on February 5, 2004
A great deal has been written about the United States Army during the Civil War. But tales of the postwar army can be just as thrilling as stories from the war, though this portion of military history is, sadly, often overlooked. Robert Utley attempts to correct this oversight in this excellent book, which deals with the nature, structure, and activity of the portion of the army engaged on the frontier from immediately after the Civil War until Wounded Knee. Arranged in an order that is easy to follow and is logical if not always strictly chronological, each major military operation against the Native Americans is handled with skill and sufficient detail. The result is a fascinating look at the army as a whole.
The main value of this book lies in the fact that it provides an outstanding overview of military operations as a whole (as opposed to books that treat just one battle or campaign). The work fills in many holes that will undoubtedly exist for anyone who has studied a part of the Indian Wars, and who would like to have a more general overview available to them. Anyone who has studied the Little Bighorn, for example, will find in this book a wealth of information that will explain in great detail many of the factors that led up to that action and also many of its ramifications. This book is essential to any study of Western history, especially military history.
on July 27, 2003
This is Utley's second volume on Frontier Regulars as it documents the modest army that dealt with the plains wars, Apache and the remoteness and often boredom of army life. The book starts with the post Civil war era and Red Cloud's war over the Bozeman Trail to the Fetterman's massacre in 1866 and stops shortly after Wounded Knee when most of the tribes are all virtually on a reservation with their lives forever changed. It's not like the movies with daily Indian attacks since the Indians rarely attacked in mass and they were difficult to find or corral particularly in the summer. Anyone reading this book will understand how imperative it was for Custer to attack when he discovered his quarry since they could evaporate on the plains. Besides Indians, the commanders had to fight poor rations, incompetent or dishonest Indian agents, lack of social life (particularly few women), desertions and alcohol. To make matters worse, limited promotion. John Ford captures it pretty well in his movie "Tie a Yellow Ribbon with the running line "keep it up and you'll get promoted in seven to 10 years". Columns of fours though rarely occurred unless you were in dress parade.
on November 5, 2002
Frontier Regulars is an entertaining and informative read. Robert Utley has done a fine job of bringing to life the average tempo and quality of the US Army on the frontier.
Utley uses memoirs and Army records as sources for his descriptions of military life. I was especially interested in his detailed accounts of how company commanders, platoon leaders and senior NCOs conducted themselves. There is one account describing how the CDR, 1st SGT and officers would make copies of documents during their daily staff meetings that is quite interesting. Having attended scores of company level meetings it struck me how much things have both stayed the same and how other things have changed.
There is a substantial amount devoted to the low quality of enlisted soldiers and the day-to-day hardships of camp life. Foodstuffs weren't always provided by the Army and isolated units had to scramble to come up with rations for the troops. This lead to moneymaking ventures, small plots of produce and other creative "financing" to supply the soldiers.
Interesting, well written and recommended.