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After Wounded Knee: Correspondence of Major and Surgeon John Vance Lauderdale while Serving with the Army Occupying the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, 1890-1891, edited and introduced by Jerry Green, Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, Mich., 1996, $34.95 hardback.
Much has been written about the December 29, 1890, bloody confrontation between soldiers and Sioux along Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota (see “Ghost Dancers’ Last Stand” in the June 1993 Wild West). Even Maj. Gen. Nelson A.Miles, in a confidential letter, called the killing of some 260 Indians, including many women and children, “wholesale massacre.”Army surgeon John Vance Lauderdale arrived soon after at the Pine Ridge Reservation, where he treated both wounded soldiers and wounded Sioux civilians, and his letters to family and friends in 1891 make up the bulk of this fine book. He writes of dressing the wounds of “a little Indian babe who was shot thro the back of it’s thigh” and of how General Miles “will use his utmost endeavors to ferret out this dastardly crime if it takes all winter and will have the offender brot to answer for his reckless killing of Indians.” Lauderdale’s correspondence is full of candid comments about what happened at Wounded Knee and about military life, providing insights that can never be found in newspaper accounts, self-serving reminiscences or official reports. Green gives solid background information on Lauderdale (1832-1931) and the troubles on the Sioux reservations, but the letters are the main thing, and Green presents Lauderdale’s words “exactly as he wrote them.”