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The Wild Frontier: Atrocities During the American-Indian War from Jamestown Colony to Wounded Knee Hardcover – January 9, 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Beginning with Indian attacks on Jamestown in 1622 and ending with the massacre of Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee in 1890, Osborn chronicles, often in lurid detail, the battles, skirmishes, raids and massacres perpetrated by whites and Indians on each other. The familiar names are hereDLittle Big Horn, Sand Creek, Fort Mims, Wyoming ValleyDas well as now-forgotten minor actions that resulted in atrocities. Along the way, Osborn examines American attitudes toward Indians, perceptions of Indian culture (including warfare tactics, prisoner taking, religious beliefs and ideas about property) and resulting policies, and the effects of disease among Native Americans. Two appendices list in chronological order intertribal wars and deaths caused by settler and Indian atrocities. Osborn has calculated that for each of these 268 years of warfare, there occurred an average of 60 incidents per year, perhaps 16,000 incidents in total. Osborn, a retired Indiana lawyer whose Massachusetts ancestors had their house burned by members of an Indian tribe, has written this book as an attempt to understand the barbarity to which both sides resorted. He finds that hatred, revenge and cruelty all play varying roles, and he does not take the meanings of those terms for granted, offering example after example. Although not scholarly in terms of background and analysis, his stark journalistic approach will shock even those who have some knowledge of the ferocity of American frontier warfare. (Jan. 9) Forecast: Most Americans do not view the years 1622-1890 as the period of a 268-year war. After reading Osborn's book, they may. While not groundbreaking scholarship, this study could provoke heated discussion if taken by the media as a pretext for discussing America's relationship to terrorism.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Characterizing the years between 1622 and 1890 as the era of the American-Indian War, Osborn provides a balanced analysis of the vicious atrocities committed by white settlers and Native Americans during the prolonged period of westward expansion. Employing a vast multitude of long-overlooked eyewitness accounts, he manages to debunk both the traditional myth of the settlers as valorous and intrepid pioneers and the revisionist view of the Indians as noble, morally superior victims. Instead, a riveting examination of the inevitable and inherently complex clash between two competing cultures is presented. Laden with stark, unsparing descriptions of the brutalities engaged in by both sides in this protracted conflict, the detailed narrative retains an admirable objectivity, considering the controversial nature of the subject matter. A scholarly and necessarily graphic view of a grim aspect of frontier life. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 363 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375503749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375503740
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,976,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The other reviewers did a good job synopsizing the content of this very good book. I don't want to repeat them so I will note a few things that stood out for me in an effort to not be repetitive

First of all, I found "Wild Frontiers" to be a very interesting compendium of the subject matter which is documented cases of murder in the 300 years of conflict between the Native American and the encroaching stream of immigrants seeking greener pastures.

These new arrivals had goods the Native Americans were interested in after being stuck in 5000 B.C. for 6000 years. The immigrants were able to capitalize on competitions and animosities that had existed for eons between tribes. The Native Americans never seemed to unify to a point where they could effectively stop the onslaught of expansionism. So they killed, often brutally. The settlers did too but the Native Americans culture seemed to hold torture in high regard. Lots of examples are held within. No disrespect meant for the Native Americans, the torture was simply part of the culture, good or bad. Yes I know the Settlers broke every treaty ever made, and I further know it is not fair to judge the past by the mores of today. But slowly burning someone to death over the course of 4 days or cutting someones lower intestine out and tying it to a tree while you beat them so they are made to walk around the tree while they slowly unravel their large and small intestine must have hurt. It's hard not to wince a little.

I decided to read this book after reading Eckert's most excellent "Frontiersmen". It reaffirmed some of the brutality laid out in that amazing story of the Kentucky and Ohio Frontier.
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Format: Paperback
"Wild Frontier" is the story of the conflicts between Indians and Whites in the United States from the first Indian/White war in Jamestown in 1622 until Wounded Knee in 1890. The author characterizes this period as a single war lasting 268 years and he describes many of the thousands of atrocities which occured during that period giving approximately equal weight to those committed by Indians and Whites. Scattered throughout his narrative are many quotes which illustrate the attitudes of the two races toward each other over the course of this long, sordid history.

The heart of the book is found in the three appendices. Appendix A lists known intertribal Indian wars; Appendix B lists the number of deaths caused by Indian atrocities and Appendix C lists the number of indian deaths caused by settlers. The author totes up about 9,000 deaths of Whites attributed to Indians and 7,000 deaths of Indians attributed to Whites.

These long lists are admirably conceived -- but by no means complete casualty lists. For example, the book lists only about 400 Whites killed by Indians during the French and Indian War. I think the total -- from what I have read -- should be much higher. Not listed are Braddock's battle in 1755 and St Clair's in 1791 in which the Indians killed hundreds of White soldiers. Also, the list is probably incomplete for the Whites killed by Apaches and Comanches in the Southwest during the 19th century. On the other side of the conflict, the murder of many, many Indians went unrecorded.

The book is balanced in that it does not minimize or excuse atrocities by either Whites or Indians. The conquest of the United States from the Indians was a long and brutal affair and this book gives you a capsule history of many of the major battles and events in the war.

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Format: Hardcover
I had a chance to read this book recently. Over the last thirty odd years, since the publication of Dee Brown's BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE, it has been fashionable to depict whites as the villains of the Indian Wars. In point of fact the story is far more complex, with more twists and turns. Indian tribes were at war with one another from before the arrival of the whites and in fact were often allied with whites against other tribes during the course of the 300 odd years of conflict.
The Indian Wars were essentially guerrilla wars, and like all such wars evolved into a downward spiral of atrocity and counter-atrocity. You can see similar things happening in contemporary Latin America, where paramilitary forces battle guerrillas in Columbia. The author points out that often the hostilities were not the result of tribes or governments breaking treaties, but rather by individuals beyond the control of same. Indian "tribes" were often loosely controlled groups of culturally similar peoples. Only with the formation of various "Indian Police" on reservations, in the late 1800's was there any real control of individuals to attempt to restrain intertribal warfare, or even conflict between factions of a tribe. The knee-jerk reaction to a group raiding another tribe, or settlers, was to hold the larger "tribe" responsible, and often the resultant conflict generated atrocities by whites. One can see the same thing happening in the Middle-east, as one Palestinian group bombs a bus or nighclub, and the Israeli's retaliate on the Palestinians as a whole. It's a sad commentary on human nature.
I would consider this book "Must Reading" for anyone interested in the old West and the Indian wars. I expect some will take this book, and maybe this review, to task.
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