop wood were harassed almost daily by hails of arrows fired from sheer cutbanks and hidden glens; dispatch riders simply disappeared into the emptiness of the rolling prairie with alarming regularity. It was like a fatal game, and thus by ones and twos the bulk of the undermanned and outgunned 2nd Battalion of the 18th U.S. Infantry Regiment stationed at Fort Phil Kearny was depleted. The cavalry of Company C was riding to their rescue.

    The infantry battalion—eight companies of approximately 100 men each spread among three Bozeman Trail forts—was under the command of the forty-two-year-old Colonel Henry Beebee Carrington, a politically connected midwesterner who through four bloody years of civil war had never fired a shot in anger. His stooped posture and graying hair betrayed the vestiges of a sickly youth; his deep-set rheumy eyes appeared to be permanently weeping; Red Cloud and the Plains Indians had taken to referring to him derisively as the “Little White Chief.” Carrington had chosen as his headquarters Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming, about midway between Reno Station, sixty miles to the south, and Fort C. F. Smith, a further ninety miles to the northwest across the Montana border. He had begun construction on the post in July 1866, and during the compound’s first six months of existence he recorded over fifty “hostile demonstrations,” resulting in the deaths of 154 soldiers, scouts, settlers, and miners, as well as the theft of 800 head of livestock. Carrington’s impotence in the face of this creeping if deadly harassment—“Scarcely a day or night passes without attempts to steal stock or surprise pickets” was typical of the tone of his pleading dispatches—led to constant requests for more soldiers, better mounts, and modern, breech-loading rifles to replace his troop’s cumbersome, antiquated muzzle-loaders. For various reasons his petitions went largely unheeded.

    Yet, surprisingly, in neither his official reports nor his personal journals did Carrington much note the devastating psychological toll Indian warfare was taking on his troops. The Natives’ astonishing capacity for cruelty was like nothing the whites had ever experienced. The Plains Indians had honed their war ethic for centuries, and their martial logic was not only fairly straightforward, but accepted by all tribes without challenge—no quarter asked, none given; to every enemy, death, the slower and more excruciating the better. A defeated Crow, Pawnee, Cheyenne, Shoshone, or Sioux not immediately killed in battle would be subjected to unimaginable torments for as long as he could stand the pain. Women of all ages were tortured to death, but not before being raped—unless they were young enough to be raped and then taken as captive slaves or hostages to be traded for trinkets, whiskey, or guns. Crying babies were a burden on the trail, so they were summarily killed, by spear, by war club, or by banging their soft skulls against rocks or trees so as not to waste arrows. On occasion, in order to replenish their gene pool—or particularly after the tribes recognized the value of white hostages—preteens of both sexes were spared execution, if not pitiless treatment. This was merely the way of life and death to the Indian: vae victis, woe to the conquered. All expected similar treatment should they fall. But it was incomprehensibly immoral to the Anglo-European soldiers and settlers for whom memories of the Roman Colosseum, the barbarities of the Crusades, and the dungeons of the Inquisition had long since faded.

    Even Carrington’s most hardened veterans, their steel forged in the carnage of the Civil War, were literally sickened by what newspapers from New York to San Francisco euphemistically referred to as Indian “atrocities” and, in the case of women, “depredations.” Captured whites were scalped, skinned, and roasted alive over their own campfires, shrieking in agony as Indians yelped and danced about them like the bloody-eyed Achilles celebrating over the fallen Hector. Men’s penises were hacked off and shoved down their throats and women were flogged with deer-hide quirts while being gang-raped. Afterward their breasts, vaginas, and even pregnant wombs were sliced away and laid out on the buffalo grass. Carrington’s patrols rode often to the rescue, but almost always too late, finding victims whose eyeballs had been gouged out and left perched on rocks, or the burned carcasses of men and women bound together by their own steaming entrails ripped from their insides while they were still conscious. The Indians, inured to this torture ethos, naturally fought one another to their last breath. The whites were at first astonished by this persistence, and most of the soldiers of the 18th Infantry had long since made unofficial pacts never to be taken alive.

    Captain Fetterman, the relentless and adaptive Civil War hero, was charged with ending this Hobbesian dystopia. The Army’s general staff considered Fetterman a new breed of Indian fighter, and as such he carried orders to Fort Phil Kearny installing him as second in command to Carrington, his old regimental commander. The final instructions he received before his departure from Omaha had been terse: “Indian warfare in the Powder River Country can be successfully ended once and for all by engaging in open battle with the Indians during the winter.” These orders underlined the War Department’s undisguised position that previous campaigns against Red Cloud, if indeed they could be called such, had stalled owing to a combination of incompetence and the American field commanders’ aversion to cold-weather combat. In truth, even newcomers to the frontier such as Carrington soon learned that giving chase with horses, infantry, and supply trains consistently bogged down in deep snow was fruitless. But the eastern generals, who had conducted the majority of their Civil War marches in the South, were ignorant of Plains weather, and Washington expected the Army to drain this blood-soaked western swamp.

    In the summer of 1866 the new commander of the Military Division of the Missouri, General William Tecumseh Sherman, undertook two long inspection tours of his vast western defenses. On the trail he became even more convinced that his troops’ failure to apprehend or kill Red Cloud stemmed from reluctance to meet savagery with savagery. The craggy forty-six-year-old Sherman was already an expert on human misery, and he held no illusions that peace between the white and red races could be achieved. In his typical brusque view, all Indians should be either killed outright or confined to reservations of the Army’s choosing. He had an eye toward the transcontinental railroad—whose tracks already extended 100 miles west of Omaha—and his genocidal judgments were succinct. “We are not going to let a few thieving, ragged Indians check and stop progress,” he wrote to his old commander General Grant. “We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination—men, women and children.”

    Sherman recognized that the piecemeal destruction of the eastern tribes had been a centuries-long process, and was still continuing to some extent. He also understood that this slow, systematic eradication would not work in a West bursting with natural resources the United States needed immediately. The raw frontier he was charged with taming was too vast, and on his circuitous inspection tours he spent long, gritty days in the saddle, traveling (it seemed to him) to Creation and back. Wherever he rode he had been made to feel like a visitor, or worse, an interloper, by warriors who shadowed his every move, just out of rifle range, over hills, through ravines, and along alkaline creek beds. Finally, during a brief two-day stopover at Nebraska’s Fort Kearney,3 Carrington informed him, with no apparent attempt at irony, “Where you have been, General, is only a fraction of Red Cloud’s country.”

    This caught Sherman’s attention. Red Cloud’s country? Over the past four years so many good men, in President Lincoln’s words, gave the last full measure of devotion to preserve the Union. And a heathen considered this land his country? Carrington’s choice of words was just another manifestation of the white-red cultural divide, however. Red Cloud no more considered the Powder River territory “his country,” in the American sense of the phrase, than he would claim ownership of the moon and the stars. At best he was fighting to preserve a country that the Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, had provided for Indians’ use. That Washington had deigned to cede to his tribe the right to occupy it in a succession of treaties and “friendship pacts” dating to 1825 only proved how confused these whites were about the grand scheme of the universe. Unlike the conciliatory Indian headmen who a year earlier were willing to cease hostilities in exchange for “protection” and “trade rights,” Red Cloud was making war to halt the increasing intrusion of whites into Sioux hunting grounds—no more, no less.

    The simplicity of this oft-stated purpose eluded Sherman. The general was a manic-depressive whose mental illness had forced him to temporarily relieve himself of command in the early stages of the Civil War—this relief, when discovered by the wire services, had prompted the headline “General William T. Sherman Insane.” Now his inner demons were made terrifyingly manifest by a scalping, torturing tribe of “savages” his troops could not even find, much less kill. It came as a further blow to his fragile ego when, during a stopover at Fort Laramie, an officer produced a primitive map that displayed all the territory Red Cloud and the Western Sioux had secured over the past two decades. This largely uncharted expanse of primeval forests, undulating prairie, sun-baked tableland, cloud-shrouded peaks, and ice-blue kettle lakes encompassed 740,000 square miles, extending south from the Canadian border into Colorado and Nebraska, and west from the Minnesota frontier to the Great Salt Lake in Utah. It was bisected by over a dozen major rivers and numberless creeks and streams flowing out of the Rockies and Black Hills, and was home to an abundance of tribes that the Sioux had either conquered or reduced to vassal status.

  • Table of Contents

    Prologue Paha Sapa 1

    Part I The Prairie

    1 First Contact 19

    2 Guns and Badlands 35

    3 The Black Hills and Beyond 49

    4 "Red Cloud Comes!" 61

    5 Counting Coup 75

    6 "Print the Legend" 82

    Part II The Invasion

    7 Old Gabe 93

    8 The Glory Road 102

    9 Pretty Owl and Pine Leaf 108

    10 A Blood-Tinged Season 122

    11 A Lone Stranger 131

    12 Samuel Colt's Invention 142

    13 A Brief Respite 149

    14 The Dakotas Rise 156

    Part III The Resistance

    15 Strong Hearts 169

    16 An Army in Shambles 176

    17 Blood on the Ice 183

    18 The Great Escape 190

    19 Bloody Bridge Station 200

    20 The Hunt for Red Cloud 206

    21 Burn the Bodies; Eat the Horses 213

    Part IV The War

    22 War Is Peace 223

    23 Big Bellies and Shirt Wearers 233

    24 Colonel Carrington's Circus 240

    25 Here Be Monsters 247

    26 The Perfect Fort 253

    27 "Mercifully Kill All the Wounded" 260

    28 Roughing It 270

    29 A Thin Blue Line 279

    30 Fire in the Belly 286

    31 High Plains Drifters 294

    Part V The Massacre

    32 Fetterman 303

    33 Dress Rehearsal 310

    34 Soldiers in Both Hands 317

    35 The Half-Man's Omen 323

    36 Broken Arrows 330

    37 "Like Hogs Brought to Market" 336

    38 Fear and Mourning 343

    Epilogue 351

    Acknowledgments 367

    Notes and Bibliography 369

    Index 399

    Reading Group Guide

    This reading group guide for The Heart of Everything That Is includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


    Though he was the only American Indian ever to defeat the United States Army in a war, the incredible story of the Sioux warrior Red Cloud was, for a long time, lost to history. In an era when expansion westward was at the forefront of the U.S. government’s mind, Red Cloud and his army of Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors mounted a powerful defense against the white man’s invasion of their lands—so powerful that they ultimately forced the U.S. government to sue for peace on their terms. This was an outcome that had never occurred before—and would never occur again. In The Heart of Everything That Is, Bob Drury and Tom Clavin tell the story of Red Cloud’s rise to power against the backdrop of an exciting, dangerous, and in many ways tragic epoch, when American Indian warriors like Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull battled for the lushest hunting grounds and the prospect of gold and adventure lured men like John Bozeman and Nelson Story to the West. But even among these great men, Red Cloud stands out as having lived nothing short of an epic life, first overcoming his lack of patriarchal lineage to become an elite headman and great warrior, and then managing to gather many disparate, angry tribes under his leadership and proving to the U.S. government that he and his warriors would not abandon their land or their traditions without a long and bloody fight.

    Topics & Questions for Discussion

    1. Part I opens with a quote by Walter Prescott Webb: “East of the Mississippi civilization stood on three legs—land, water and timber. West of the Mississippi not one but two of those legs were withdrawn—water and timber. Civilization was left on one leg—land. It is a small wonder that it toppled over in temporary failure.” How does this quote set the stage for the book? Do you think this quote aptly sums up the conflict between the U.S. Army and American Indians?

    2. In one sense, before and during Red Cloud’s War, both sides were fighting for land. But the reality was much more complicated. Is it fair to say that the Indians were fighting to preserve their way of life, while the army was fighting for ownership of territory? How would you describe the motivations of the two sides?

    3. Consider that during the Revolutionary War, the U.S. Army employed the same guerilla-style tactics that Red Cloud was using against them, and was successful in defeating the British. Given this, do you think if the U.S. military had re-planned its strategy and adopted the Sioux style of warfare, it would have been more successful in driving off Red Cloud’s forces? Conversely, do you think that if Red Cloud had tried harder to adopt some of the militaristic maneuvers of the army, he might have kept the white invaders out of Indian lands for a longer period of time?

    4. The authors mention that it was said after the Civil War that “Abe Lincoln may have freed all men, but Sam Colt made them equal.” How true do you find this statement? If the Indians had been equipped with the same caliber of guns the U.S. Army had, do you feel that the outcome of Red Cloud’s War might have been different?

    5. The battle for western territory took somewhat of a hiatus as the Civil War was being waged back east. What do you think of Lincoln’s attitude toward the Indians? Do you find it incongruous that he was fighting a war that was, at least in part, about abolishing the slavery of one people, yet on the other side of the country, his own men were fighting to, at the very least, severely rein in the freedom of another people?

    6. How did Red Cloud’s childhood determine the man and warrior he grew up to be? If he had not been forced to struggle so hard for acceptance and work so hard to earn his status among his people, do you think the fight against the white man’s invasion would have meant nearly as much to him?

    7. Did the tragedy of Red Cloud’s romance with Pine Leaf change the way you viewed him? Did it surprise you that he chose to remain monogamous after Pine Leaf’s suicide?

    8. The authors point out that “Sherman was slow to recognize that the progress of civilization would be more effective in subduing the Indians than any act of war.” Do you think a lot of bloodshed and hardship might have been saved if the United States had stepped back and simply let modernization (for example, the construction of the railroads) do the work of conquering the West, rather than soldiers?

    9. One of the biggest problems Red Cloud faced was that it was impossible to truly unite so many tribes, even though they all wanted the same thing. Given the ingrained lifestyle of many of the Plains Indians as small bands of nomadic, conquering peoples who were constantly fighting each other, do you think their fate, heartbreaking as it was, was inevitable? Can you think of an example in history that proves otherwise?

    10. Do you feel the authors maintained impartiality throughout the book? Did you find yourself consistently sympathetic to Red Cloud and the Sioux, or was it hard for you to reconcile the brutality of their warrior mindset with the difficulty of their situation? Is it fair to judge them for their violent methods, given that they held all opponents (other Indians and white men alike) to the same standard, while the U.S. soldiers obviously did not? Do you feel the Indians had no choice but to be vicious in the face of U.S. edicts such as “kill every male over the age of twelve”?

    11. The writing of this book would not have been possible without the discovery of Red Cloud’s autobiography. Yet given that human error and human emotion play a large part in how we recall and record events, how accurate do you feel our picture of any historical event truly is? The authors also drew heavily on correspondence and diary entries from the period. How would you compare the importance of letters and journals in the nineteenth century to the present day? How have our methods of keeping records and sharing news changed? What sources do you think historians will use to piece together stories 100 years from now?

    12. One thing Red Cloud’s War proved was that newspapers and other news sources could dramatically influence collective opinion. At the time, many newspapers exaggerated incidents, or simply reported facts incorrectly—and people (understandably) believed what they read, much to the Indians’ detriment. Do you think the same problem still occurs with news reporting today?

    13. After the loss to Red Cloud, everyone involved in the so-called Fetterman Massacre tried to avoid being held responsible. Who, if anyone, do you think was to blame? Was it Fetterman himself, or Henry Carrington? Do you think Ten Eyck truly played a role in the defeat, as Carrington subtly implied in his written reprimand to the captain (“You could’ve saved two miles toward the scene of action if you had taken Lodge Trail Ridge”)?

    14. When asked why the United States fought Red Cloud, General Bisbee wrote, “My only answer could be we did it for Civilization.” What is your interpretation of this answer? Do you think it is an honest response, and that this is what most of the U.S. soldiers truly believed? Do you think the United States would be a very different place now if we had learned to accept different interpretations of the word “civilized” during this time?

    15. Were you surprised to learn that, despite his immense victory in getting the U.S. Army to agree to peace on his terms, Red Cloud’s coup lasted only one short year before the U.S. began to renege on the deal? Do you think the government should have done a better job of ensuring that the men on the ground followed the orders coming from Washington regarding this treaty?

    16. Once he moved onto the Pine Ridge Reservation, Red Cloud decided he would adapt to the “white man’s lifestyle.” What do you think of his decision? In your opinion, what is the legacy of Red Cloud?

    Enhance Your Book Club

    1. Nelson Story is among the many famous men mentioned in The Heart of Everything That Is, a cowboy and trailblazer who journeyed from Fort Worth, Texas, to Montana, eventually becoming Montana’s first millionaire. His “epic cattle drive” was one of the inspirations for Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. Read McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel as your next book club pick (or schedule a viewing of the TV miniseries starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones), and compare the fictional and nonfictional portrayals of the American West.

    2. In the notes, the authors also mention a little-known DVD titled The Authorized Biography of Crazy Horse and His Family. Watch it together to learn more about the daring warrior who played a vital role in Red Cloud’s offensive.

    3. Listen to authors Bob Drury and Tom Clavin discuss The Heart of Everything That Is in an interview with NPR’s Renee Montagne. You can download the interview and read the transcript on NPR’s website:

    4. Pemmican, a nutritious and energy-laden jerkylike mixture, was a staple food of the western Indians. Whip up a batch and enjoy it at book club (or plan a hike and carry it along as fuel for the way). If you are feeling adventurous, you can even use buffalo meat! There are many websites with recipes and resources (for example, see

    5. During the time of Red Cloud’s War, photography was a just-emerging art, and the ill-fated Ridgeway Glover traveled out west specifically to take tintypes (photographs shot on metal plates that had been coated with a light-sensitive emulsion). While you may not be able to use the original equipment Glover carried, you can create your own faux tintypes by following this great Instagram tutorial:

    Customer Reviews

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    The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
    a_reader25 More than 1 year ago
    Wonderfully written, every page is as if you are standing in the middle of history. The authors draw you in and with each page it is more difficult to put this book down. There is not a dry page in this book and every word counts. I wish I could give this book 10 stars. It deserves a Pulitzer Prize and every other award out there. 
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Good read, having lived in Wyoming most of my life I found the authors' grasp of Wyoming geography a little confusing, then I got to Chapter 19 and they said the modern city of Casper, Wyoming, was the capital of Wyoming. Not true, the capital of Wyoming is Cheyenne. Made me a little doubtful of their research from that point forward.l I still learned things about the Plains Indians that I did not know from reading other books on the subject.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I am a big fan of the history of native America. This books ranks among the best that I have read. The authors did their homework well to document the facts of this part of the history of the West. Their writing skills paint a vivid picture of Sioux's war to protect and preserve the Powder River Country in the Black Hills, or, as they called it, The Heart of Everything That Is.
    UKTrojan69 More than 1 year ago
    This story is compelling and as relevant today as it was +150 years ago. I made so many notes and underlined so many passages that the book now looks like it may have been written contemporaneously to the events recounted. Drury and Clavin weave this history in such a manner that it brings to life the trials and tribulations of both our Native American brothers, as well as the Western European immigrants. This history is detailed, well-researched, provides unique perspective, and will help you learn a substantially untold story. In the end, this is a story of a proud American hero: Red Cloud. On a personal level, "The Heart of Everything That Is" gave me a little insight into myself. Having ridden through the Black Hills, as well as the surrounding plains, I feel in my soul the area truly is the heart of everything that is. I hope this review helps.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    A wonderful history, and non-diluted documentation, of Red Cloud and how the United States went about forcing the Native Americans from their native and sacred lands. Written in a neutral tone that explains both sides of the Indian Wars during the 1800's.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I love this book and reccomend it
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I normally don't write reviews, but I thought this was an exceptional book. If you have any interest in the history of the Indian and US conflict in the West, this book has to be at the top of the list. It seemed to be a fair presentation of a brutal time in our history.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    If you enjoy reading the same description chapter after chapter of how Red Cloud and his tribe dismembered, cut tongues out and gouged eyes out (while some were alive), scalped, cut private parts from men and women and carried them for trophies, then this is the book for you. I made myself finish it thinking it might get better. I even saw this book in DC at the national archives and wanted to post a sign not to waste your money. No need to read it, I've told you what happens in the book. If you want to read a good book about Indian life, read Empire of the Summer Moon.
    usmcLS More than 1 year ago
    will demand your attention and thought. truly a story of a person, p3eople who have had all taken away from them and yet, at the time of red cloud were people who stood proud. after all these years the u.s. government has reduced them to being all but a non-enity. These people are the true Americans..
    play4fun More than 1 year ago
    This book is well researched and provides a historical perspective from a different point of view. But it tends to ramble and becomes easily diverted from the subject. It took me a long time to get through this because I could only read 10 or so pages at a time
    Anonymous 4 months ago
    Provides a good overview of US relations with Plains tribes but doesn't provide too much detail of any singular event making details irrelevant and glossed over. The book seems to idolize Crazy Horse more than tell the story of Red Cloud.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I just finished reading this book and I can honestly say it is an outstanding book about one of the greatest Americans in history.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Easy to read and hard to put down. I learned a lot regarding the settling of the west by the destruction of the native and the relationship between tribes
    Freebirdcsmi More than 1 year ago
    This book was simply amazing! I have studied the Lakota for a long time, yet I still learned new things from The Heart of Everything That Is. The writing is superb (it reads like a novel), the story is engrossing, and the research is impeccable. More than just the story of Red Cloud, this is the story of the mighty Sioux and how they suffered at the hands of the invading white man. I would recommend this book to anyone. You do not have to be a scholar of history to read or appreciate this book. You just have to enjoy a good story and a well-written book.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    If you're looking for a history lesson, you're in luck! If you're looking for a great, fast moving read, you get that too! If you're looking for a worn out, same old, "cowboys / Indians" stuff - this isn't it!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    ellid More than 1 year ago
    I tried to read this and the stereotyped language and attitudes toward Red Cloud and the other First Nations all but made me physically ill.  "Happy Hunting Grounds?"  In the 21st century?  Was the author serious?
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Well written and apparently factual
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Good reading!! New information I hadn't heard before. Good book.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Masterfully written. History comes alive again within it's pages.
    CMKmom More than 1 year ago
    I very much enjoyed this book. Loved the history lesson along with the story. The book gave a human quality to the reasons behind the winning of the west. This is one of those books I wish I had bought as a book and not as a Nook book. I will read this one again.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago