On Monday, Ari Kelman and I celebrated Memorial Day by writing a piece for the New York Times on how the Civil War became the Indian Wars. Give it a read:
On Dec. 21, 1866, a year and a half after Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ostensibly closed the book on the Civil War’s final chapter at Appomattox Court House, another soldier, Capt. William Fetterman, led cavalrymen from Fort Phil Kearny, a federal outpost in Wyoming, toward the base of the Big Horn range. The men planned to attack Indians who had reportedly been menacing local settlers. Instead, a group of Arapahos, Cheyennes and Lakotas, including a warrior named Crazy Horse, killed Fetterman and 80 of his men. It was the Army’s worst defeat on the Plains to date. The Civil War was over, but the Indian wars were just beginning.
These two conflicts, long segregated in history and memory, were in fact intertwined.