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War Party in Blue: Pawnee Scouts in the U.S. Army

by Mark van de Logt, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2010, $34.95.

 War Party in Blue is a detailed and important study of the Pawnee Scouts, relating how the tribe allied itself with the United States in an attempt to maintain cultural traditions and territory often under assault by such intertribal enemies as the Sioux and Cheyennes. Author Mark van de Logt also contrasts the Pawnee Scouts’ interaction with their first commander, Joseph McFadden, with their interaction with Frank North, McFadden’s betterknown lieutenant. McFadden, connected to the tribe through marriage, never earned respect from scouts hailing from bands of Pawnees outside that of his wife. North, meantime, allowed the Pawnees to maintain many of their own cultural practices and, more important, their own methods of engaging enemy warriors on the battlefield. For this the Pawnees gave him support and a measure of respect.

War Party in Blue is military history and also a fine cultural study of the Pawnees, offering historical perspective on a tribe sandwiched between encroaching Americans and the Sioux and Cheyennes. The alliance Pawnees formed with Anglos gave them an opportunity to maintain warrior traditions.

Although the Pawnee Scouts fought alongside the U.S. Army and became both organized and disciplined, they never forsook their own style of warfare. They emphasized surprise in an attack and tried to achieve it wherever possible. They continued to scalp their enemies and to distribute the spoils of war following a clash in which they captured horses and other material goods.

Van de Logt, a native of the Netherlands, describes the land in great detail, having visited most of the Pawnee Scouts’ battle and skirmish sites. He has also studied Pawnee language and incorporates the traditional names of the Pawnee Scouts into the book. The foreword by Walter R. Echo-Hawk, one of whose ancestors served with the Pawnee Scouts, is a bonus to this finely crafted book.


Originally published in the April 2011 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here