• Powder River: Disastrous Opening of the Great Sioux War

  • By: Paul L. Hedren
  • Narrated by: George Utley
  • Length: 11 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (10 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

The Great Sioux War of 1876-77 began at daybreak on March 17, 1876, when Colonel Joseph J. Reynolds and six cavalry companies struck a village of Northern Cheyennes - Sioux allies - thereby propelling the Northern Plains tribes into war. The ensuing last stand of the Sioux against Anglo-American settlement of their homeland spanned some 18 months, playing out across more than 20 battle and skirmish sites and costing hundreds of lives on both sides and many millions of dollars. And it all began at Powder River.

Powder River: Disastrous Opening of the Great Sioux War recounts the wintertime Big Horn Expedition and its singular great battle, along with the stories of the Northern Cheyennes and their elusive leader Old Bear. Historian Paul Hedren tracks both sides of the conflict through a rich array of primary source material, including the transcripts of Reynolds’s court-martial and Indian recollections. The disarray and incompetence of the war’s beginning officers, who failed to take proper positions, disregarded orders to save provisions, failed to cooperate, and abandoned the dead and wounded soldiers in many ways anticipated the catastrophe that later occurred at the Little Big Horn.

“Will now be considered the definitive work on the subject.” (True West Magazine)

"Flows like a novel.” (On Point: The Journal of Army History)

“This is a model of military narrative at its most compelling.” (Thomas Powers, author of The Killing of Crazy Horse)

©2016 University of Oklahoma Press (P)2019 Redwood Audiobooks

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Deep Dive into the Great Sioux War.

Awesome book! I’ll recommend this book to anyone willing to take the plunge into the history of the northern plains and that extraordinary period of time. Hedren’s book isn’t for those who merely want to gloss over the subject, it is full of many amazing details and thorough research. I almost felt like I was on that fateful campaign alongside Crook and Reynolds. Awake for days, dealing with subzero temperatures, living off of half rations of old bacon and hard tack. All while tracking down a group of people determined to continue their way of life on a landscape they knew far better than their white enemies.

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A Rich and Rewarding History

I've always enjoyed reading about Custer and Sitting Bull and The Little Big Horn. This book gave me a great history in the prelude to that battle.
The author did a very nice job in detailing the men and the accounts of this battle and trials.
I really admired Mr Utley's narration, there are a few pauses that may not sit well with some. But for me he did great. I will look for other titles by the Author and the Narrator.

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Thorough account, but narrowly focused

I was a bit hesitant at first looking at the first word of the subtitle, fearing it would be an attempt at a re-revisionist history. But I needn't fear, it's a very focused story of a poorly executed cavalry attack, rather than a statement of partisan distress. It is fairly Eurocentric, focusing primarily on the officers of the Cavalry battalions, with a few minor detours into Lakota and Cheyenne histories. But the author, without explicit statement, lets it be known the true, cynical nature of the enterprise.

The lead up to the story is quite well done, recounting the significance of the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties, the Hundred in the Hands, etc. However, once it reaches the Powder River in March 1876, it tends to drag on with minutiae, revisiting numerous times the mistakes, blunders and negligence claimed, from the moment of the battle through the aftermath and courts martial. In this way, it becomes very insular, at once proposing to foreshadow the events at the Rosebud and Greasy Grass in the following months, but never really following through. I understand the author has written other books, though not in audio format as yet, so perhaps they can be taken together as a set.

Finally, I have to mention the narrator. He has a sufficiently gruff, old west voice to convey the story quite nicely, but there are times of uncertainty with particular words and names, and a carriage return reading (in the vein of "what's that in the road, a head?"). This was amusing at first. But in the second half of the book, it just becomes sloppy. Words are slurred, whole passages are repeated, false starts on sentences are started again, even a phone ringing in the background in the middle of chapter 12. Very little in the way of editing.