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Soldiers West: Biographies from the Military Frontier

edited by Paul Andrew Hutton and Durwood Ball, University of Oklahoma Press, 2009, $34.95.

“The history of the Army’s frontier campaigns and Western occupation has become the raw material of cultural legend and historical infamy in the United States and Europe,” Durwood Ball writes in his introduction to Soldiers West. “Scholars, pundits and the public are still hotly debating the legacy of frontier military expansion in the 19th century.” This book may fuel the debate and thus is a welcome expansion of the 1987 edition edited by Paul Andrew Hutton, who is Ball’s co-editor of this new edition.

Hutton (author of Phil Sheridan and His Army) and Ball (Army Regulars on the Western Frontier, 1848 –1861) have added five new biographies and essays, replacing studies on William Clark, William B. Hazen and Frank D. Baldwin (as well as Robert M. Utley’s introduction) with new examinations of Stephen W. Kearny, Philip St. George Cooke, Oliver O. Howard and John M. Chivington, the latter being the only nonregular officer profiled in the book. Also, Adam Cane’s article on James H. Carleton replaces Arrell M. Gibson’s profile of Carleton from the 1987 edition.

The result is an intriguing look at 15 senior officers who served on the frontier, some during the antebellum era, others through the turn of the 20th century, many (like Chivington) highly controversial to this day. Like their subjects, which include George Custer, George Crook, Benjamin Grierson, Ranald Mackenzie, Nelson Miles and Charles King, the writers corralled for this edition comprise a who’s who of Western historians: Brian Dippie, Jerome Greene, Bruce Dinges, Paul Hedren as well as Utley, Hutton and Ball. Soldiers West proves great reading for military history buffs and serious students of the frontier Army.


Originally published in the October 2009 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here