Book Review: Interrupted Odyssey: Ulysses S. Grant and the American Indians


by Mary Stockwell

Carbondal: Southern Illinois University Press, 2018. Pp. x, 260. Illus., maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $34.50. ISBN: 0809336707

Grant’s Surprisingly Enlightened “Indian Policy”

Prof. Stockwell (ret., Lourdes), author of works on “Mad” Anthony Wayne, the Ohio Indians, and similar subjects, has produced the first book specifically devoted to U.S. Grant’s Indian policy, a surprisingly enlightened effort that was ultimately a failure and reputedly mired in corruption.

The two critical figures in this book are Grant, of course, and Ely Parker, his Commissioner of Indian Affairs and former military secretary, a member of the Seneca nation. Stockwell argues that these men believed that under the protection and guidance of the Army, Native Indians would adapt to the “American” way of life. While hardly embracing diversity, this was quite enlightened for the times, since there were still “Indian wars” going on, which Stockwell handles well as she examines the fate of Grant’s “Peace Policy”.

In the end, as Stockwell documents, the concept idea ran up against embedded anti-Indian sentiment, and perhaps more importantly, Congressional opposition. If the “care” of Native Americans became a mission entrusted to the Army, and important source of political patronage would be removed, and the contingent profits from corruption in the Indian Bureau would be lost. As a result of Congressional hostility, Parker ultimately fell into disgrace and the policy was discarded.

A volume in the Southern Illinois University Press series “World of Ulysses S. Grant”, Interrupted Odyssey is a good read that throws some interesting light on the Indian wars, U.S. Grant, and, of course, Indian policy.


Note: Interrupted Odyssey, is also available in several e-editions.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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