Book Review: Soldiers West: Biographies from the Military Frontier


by Paul Andrew Hutton & Durwood Ball, editors

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014. Pp. xii, 404. Illus., maps., tables, append., notes, index. $34.95. ISBN: 0806139978

Military Lives on the Frontier

Soldiers West, originally published in 1987 and revised and expanded in 2009, has short biographies of fifteen officers who served in the army on the western plains. Almost all of these officers attained a considerable measure of fame in their lifetimes, but most are today little remembered, unless they played notable roles in the Civil War. 

Among the more famous officers, Civil War veterans all, are Phil Sheridan, Phillip St. George Cooke, O.O. Howard, George Crook, Nelson A. Miles, Benjamin Grierson, and of course, George Armstrong Custer, as well as the notorious John M. Chivington.  Less well known today are Stephen H. Long, Stephen Kearny, James Carleton, and William Harney, who attained some measure of prominence in the West before the Civil War. Less well known, at least today, are Ranald McKenzie, a spectacular cavalryman who died young, John Bourke, a Civil War veteran who later attended West Point and served many years on the frontier, and the remarkable Charles King, who wore the uniform for 77 years and wrote scores of books and the articles, helping shape our image of the “Indian Fighting Army.” 

Each profile is by a specialists in the field, gives us a short overview of the officer’s life and career, hitting the high points, with some comment on his character. As some of these men have never had a biography, this makes Soldiers West valuable for students of the Indian wars, the Civil War, the Spanish- American War, and the evolution of the U.S. Army. 

Note: Soldiers West is also available in paperback, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-8061-4465-8


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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