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Most important battle in the American West???

Discussion in 'General Military Arms & History Forum' started by Guest, Mar 3, 2003.

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    WyomingSwede
    Senior Chief Moderator Staff
    Posts: 154
    (1/19/02 12:41:52 am)
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    I know I'm a fanatic with things western...but we need a good western topic. What battle do you feel was the most significant strategic battle during the Western Expansion/Post Civil War period. I know the Custer Fight was significant due to the fact that we lost and that it stirred up the media and the public.

    I have two in mind.
    1) Beechers Island - taught the survivors and the army the value of repeating weapons and underestimating the enemy.
    2) Wagon Box Fight/ Hayfield Fight - again the value of the repeating weapons and the fact that the tribes would not roll over in easy fashion. Whup em,yes...Scare em, No.

    What's your take??? regards swede
    Wyoming Swede

    Xracer
    Senior Chief Moderator Staff
    Posts: 1497
    (1/19/02 10:05:19 am)
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    Wow, Swede.....you've got me on this one. This is one area in which I'm historically deficient.

    Many of the important battles in the west were skirmishes (in numbers involved, if not in historical signifigance) compared to the major battles of the revolution and civil war.....although, in numbers involved, Lexington & Concord could probably fall into that category.

    How about filling us in on some of these Western battles? I've got a lot to learn here.

    Texans need not apply.

    Edited by: Xracer at: 1/19/02 10:07:24 am

    kdub01
    Senior Chief Moderator Staff
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    (1/19/02 2:22:59 pm)
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    Not being a texan, nevertheless, the battle of Adobe Walls, where some buffalo hunters successfully held off a passle of Commanches and other breeds for a few days is a classic. Taught the Indians the value of long range rifles in the hands of people that knew how to use 'um!

    WyomingSwede
    Senior Chief Moderator Staff
    Posts: 160
    (1/19/02 4:54:37 pm)
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    Where do I start...there are numerous battles that went both ways. Adobe walls as Ken said is a great example. When Ranald McKenzie took out the Commanches at the Palo Duro canyon and slaughtered over 1000 of their horses to keep them afoot. Kit Carson taking on the navajo nation while the civil war raged. The Powder River fight where the Sioux fought cavalry under George Crook to a standstill and then took out Custer not quite a week later.
    The battle at the Salt River Caves in Arizona. The apaches had fought to a standstill while hiding in a cave. Some enterprising soldier got the bright idea of richocheting his 45-70 round off the top of the cavern roof. They opened up and killed everyone there with the richochet bullets.
    The american west is a fascinating place. I recommend the time life American west series to those who are interested. The history channel and PBS has some good stuff too.
    Wyoming Swede

    polishshooter
    Senior Chief Moderator Staff
    Posts: 2661
    (1/21/02 7:47:24 pm)
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    Now, Swede, I guess the question would depend on the ERA of American History, right?

    I mean, in the late 18th and early 19th Century "The West" was Ohio and Indiana...and under THAT scenario....

    "The Battle of Fallen Timbers" would have to rate pretty high, along with any number of "Mad Anthony's" campaigns....
    We must make war as we must; not as we would like. - Field Marshal Kitchener, 1915

    jimejones
    Member
    Posts: 10
    (1/23/02 9:00:46 am)
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    I vote for Little big Horn as the battle from which both sides should have learned the most. Some might say that it validated the effectiveness of assault rifles (Henry repeaters during Reno's

    jimejones
    Member
    Posts: 11
    (1/23/02 9:41:05 am)
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    Somehow my previous post was truncated. Here is all of it.

    I vote for Little big Horn as the battle from which both sides should have learned the most. Some might say that it validated the effectiveness of assault rifles (Henry repeaters during Reno's charge towards the rear). Also, the effectiveness of a few good marksmen with relatively long range single shot rifles was shown at Reno's hilltop stand. The general lack of marksmanship was proven by the expenditure of a few hundred rounds per fatality inflicted, both by Custers men and by Crook's. I believe the annual training allotment was ten rounds per man.

    The native Americans failed to appreciate the inhumane necessity of total annihilation in battle instead of merely victory. They let Crook go free, to futilely pursue them and Geronimo later. Perhaps they could have eliminated Reno, which would have left Terry's column vulnerable. Fortunately for the army, they didn't practice total warfare.

    The conceit which led the army to attempt a ponderous pincer movement against an elusive force in 1876 is still with us today. Events of 9-11 have renewed our appreciation that a few motivated people can inflict disproportional injury and continuing inconvenience. Subsequent events prove that a large military force with modern weapons can crush a lightly armed small group of people--not eliminate them, but merely crush them. Now comes the much more difficult task of making peace. We bungled that in the 19th century. Let's do it right this time.

    polishshooter
    Senior Chief Moderator Staff
    Posts: 2676
    (1/23/02 11:51:26 am)
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    Interesting JJ, how do you propose we could have "won the peace" in the west in the 19th Century?

    My thoughts later....

    But in the same vein, couldn't an argument be made that a Sioux "simple victory" over Custer instead of annihilation actually would have served the Indians, or at least the Sioux better? (Lack of use of the term "native American" intentional...)

    I.e., "Custer's Last Stand" created a mindset in the American public that the only solution to the Indian Problem was extermination...even if it was never REALLY attempted or intended...but led to later atrocities against the Indians?

    I mean, it's difficult to name any "total annihilation" battles that did NOT later serve as a rallying cry that led to later victory for the losers, or at least a unifying legend...as opposed to letting SOME losers live and spread demoralizing talk among the replacements...
    We must make war as we must; not as we would like. - Field Marshal Kitchener, 1915

    HondoJohn6508
    Member
    Posts: 32
    (1/23/02 4:53:53 pm)
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    WyomingSwede,
    Your mention of the Palo Duro Canyon brought back some memories. Lets see if my memory serves me on this. That was the final battle of the Comanches led by Quannah Parker if I remember correctly. If that is correct, that surrender led to the return of a distant cousin of mine being returned home to his parents in Loyal Valley, Texas. His name was Hermann Lehmann and was with Quannah Parker at the surrender. If you haven't read his book-"Nine Years with the Indians" you might try to see if the Wyoming State Library. If you put his name in the web search you will find a nice summary of his life. Let me know if this subject interests you. Also if you are ever down Texas way, the following might be of interest. Every year in May, I believe, representatives of the Comanche Nation go to Fredericksburg, Texas to celebrate the Treaty between the German settlers and the Comanches is renewed. The treaty was never broken between the two and its an interesting celebration. Best regards, OJIH.

    jimejones
    Member
    Posts: 12
    (1/24/02 11:17:34 am)
    Reply | Edit | Del Re: Most important battle in the American West
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    When we avoid making war, we are making peace. Sometimes there is no acceptable alternative to war, as with America in 1941 and 1950. Sometimes the determination to make war at an appropriate time can reduce or eliminate the catastrophe of major warfare. The Second World War would have been another of Europe's many minor wars had it been fought in 1936 or 1938. Switzerland had the ability and the determination to defend herself. She succeeded in remaining neutral, despite her strategic location between Germany and Italy.

    The Indian Wars were different. The Indians were occasionally treated with understanding and respect. More often they were merely an obstacle to American expansion. Sometimes they were a stepping stone to military glory. It was a shameful blot on America's history. While we cannot change the past, we can let our understanding of the past shape our future for the better.

    The history of warfare is fascinating. The greatest accomplishments are made with the stimulus of war, and the most inhumane actions of humanity are done in war. If I sound like a peacenik, consider that I enlisted as soon as possible during the Korean War, and retired 20 years later. Like the regulars on the board, I've maintained an interest in battles and wars, and in their effect on civilization.

    WyomingSwede
    Senior Chief Moderator Staff
    Posts: 170
    (1/24/02 3:22:41 pm)
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    I wouldn't worry about the peacenik label JJ. We are all friends but have varied opinions.
    I would bring up Theodore Roosevelt who had the "Speak softly and carry a big stick." policy. My own personal favorite is "Negotiate from a position of strength".

    As to the western experience...most pioneers just looked at the natives as another obstacle to be overcome, like grasshoppers or a late spring. It wasn't anything personal...just another factor. When todays rancher poisons a field of prairie dogs(I much prefer shooting them but its his ground.) he doesnt much care about the opinion of said p-dogs. Sometimes you have to look at the prevailing opinion of the era rather than judging by todays mores.

    One of the earliest examples of biological warfare on this continent happened when some mountain men gave some blankets infected by smallpox to the Blackfeet and Gros Ventre tribes. It not only decimated them but wiped out the white-friendly Mandans too. The Blackfeet were extremely protective of modern Montana and Idaho. The mountain men wanted to trap there. In their minds it was no different than the prairie dog example. Just another obstacle to overcome.

    If you look at that from todays viewpoint it is genocide, however back then they had a different view. They wanted the Blackfeet gone with the least amount of mountain men casualties.

    Brutal...yes. Genocide...not intentionally. They lived in a different, more brutal time. I will bet that 95% of todays individuals would not have lasted a week in that era. Truly the strong survived. If you got sick...well you got better or you died. There werent doctors around or social services.
    I am rambling...my $.02. swede
    Wyoming Swede

    Tac401
    Administrator
    Posts: 3423
    (1/24/02 5:01:06 pm)
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    ezSupporter
    Re: Most important battle in the American West
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    How bout the Johnson County War, does that count?
    The Firearms Forum Vietnam Memories Bulletin Board Contact Administrator

    WyomingSwede
    Senior Chief Moderator Staff
    Posts: 171
    (1/24/02 6:10:03 pm)
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    Absolutely!!! The large "corporate" cattle ranchers aka The Wyoming Stockgrowers import a large number of hired killers to squeeze out the little guys who were their competition.
    The funny thing is the hired guns got their a#@ handed to them by Nate Champion (Texican) and assorted others. Champion kind of created his own Alamo there by Kaycee WY.
    However the governor called out the troops to protect the hired guns/regulators. The main men in the stockgrowers association got a slap on the hand and were told to go and sin no more. The regulators were told to disappear. And the corporate types initiated a cover up operation that lives to this day.
    Do you think that this was a lesson to some people in present day DC on how to spin doctor the facts. Very good point Tac. Thanks for joining in. swede
    Wyoming Swede

    Tac401
    Administrator
    Posts: 3425
    (1/24/02 7:09:06 pm)
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    ezSupporter
    Re: Most important battle in the American West
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    Swede,

    I have an exellent documentary/movie that
    a friend gave me over 10-years ago on this,
    it is over 3-hours long and stars Chris Kristo-
    ferson and Wilem Defoe, it is one of my very
    favorite doc/films and my friend copied
    when it showed on cable many years ago,
    it is called "Heavens Gate" and I wish I
    could find where to get an original or
    clearer copy of this film, but anyway it was
    done authentically as far as I know and it
    wasn't acted like an entertainment flick, it
    was done very authentically in my opinion,
    if anyone ever gets the chance to see it
    you will thoroughly enjoy it, it's like watching
    history take place in my opinion. Mine is clear
    but the sound is a little clouded!
    The Firearms Forum Vietnam Memories Bulletin Board Contact Administrator

    17th FA Bn
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 66
    (1/29/02 8:40:58 am)
    Reply | Edit | Del Heavens gate
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    TAC401, I vaguely remember that when Heavens Gate came out it was said to be the most expensive movie ever made. The studio was very unhappy with it, and I thought for some reason it was never released. It is strange I don't think I ever remember seeing it on TNN, or TBS or any of the stations that carry older movies. From what you have said it sounds like a good movie.

    Tac401
    Administrator
    Posts: 3494
    (1/30/02 12:57:39 am)
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    ezSupporter
    Re: Heavens gate
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    17th,

    I am so happy to have the copy I have, it is
    a great flick!

    Now I have to try and find a better copy, if
    the sound was a little better I'd be able to copy it
    and share it with you folks!
    The Firearms Forum Vietnam Memories Bulletin Board Contact Administrator

    HondoJohn6508
    Member
    Posts: 41
    (1/30/02 5:04:18 pm)
    Reply | Edit | Del Re: Heavens gate
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    Go to Amazon.com, check under VHS tapes, they have both new and used tapes available. I agree it was a good movie but the 'critics' panned it badly. Dumb critics.

    Tac401
    Administrator
    Posts: 3501
    (1/30/02 11:21:10 pm)
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    ezSupporter
    Re: Heavens gate
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    Thanks Hondo!
    The Firearms Forum Vietnam Memories Bulletin Board Contact Administrator

    polishshooter
    Senior Chief Moderator Staff
    Posts: 2706
    (1/31/02 11:54:20 pm)
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    JJ, sorry I wasn't around to carry on the discussion, but how about the other perspective of the Indian Wars? The one that is not now politically correct?

    Throughout history, anywhere in the world, even amongst the various Indian tribes in America BEFORE the white man came, when a society migrated into an area where a competing society lived, there was war, for the land. The stronger side won, and thus got the land.

    The losers, EVERYWHERE but here, were given the choice of move, assimilate, or die.

    Now. yes, at the beginning, the various tribes DID move, until they could move no more.

    At that time, the choice was, SHOULD HAVE BEEN, assimilate, or die.

    EXCEPT, we as Americans, gave a third choice...Reservations, land we would give them "out of the goodness of our hearts," to live on peacefully, and carry on their noble society forever. And we and they could live happily ever after...

    Much like liberals push Welfare and other social programs today, so they can "feel good" that they are helping the "poor downtrodden," even if those very programs ensure they will ALWAYS be poor and downtrodden.

    Now MANY Indians DID assimilate, and are living productive and prosperous lives, as AMERICANS, don't get me wrong...

    But what the settlers and the Army did to the Indians is NOT worse than what was done to other peoples since the beginning of time, when a stronger, expanding culture "invaded." In fact, it MAY have been "too nice..."

    That is the current revisionist history of the American West that makes me nauseous. That it is a period of which we should all be ashamed....

    The Indians were treated BETTER by the invading Americans than they would have been treated by any other nation under the circumstances, IMHO...what would have been done to them if the Romans, the Mongols, the Nazis, the Spanish, the Soviets, or even the British had expanded into their lands?

    The Indians WERE noble warriors. Their heritage WAS proud, BUT they lost....

    Their heritage SHOULD be just one more heritage that goes into the melting pot makeup of America...NOT standing by itself, much LESS as "soveriegn nations..."

    It would have made all of us stronger...

    Much like when the Anglos lost to the Saxons...and assimilated, and so altered the Saxon culture, from WITHIN, that it made the Anglo-Saxons stronger than either was before.



    And one other point, your opening line is NOT necessarily correct...one of the truisms any History Major learns right away, is that "Peace does not mean the absence of War."

    True peace, however transitory, ALWAYS follows a war, usually a long and bloody one, in which one side is the clear winner, and imposes it's will on the loser, if only for awhile.

    But warfare is the TRUE normal state of human existence...peace is an aberration. That's something that most people forget, or find hard to accept, but it's fact.

    Since the beginning of time, the times that there was true "World Peace..." have been VERY RARE.
    We must make war as we must; not as we would like. - Field Marshal Kitchener, 1915

    warpig883
    Moderator
    Posts: 2209
    (2/1/02 6:04:20 am)
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    Some say reservations. Some call them concontration camps.

    We still have not seen the end of this great social experiment. So far it has failed miserably for the Indians yet favorably for the American culture and government.

    I wonder whose idea it was to take an entire race/culture and pen them up on an inadequate piece of land. Then take away the weapons and tell them they cannot leave to fend for themselves. Throw in a little smallpoz and starvation and see what happens in 100 years or more.
    We can't be so fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans... -- Bill Clinton, US President (USA Today, 11 Mar 1993, page 2a)

    17th FA Bn
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 67
    (2/1/02 9:58:05 am)
    Reply | Edit | Del Peace through victory and other assorted deep thoughts.
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    I tend to agree with Polish shooter. Looking at what was done to the Indians, through a 21st century lens it was horrible.

    But looking at it through the long lens of 7,000 years of human history, that is the way it has always been. the strong take the land, the weak are dominated, absorbed or driven off. One on one the Indian was an excellent fighter, but the whites had superior weapons and more importantly vastly superior numbers.

    England and Scotland are excellent examples. The original People of England were driven out, and or absorbed by the Germanic Saxons, into Scotland. They drove the original Scots into the mountains. So in Scotland the Highland Scots are the original Scots, and the low land Scots are the original English.
    Back in merry old England the Vikings made continual inroads, some times raiding, some times setting up their own settlements, which were eventually absorbed by the majority peoples. And as Polish said the Normans came and conquered, and were themselves merged into and became an integral part of society.

    The conquest of the native Americans could have been handled much better. Rather than grind them down we could have absorbed them and benefited from their energy. This is a huge country. The major tribes could have been given huge areas for their own, and been slowly integrated into American society.

    Getting way, way, way off the subject ( as if England and Scotland were not far enough). The same could be said for the blacks after the civil war. They should have been given their own land and helped to set up farms after the civil war. Then the emphasis should have been on education for their young. I remember at the end of the civil war in "Gone with the Wind", the slaves were all saying we are going to get forty acres and a mule. But imagine that in 1865 every slave family had been given 100 acres of land a couple of mules and cows and 50 chickens. And a decent basic education for the children. And the Indian tribes had been given enough land to continue their way of life until they could be educated and brought into the American mainstream at their own pace? I believe America would be a much stronger and unified nation today.

    jimejones
    Member
    Posts: 16
    (2/1/02 11:27:35 pm)
    Reply | Edit | Del assimilating the Indian tribes
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    Why should we be obsessed with making the Indian tribes over to be just like us? My contact with a few of their descendants suggests that their way of life and their innate characteristics have much to teach us. Our technological civilazation offers much to them. If I was in their position, I wouldn't want to be forced to conform to the demands of a more powerful civilization. All of my ancestors dribbled into America over a two hundred year period, and I wouldn't want to be denied many of the features of that background. Freedom is admirable only when all are free.

    WyomingSwede
    Senior Chief Moderator Staff
    Posts: 188
    (2/2/02 9:31:49 am)
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    Re: the assimilation factor...history is written by the Victors not the defeated. Albert Speer would have written a quite different book than "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" had the Nazis won.
    All defeated peoples are forced to conform to their conquerors standards of civilization. The native americans, the saxons in england, (the Saxons almost wiped out my forebears, the Welsh, tried to get them to abandon their language.).
    You cant even say that this is not happening to the Taliban too,right now. They have lost their ability to impose their standards of civilization on others...ergo a defeated people.
    The only example that I can cite that this hasn't happened to would be the Jews...who kept their civilization and religion over thousands of years.
    The Japanese have a saying ' The nail that sticks up is too often pounded down."
    just some thoughts. swede
    Wyoming Swede

    17th FA Bn
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 68
    (2/2/02 10:36:56 am)
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    Jimejones, I'm not obsessed with, assimilating the Indians, and destroying their way of life. It has just been a fact of human history that the stronger group has always taken the land from the people who were there, and either drove them off or absorbed them into their culture. It is not a matter of right or wrong, that is just the way it was.
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