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Hero of Beecher Island: The Life and Military Career of George A. Forsyth Paperback – February 1, 1997

4 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Interesting and insightful . . . a pleasure to read. It will be of special interest to students of the Old Army.”—Illinois Historical Journal
(Illinois Historical Journal)

“Dixon not only tells a good biography but also provides information about the military settlement of the frontier.”—Wild West
(Wild West)

“A comprehensive and articulate biography of an officer too long relegated to obscurity . . . Its major contribution is its placement of the army of Forsyth’s era in a striking political-economic context.”—Nebraska History
(Nebraska History)

About the Author

David Dixon is an associate professor of history at Slippery Rock University.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 275 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books (February 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803266057
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803266056
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,966,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Although George A. Forsyth participated in 88 engagements as a soldier in the Civil War and later was in many fights with the Indians on the Plains, it was for one encounter with the Cheyenne and Sioux that he is remembered: the Battle of Beecher Island, where he and a small force held off 750 besieging Indians on a small island in the Arickaree Fork of the Republican River in present-day Colorado for six days before help arrived. David Dixon relates this famous battle in full detail, but he also tells us the rest of Forsyth's life, which is pretty full and interesting.

Forsyth was born in 1837 in Pennsylvania and entered the army in the spring of 1861. He rose in rank from private to brigadier general in various cavalry units in the Civil War before being made chief of staff for Gen. Philip Sheridan.

After the war Forsyth was put in charge of an operation against the Cheyenne. It was in September 1868 that he had his famous fight on Beecher Island (named after Lt. Frederick Beecher who was killed there by the Indians). Forsyth was wounded three times. One strategic outcome of the action on Beecher Island was that Sheridan from this time on would utilize only large-scale campaigns against the Indians (Forsyth had been in charge of a small ranger-like force).

Once again on Sheridan's staff, Forsyth was on the 1874 Custer expedition to the Black Hills, during which he kept a diary that was later published. In 1875-76 he was sent by Washington on an inspection tour of various armies in Europe and Asia. In the 1880s he was in the southwest campaigning against the Apaches and commanded Ft. Huachuca, AZ. It was here that Forsyth was court-martialed on money mismanagement charges, found guilty, and formally reprimanded. In 1890 he retired from the army.
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Format: Hardcover
The "hero" in the title of David Dixon's Hero of Beecher Island is George A. Forsyth, an Army officer and Renaissance man who, Zelig-like, seemed to be involved with every matter of import in turn of the century America. Friend of Custer and Bill Cody, enabler of railroad expansion, renowned Indian fighter, shaper of US Army Policy, explorer of Yellowstone, world traveler, enforcer of Reconstruction, and popular author, Dixon paints a picture of a Da Vinci with a Sharps rifle.

There is much information contained within the book about the changing face of the US Army in which Forsyth served and later commanded. Dixon carefully details Forsyth's military experience. We begin to get a sense of what changes were going on in the Army during Forsyth's life. The evolution of the calvary under Forsyth's mentor Phil Sheridan is documented in chapter three "You Have Got A Bully Fight on Hand" (52). Dixon continues delving into this military biographia in chapter four, "I'll Shoot Down Any Man" (61). Although this chapter is mostly about the tense struggle of Beecher Island, the centerpiece of the book, it's what leads Forsyth to Beecher Island that stands as most interesting. Dixon brings out the idea that the railroad and the military were hand in glove in the old West, providing a late twentieth century reader to reflect on similarities between this paradigm of the Old West and the military-industrial complex of the Cold War era. Dixon infers a similar parallel at the beginning of chapter six, "The Armies of Asia and Europe" with the quote that the U.S. Army was, ". . . comparatively unknown, least appreciated, persistently misunderstood, and, for political effect, frequently misrepresented and occasionally even recklessly maligned in our national legislative hall" (122).
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By Jason on October 11, 2014
Format: Paperback
I had the honor of being one of the Late Dr. Dixon's students at Slippery Rock University. He was the kind of professor who really brought history to life, and was always entertaining. I wasn't close with him personally, but from what I knew of him, he was a really great guy. Anyway, about the book. It is a very informative and well written account of the life of a hero of the western indian wars that you might not know much about. I know that before I had read this book, I had never heard of him. I realize that I am quite biased when it comes to the author, but if you are a student of military history, or a western history buff you will enjoy this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Its an OK read, falls in the middle.
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