Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 14, No. 2
June, 1936

Page 225

The Western Military Frontier, 1815—1846, by Henry Putney Beers, Philadelphia, 1935.

The line of military posts that developed from the Great Lakes to the Red River performed an invaluable duty in protecting both the Indians and the whites in the years that followed the War of 1812. The forts that were established in the North had as their chief purpose the defenese of the white settlers from the depredations of the Indians of that region. In the South, however, the forts came into existence more to protect the Indians from the whites, and other Indians, than for any other purpose.

Numerically, the western military garrisons were ridicuously weak. In effectiveness, the army overcame the handicap of size, but only after it had received severe punishment by Indians in the old Northwest in the period prior to the War of 1812.

The United States pursued a policy of constructing many small military posts on its frontiers rather than a few large ones. The list of forts founded between 1783 and 1846, which the author appends to his study convinces the reader that the army must have been almost constantly engaged in constructing posts. There are 148 forts listed. The value of many of them disappeared a year or two following their establishment, making it necessary to move the garrisons west to keep abreast of the settlers.

One of the many interesting facts brought to light in Mr. Beers' work is the statement that the U. S. Army had only four chaplains following the War of 1812, and these were discontinued in 1821. The office of chaplain was not revived until 1838!

Mr. Beers, who wrote this as his doctoral dissertation before the Graduate School of the University of Pennsylvania, is to be commended for his excellent bibliography. It is admirably arranged, and the original source material authoritative.

Succinctness of style, while a requisite in every writer who has extensive materials to digest, in this particular work leaves the casual reader somewhat exhausted. There are so many interesting

Page 226

events described one after the other in rapid succession that it is necessary to stop frequently to allow the mind to absorb them.

To a student of Oklahoma history it is difficult to uncover errors. The only one that can be detected is the mislocation of Fort Towson on the two maps. Oklahoma's southern fort is placed approximately thirty-five miles east of its actual location.

Mr. Beers' dissertation is particularly helpful in connection with the various events that accompanied the extension of the military frontier. Too often writers fail to appreciate the interrelation of the problems that faced the army in the Northwest and the South.

—Howard F. Van Zandt

Wharton, Clarence

Santanta: The Great Chief of The Kiowas And His People. (Dallas: Banks, Upshaw and Company, 1935, 239 p.)

In a small, most readable volume, Clarence Wharton has presented an interesting account of Satanta, leader of the Kiowas. Judge Wharton writes consistently well, with a vividness of style in portraying events that make their significance at once apparent. The only misleading thing about the book is its secondary title: "The Great Chief of the Kiowas And His People." A particularly engaging feature of the book is the selective interpretation done by the author (viz. pages 8, 11, 26, 63, 86, etc.). The reader feels that he can have the utmost confidence in the selection and affirmation of the facts presented by Mr. Wharton.

The first chapter of the book features an incident that occurred in 1866, when Satanta was almost sixty years of age. It shows why Satanta could say—"I was not born a chief, I won it and hold it with this right arm." Chapter two concerns the Legend of the Kiowas. It adds little to general knowledge of the tribe. The next chapter discusses General Leavenworth's expedition into the land of the Kiowas. The remaining five chapters deal more specifically with the Kiowas under Satanta's leadership in the late 60's and early 70's. The vain, boasting Satanta is shown as a persuasive orator among the Plains Tribes. He

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knew his power and its limitations. Past master at deceit, he was victimized by his own vanity, when his boasting, in the presence of the Quaker Agent Lawrie Tatum, led to his incarceration, along with other Kiowa leaders.

May 18, 1871, Satanta had led an expedition into Texas, surrounded a wagon-train and killed seven of the teamsters. During the regular term of district court at Jacksboro in July, Satanta and Big Tree were tried for murder. The trial of two savage Indians, by regular court procedure, was unique in the annals of the Southwest. They were found guilty and were sentenced to be hanged. Satanta, in a speech in his own defence at the trial said, " . . . . . if you kill me, it will be like a spark in the prairie—make big fire—burn heap!"

Governor Davis of Texas foresaw the truth of that statement, so he commuted the sentences of Satanta and Big Tree to life imprisonment at Huntsville. In 1873, Satanta enjoyed a brief parole and he returned to the Kiowa reservation, but the next year, he was back in prison. He hoped for a release, but none came. In October, 1876, Satanta committed suicide.

The author gathered his material from varied sources and drew upon the shrinking volume of personal recollections. The book is well indexed. There is no segregated bibliography.

There are, however, small blemishes in an otherwise capable presentation of the life of Satanta and his times. President Jefferson did not send Livingston and Monroe to France in 1801 to buy territory (p. 37). McIntosh was a Creek leader (p. 38), not a Choctaw; Fort Leavenworth was not established on the Arkansas River (p. 39). Occasional anachronisms upset the reader. Many reminiscences and comments add little to the continuity of the story.

Despite these minor digressions, the book is a studious work of art and research. The value of the entire work is greatly increased by the excellent photogravures with the contemporary drawings from the Kiowa Calendar History. The general make-up of the work is a distinct compliment to the craftsmanship of Banks, Upshaw and Company.        —J. S. C.

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