Review: The Heart of Everything That Is

Last week and the next couple are going to be pretty busy.  I thought I’d use the time to share some of my book reviews.  This week, a bit of Native American and Old West history courtesy of a book I won from Goodreads.

The Heart of Everything That Is:  The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

Simon and Schuster; released in November, 2013.  Hardcover, 432 pages.

The Heart of Everything That Is tells the story of a lesser known, but very important, Native American chief.  While I had heard of Red Cloud before, I never knew much about him.  This book helped to fill in that gap.  Red Cloud was a Oglala Sioux chief and warrior leader.  In his youth, Red Cloud participated in many raids against the Americans.  As a middle-aged man, he planned and led full-scale military actions against settlers and army posts, most notably in the Power River Country area against Fort Phil Kearney and it’s commander.  As part of these roles, we see how Red Cloud rose to his position and worked with other chiefs and warriors, including the more famous Crazy Horse (whom served as on of Red Cloud’s field commanders). In his later life, Red Cloud realized that it was useless to continue to fight and sued for peace.heartofeverythingthatis

As a counterpoint, we see how the Americans responded to Red Cloud’s actions.  These included building additional forts to protect the Bozeman Trail that ran through the Powder River Valley; sending soldiers inexperienced with Indian fighting Westward; generals who did not fully comprehend the situation and left local commanders with little room to act as situations arose; and settlers who took their changes, often to ill-fated results.  The men most discussed in this part were Colonel Henry Carrington, whom command and construct Fort Phil Kearney; Captain Tenedor Ten Eyck; Captain William Fetterman, whom had a massacre named after him discussed in the book’s finale; and trailblazer James “Jim” Bridger.  Several Civil War generals make cameo appearances, including Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman.

Overall, I found the book to be well-researched and a good overview of the Native American situation in general in addition to its aim.  The first few chapters recount the early United States responses to the situation and their effects, including how the tribes were pushed further west causing conflict inter-tribal conflicts.  This is then used to springboard into Red Cloud’s life as it was conflict filled.  Additionally, besides the excellent biography of Rec Cloud, the book also serves as a biography of sorts to the included soldiers and their families and the other chiefs and warriors whom worked with Red Cloud, especially Crazy Horse, Spotted Tail, Old-Man-Afraid-Of-Horses, and Young-Man-Afraid-Of-Horses.  Also, the descriptions of the conditions and landscapes throughout the book were vivid.  That said, some describing Native actions against the Whites were not for the faint of heart.

To learn more about these chiefs, military leaders, and locations, follow the links above.  They lead to articles that provide more detail than I can in a review while still providing a good overview for those who may not wish to read the book.

Lastly, to teachers and professors.  This would be a great book to have your students read to understand issues that plagued the American West.  The book does a great job demonstrating both the Native American and American sides of the Plains Indian Wars.  Librarians, for the same reasons mentioned in this paragraph and above, consider adding it to your collections.  It would be great for history book readers, biography readers, and those you may use the book for research.


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