by Paul Magid
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011. Pp. viii, 408.
Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0806142073
While George Crook’s reputation as an Indian fighter, and friend, in the post bellum period is well known, his early military life, including his service in the Civil War, has generally been neglected, a matter corrected in this readable, well-researched work.
Magid, a retired attorney and independent scholar with a long interest in Crook, examines the general’s early life and career in considerable detail, and does a very good job of it. Unlike most biographers of Civil War generals, he pays a good deal of attention to Crook’s life before the Spring of 1861. After a brief look at the general’s family origins and education at West Point (Class of 1852), Magid devotes nearly a third of the book to Crook’s service in the Old Army, primarily in California and the Pacific Northwest. Crook spent nine years on the West Coast, amidst the wonders of nature, vigilantes, miners, Indians, bandits, and more, while rising to captain, and meeting many of the men who would become famous in the Civil War, such as Ulysses S. Grant and John Bell Hood. Magid then devotes the balance of the book to Crook’s services in the Civil War, during which he rose from volunteer colonel to major general, putting in if not a brilliant performance a solidly reliable one. Magid concludes with the end of the Civil War. Given the excellence of his account of the general's life and career, it would be good to know if Magid plans a follow-on volume dealing with Crook’s postwar experiences on the frontier.
A good read for anyone interested in the Civil War, the Old Army, or the Indian Wars.