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The Earth Is Weeping by Peter Cozzens
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The Earth Is Weeping

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The Earth Is Weeping by Peter Cozzens
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Sep 05, 2017 | ISBN 9780307948182

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    Sep 05, 2017 | ISBN 9780307948182

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  • Oct 25, 2016 | ISBN 9780307958051

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Winner of the Gilder Lehrman Prize for Military History
Winner of the Caroline Bancroft History Prize
Shortlisted for the Military History Magazine Book of the Year Award
Finalist for the Western Writers of America Spur Award in Best Western Historical Nonfiction

A Smithsonian Top History Book
A Times (UK) Book of the Year

“A detailed recounting of random carnage, bodies burned, treaties broken and treachery let loose across the land. . . . Cozzens admirably succeeds in framing the Indian Wars with acute historical accuracy. . . . [D]emonstrates vast knowledge of American military history.” —Douglas Brinkley, The New York Times Book Review

“[S]ets a new standard for Western Indian Wars history. . . . [T]he most comprehensive, insightful synthesis of the conflict between the Western tribes and the United States government and citizens published by a popular New York press in decades. . . . Like William Manchester’s The Glory and the Dream . . . [Cozzens’] brilliant thesis and detailed narrative will sustain the reader…from the prologue to the conclusion. . . . [S]uccinctly seeks a sharper understanding of the cause and effects of the American government’s policies, citizen relations with the tribes, intertribal history and warfare, and the United States’ massive immigration into the West during and after the Civil War.” —Stuart Rosebrook, True West Magazine

A] valuable contribution. . . .  [S]weeps across 25 years of U.S. Indian policy, gives clear accounts of battles and raids and introduces generals and chiefs, foot soldiers and warriors. While Cozzens doesn’t say he wrote The Earth Is Weeping to supplant [Bury My Heart at] Wounded Knee, he does express his hope that it will bring balance and better understanding of the Indian Wars of the American West. In that, he succeeds.” —John B. Saul, The Seattle Times

“[S]corching vividness. . . .  [C]risp, muscular prose that offers clear pictures of men at war. A sweeping work of narrative history that synthesizes the work of countless historians, the book . . . recognizes fragments of nobility and humanity amid epic tragedy. Without implying any false equivalence, Cozzens emphasizes history’s tangled complexity.” —Dan Cryer, The San Francisco Chronicle

“A comprehensive look. . . . A striking and thorough explanation. . . . The structure of the book allows the interweaving of timelines and historical context in a way that makes the heavy subject matter extremely readable and also thought provoking.  Cozzens . . . takes to heart his own words of warning about the myths that pervade pop culture. . . . This is a history book, but it is also a present-tense book, full of ironies about how we’re not so different from 19th century Westerners.” —Erin H. Turner, Big Sky Journal

“[S]nappy prose, a strong narrative cadence, and admirable clarity. Cozzens is a gifted writer. . . .  It’s one of the strengths of the book that Cozzens lets none of his cast of characters—Euro-Americans, Native Americans, political figures, military officers, and all the rest—off the hook for responsibility for what happened. Written briskly, it draws you in; its maps are unusually numerous and clear; its comprehensiveness, making it useful to anyone wishing to know the facts of the many, distinct Indian wars, is unlikely to be surpassed. For those wishing to learn the story of the Indian wars of the American West, this is the book to turn to.” James M. Banner Jr., The Weekly Standard

“An evenhanded and smoothly written volume that is no less ambitious in scope than Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” —Andrew Graybill, The American Scholar

“Cozzens does an exceptional job of examining the viewpoints of both sides, making heavy use of previously untapped primary sources. . . . This is a timely and thorough book, presenting the story without hyperbole or histrionics of this controversial chapter in American history, providing an excellent one-volume history of America’s actual longest and most tragic war.” —Jerry Lenaburg, New York Journal of Books

“I’ve been waiting for an up-to-date, objective, and well-researched book on the Indian Wars, and Peter Cozzens’ The Earth Is Weeping is all that and more—an elegantly written narrative of one of the great sagas in American history, and better than Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” —James Donovan, author of A Terrible Glory and The Blood of Heroes
“[A]magnificent single-volume account of the post-Civil War conflicts that shaped our history and the mythology of the frontier. . . . In examining the various Indian tribes and subgroupings within them, Cozzens does an admirable job of conveying their complexity and political divisions. This is a beautifully written work of understanding and compassion that will be a treasure for both general readers and specialists.” —Jay Freeman, Booklist (STARRED review)
“[A]dds a missing perspective on the lives of ordinary people on both sides. Grand plans descended into confusion and cross purposes, alliances and loyalties shifted momentarily, and soldiers and warriors and their families spent most of that quarter-century tired, hungry, discouraged, trying just to survive the next drought or winter…No wonder their earth wept.” —William C. Davis, author of Three Roads to the Alamo and An Honorable Defeat
“Peter Cozzens reminds us that tragedy, not melodrama, best characterizes the struggles for the American West. . . . The Earth Is Weeping is the most lucid and reliable history of the Indian Wars in recent memory.” —Victor Davis Hanson, author of Carnage and Culture
“A comprehensive assessment of the wars for control of the American West. Highly recommended for the intertwined history of Native Americans and the post-Civil War frontier U.S. Army.” —Nathan Bender, Library Journal
“Peter Cozzens, one of our finest working historians, has taken on a massive chunk of Native American history and delivered it with power, style, and insight. . . . There is much wisdom here, and much good writing.” —S.C. Gwynne, author of Empire of the Summer Moon, and Rebel Yell

“[A] thorough history of the 1860-1890 Indian Wars.” —The Week
“The uninterrupted succession of armed conflicts between the U. S. army and Indians on the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains from the 1860s to 1890, with fatalities mounting into the thousands, were truly America’s longest and most tragic war.  In sobering detail, Peter Cozzens has chronicled this dark chapter in our history.” —James M. McPherson, author of The War That Forged a Nation and Battle Cry of Freedom

“A valuable panoramic view…  Treachery on such an epic scale can bear many retellings, and this account stands out for its impressive detail and scope.” —Priyanka Kumar, The Washington Post

“[S]cores of fascinating characters… [V]ivid descriptions of ordinary people on both sides. . . . [A] sweeping, sharp and stylish history of the Indian Wars of the second half of the 19th century—and their tragic consequences for the native people. Cozzens retells familiar stories . . . with panache.” —Glenn C. Altschuler, Star Tribune

“In this comprehensive, well-researched and beautifully written book, Peter Cozzens weaves together the many particular histories of the Indian Wars to present a multifaceted view of the era.” —Foreign Service Journal

“[V]eteran historian Cozzens brings verve and a mastery of the era as the chronicles the personalities, politics and bloody clashes. . . . [D]oes full justice to the complexities of this history.” —Matthew Price, Newsday


Caroline Bancroft History Prize WINNER 2017

Gilder Lehrman Prize for Military History WINNER 2017

Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award FINALIST 2017

Author Q&A

Q: Where did you do the majority of your research for The Earth is Weeping?
A: I did good deal of field research in the West, familiarizing myself with the sites of the Indian Wars. Walking the ground was invaluable, particularly as the relative isolation of most of the sites has kept them remarkably pristine. In terms of written source material, I made extensive use of Congressional reports. Hardly anything of consequence occurred during the Indian Wars that was not the subject of one or more Congressional reports or inquiries. They contain a wealth of participant accounts, including those of Indians. In general, I favored primary sources whenever possible and tried to maintain a balance between white and Indian accounts.
Q: How did you overcome the challenge of maintaining a balanced perspective on this story, when, as we know, history is so often told from the winners’ point of view?
A: The key for me was to seek out as many Indian sources as possible. Fortunately, there are scores of reliable accounts of Indian participants. Of course they contain their own bias, but by weaving together both white and Indian stories, I didn’t find it all that difficult to achieve what I hope is a balance. Keeping an open mind and permitting the sources to lead you to conclusions, rather than making the sources fit assumptions, is also fundamental to telling a balanced story.
Q: Most books on the Indian Wars have dealt primarily with individual historical figures—from Custer, Sherman, and Grant to Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, and Red Cloud—but few have tried to synthesize these many particular perspectives into a more comprehensive account. Why do you think this is?
A: I think it’s partly because of the unique appeal of the characters you’ve mentioned: their life stories all make for a rousing read. And it’s also a question of the enormous scope of the Indian Wars, both temporally and geographically. They lasted nearly three decades and spread across a grand canvas. There were more than a dozen “wars.” Each possessed much that was unique. And there were so many different tribes involved. It’s a kaleidoscopic story that does not lend itself to easy interpretation or generalizing. Sometimes I felt as if each chapter I was writing was a book in itself.
Q: Were there internal divisions or conflicts between different military and political figures on the U.S. side, and/or between different Native American tribes? How did these affect the greater conflict between whites and Native Americans?
A: Absolutely. The War Department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs were constantly at odds over Indian policy, with the military often more humane and restrained in its approach. Within the army, personality conflicts and petty jealousies greatly influenced military policy. Among the Indians, the only tribes in which unanimity existed were those that sided with the government. Every tribe famous for resisting white encroachment—the Lakota (Sioux), Cheyennes, Comanches, and so forth—were divided into war and peace factions that sometimes clashed violently. The Indians also continued to engage in intertribal wars, which diverted their attention from the threat to their way of life posed by the whites.

Q: What was life like for the soldiers posted to the frontier?
A: Absolutely miserable. Many frontier posts were in advanced state of disrepair, especially in the years immediately after the Civil War. Rations were poor, uniforms ill-suited to the extremes of Western weather, and pay in the postwar army was lower than it had been in the Civil War. Many non-commissioned officers were petty tyrants, and the officer corps was far inferior to the talented and sober volunteers who officered the Union army. Training was negligible; the first time many soldiers fired their weapons was in combat. Boredom was also a serious impediment to morale. I devote an entire chapter of The Earth is Weeping to the subject of army life in the West, which I think demonstrates pretty conclusively the soldiering on the front was an unglamorous calling, to say the least.
Q: What inspired the title The Earth is Weeping?
A: The Indians considered the earth to be animate and capable of emotion. I read many songs that the Indians sang during the apocalyptic era of the Indian wars, particularly those that emerged during the Ghost Dance religious movement. While none used these exact words, many contained lyrics that evoked this feeling. So the exact title was my own creation, inspired by Indian songs of lament.
Q: What first made you interested in writing about this period in U.S. history?
A: The absence of a balanced, widely available general history of the era. The late Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee has been the popular standard for four decades. I found it both ironic and disturbing that so crucial an epoch remained largely defined by a book that made no effort at historic balance. The subtitle, after all, is An Indian History of the American West. Brown also gave as the purpose of the book the presentation of the “conquest of the American West as the victims experienced it.” His definition of victims was severely circumscribed. Several tribes cast their fate with the whites and proved invaluable army allies. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee dismisses these Indians as “mercenaries” with no effort made to understand them or their motives. Such a one-sided approach to history does everyone a great disservice.
Q: What are the biggest misconceptions about the Indian Wars?
A: That the army was the implacable foe of the Indian—many of the most prominent advocates of Indian rights were senior army officers; that the government was exterminationist (cultural extermination, yes, but the government never contemplated the physical eradication of the Indians in the West); and the notion that the Indians stood united in opposition to white encroachment on their lands.
Q: You’ve written extensively on the Indian Wars before. Were there any particularly surprising discoveries for you this time around?
A: My earlier work, Eyewitnesses to the Indian Wars, comprised five volumes of annotated primary sources, consisting principally of accounts by army participants to the conflicts. Consequently, much of the Indian perspective was new to me when I researched The Earth is Weeping. I was surprised at how deep the animosity between war and peace factions ran in many tribes, and that intra-tribal rivalries often turned violent. The remarkable forbearance of the Indians in the face of the repeated provocations of whites covetous of Indian land also deeply moved me.

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