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The Killing of Crazy Horse

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  540 ratings  ·  76 reviews
He was the greatest Indian warrior of the nineteenth century. His victory over General Custer at the battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 was the worst defeat inflicted on the frontier Army. And the death of Crazy Horse in federal custody has remained a controversy for more than a century.

The Killing of Crazy Horse pieces together the many sources of fear and misunderstanding
Hardcover, 592 pages
Published November 2nd 2010 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Mount Rushmore is one of the purest tourist traps yet devised by the hand of man. The four presidential faces carved into the granite prominence have little or no connection at all to South Dakota. Of the three, only Teddy Roosevelt ever set foot on the land, or even knew South Dakota as a State. Still, it serves its purpose, which is to get people to come to South Dakota. And it works, to the tune of three million people a year, all of whom come to see – and be disappointed by – the skulls of f ...more
James Murphy
Powers's history is about more than the death of one man. Many men and women were killed in the period of the Sioux wars of the 1860s and 70s. In using the death of the iconic warrior chief as a kind of hub, Powers relates the history of those years made up of dispute and open warfare which ended in the death of the old, traditional hunting and raiding life of the Plains Sioux. It's a history written with the aid of the rich resources left by participants of both sides but most interestingly fro ...more
Thomas Isern
There is a fair amount of discussion among professional historians these days as to why works of history by non-professionals are so popular. If the answers are not obvious to you, then here is the book to illustrate them. The Killing of Crazy Horse is everything that professors directing graduate work in my generation said a work of history ought not to be. It does not get right to the point. It perambulates there through hundreds of pages. It is an indulgent book, dwelling on all sorts of deta ...more
Gaylord Dold
The great Oglala Sioux warrior Crazy HOrse, leader of the Hunkpatila band comprising some 150 lodges and perhaps 400 men, women, and children---Thunder Dreamer Carrier of the Shield, killer of Custer the Genocidal Buffoon---was murdered by a veteran soldier of the Mormon
wars named William Gentles,who, according to the contemporary evidence offered by He Dog, stabbed Crazy HOrse in the back with a bayonet as he was being shoved into a cell
at Fort Robinson, Nebraska Territory, on September 5, 1877
This book was a gift for Christmas and I truly enjoyed it. It was actually a book I looked forward to getting back into after a day at work. Mostly because I find the topic endlessly fascinating but also because I enjoyed the author’s meandering style. I do, however, have some disagreements about some of his conclusions and overall tone which I will address later. First, he chose a terrific topic full of mystery and endless opportunities for speculation. The killing of Crazy Horse was a terrible ...more
Powers' account of the Battle of the Little Big Horn is one of the clearest I have ever read.
And his account of Crazy Horse's death makes one want to weep.
Elizabeth K.
Apr 10, 2014 Elizabeth K. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Elizabeth by: review in WSJ
Shelves: 2014-new-reads
Honestly, I don't know whether I'm getting dumber with each passing year, or if this book was extremely dense, but it took me forever to get through it. It was really good, and it was worth the effort, but boy, I had to be on top of the thing all the time to keep all the information straight. And I even went into it with a reasonable grasp of the issues, events and players, which I thought would help but apparently not.

The author goes back to A LOT of source material to flesh out the events of
Bookmarks Magazine
Less a biography than the study of a lost way of life, Powers's sprawling chronicle uses the great Lakota warrior as a springboard to examine the history and culture of the Sioux tribes. Simultaneously, Powers rectifies the biased inaccuracies of a historical record that has traditionally treated the murder of Crazy Horse as "something between a footnote and an afterthought." Drawing on extensive fieldwork and a dizzying amount of firsthand sources, Powers vividly describes the personalities, po ...more
After trying to read it for most of spring and summer I have put it aside for the time being with hopes of once complete to read it.

I am fascinated with the subject, but I didn't get drawn in. It was boring, or something I can't put my finger on why I didn't had the urge to read it. The writing is easy to understand, and it has lots of information. Maybe too much that isn't connected with Crazy Horse or the killing of him? I don't know. Something just made me bored.
Jeff Elliott
Little long, far too many names to keep straight who was who, but in general a compelling read.

A few quotes:

the Indian wars were about land, and specifically about removal of Indians from land that whites wanted. Another was the existence of sorrow and tragedy in history—loss and pain that cannot be redeemed. That was not the way I would have put it at the time, but I got the central idea clearly enough.

Powers, Thomas (2010-11-02). The Killing of Crazy Horse (Kindle Locations 116-118). Knopf Dou
Well researched and well told. Crazy Horse himself, unfortunately, remains a bit of a mystery... and as happens with many histories, everyone has a story to tell, often contradictory. But Powers does a great job of trying to keep the story straight and relatively objective. Plus he seems to make a specific effort to mention all the awesome Indian names that have a part in the story... Woman Dress, He Dog, American Horse, Respects Nothing, White Buffalo Woman, Walks as She Thinks, Fool Bear, Youn ...more
Oliver Bogler
A fascinating history of the enigmatic Sioux Chief Crazy Horse. With new research, and detailed and meticulous reconstruction, Powers makes Crazy Horse come alive, providing a captivating narrative of the arc of his life, and a feel for his last days. Powers shares the ambiguities and conflicting information for the reader to see. We were just vacationing in the Black Hills and visited Fort Robinson and this book made the place come alive with history for me. Anyone interested in Crazy Horse wou ...more
Five hundred and ninety-two pages might seem like a long autopsy report on the killing of Crazy Horse. But as any good inquest, the author realizes context is all-important. Thomas Powers devotes a good three-quarters of the book to the Plains Indian wars out of which Crazy Horse rose to become the leader he was. When it comes to the final quarter of the book, the narrative telescopes down to greater and greater detail that led to the murder of Crazy Horse--from day to day, to hour by hour, to m ...more
Brad Hodges
A childhood fascination with American Indians compelled Thomas Powers, who has specialized in books about military intelligence, to write The Killing of Crazy Horse, a completely thorough but at times drawn out and unfocused account of the great Lakota warrior and his murder, which was as much engineered by other Indians as it was whites.

In addition to being an autobiography of sorts of Crazy Horse, Powers also goes into great depth with some of the other players in the story, such as two half-I
I read this at the same time as 1861, with intrigue how the Civil War colored soldiers in both books. But this one, through a Rashomon-like group of points of view, lends motive and background to an awkward tragedy, the violent death of Crazy Horse while under Federal care. Thom Powers, whose essays in review of the modern federal intelligence complex I read in the New York Review of Books, delved deeply into archival sources, even into the personal archives of families and the trade in historic ...more
Kathleen Hagen
The Killing of Crazy Horse, by Thomas Powers, narrated by John Pruden, produced by Tantor Media, downloaded from

He was the most feared and loathed Indian of his time, earning his reputation in surprise victories against the troops of Generals Crook and Custer at
the Rosebud and Little Bighorn. Despite his enduring reputation, he has remained an enigma (even the whereabouts of his burial place are unknown, and no
portrait or photograph of him exists). Now, Pulitzer Prize-winning journa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
J. Bryce
I read his biography of Diana Oughton -- the Dwight Illinoisan who became a political radical in the 60s and blew her self up accidentally in 1970 -- when I was director of the Prairie Creek Public Library District in lovely Dwight Illinois, and enjoyed Powers' journalistic style -- he'd covered the story as it happened for, I think, the New York Times.

But I've come to believe it takes an historian to write history -- not "just" a journalist. Despite his best efforts, he was not able to fake it
Great book! I keep going back and forth in my mind whether I liked it as much as S.C. Gwynne's "Empire of the Summer Moon" about the Comanche and Chief Quanah Parker. The Gwynne book was perhaps a more fun read with more colorful characterizations while the Powers book seems to have almost a personal obsession with finding all the details, and weighing one historical person's account against another's. Powers gets really great detail about religious practices of the Lakota and the details of bat ...more
The book was well researched and written to explain the tragedy of the early death of Chief Crazy Horse. The author clearly wrote about the events that led to the distrust and hatred of Crazy Horse by the soldiers and the other Native Americans. I purchased the book at the Little Bighorn Battle Site in Montana and found it informative and interesting.
"The Killling of Crazy Horse" is a thoughtful, meticulously researched account of one of the most shameful moments in U.S. history. Power's account is all the more powerful for giving a nuanced portrait of the major players involved (General Crook, William Garnett, Sitting Bull) and life on the Plains in the 1870's.
Joe Hewitt
This book is full of facts about the northern US Native American tribes, especially the Sioux. It gives a picture of their culture on its way to telling the story of the murder of Crazy Horse. Some little known facts I was glad to learn: The feathers in an Indian's hat or hair each indicated a coup. Although Crazy Horse counted many coups of exceptional bravery, he was modest and wore only two feathers. The special resentment the Sioux felt against the white man because of his smell. The smell o ...more
This book lays out the framework for the world we live in today. Our society views land and lives, as perfectly laid out in this story, is grounded by intolerance and a drive to acquire by whatever means necessary.
Mar 06, 2012 Vaughn added it
A very detailed well researched read that puts you into the history--Powers uses the background materials (journals-interviews-newspapers of the day) to set the mood for some very tumultuous times--Gold and gain, land grabbing as well as the inflammatory rhetoric used to dehumanize the Indians all come into play. Being a fan of good history, especially since it isn't taught in the schools to any degree of inclusion is especially enlightening. The ruthless campaign of the government to subjugate ...more
Lita Breiwick
The white military set out to systematically starve, kill or corral the Sioux into "agencies" (reservations) by burning down their villages, killing off their buffalo and stealing their beloved Black Hills. Then they whined about the moocher Indians expecting handouts after their ponies and guns were confiscated and they couldn't get food. Some Indians turned on their own people by becoming spies or scouts, but most wanted to maintain their beautiful, peaceful lifestyle that worked for them for ...more
Lori (Lara Britt) Sailiata
Well researched and written...however, I would have liked more focus on the Sioux and less on the minutiae involved with the soldiers. Many non sequiturs.
Excellent book using research of both the soldier's and the Indian's viewpoints, giving a good understanding of the time period when white settlers were pouring into the West and clashes were pretty constant. He describes the differing biases of both sides as well--the soldiers who were impressed with the Indians, (especially Crazy Horse) and those who wanted to exterminate them, such as Gen Sherman who said the best thing was to put them on reservations to make them "helpless", and also those o ...more
Very meticulous research. Far more has been written about Custer's Last Stand at Little Big Horn than General Crook's near-disaster at Rosebud nearby, or the military genius of Crazy Horse. Powers profiles many colorful characters: Native American, White and mixed race. I was especially intrigued by the careers of scouts William Garnett and Frank Grouard. Both lived among the Lakota Sioux for a large part of their lives. Grouard's father was a Mormon missionary and his mother lived in the Sandwi ...more
This book was a very detailed history of the life and death of Crazy Horse. Before reading this book I did not realize about the rivalry and jealousy many of the other Sioux chiefs felt towards Crazy Horse. As interesting as some of the facts were in this book, I could not really get into this book and I cannot recommend it. Powers goes off on tangents that are really not relevant to the life of Crazy Horse.
A really fascinating story, if a little overlong. Powers brings Sioux living to vivid life for the reader, and the cast of characters are interesting. As a historian, I think I would have cut out some of the references to other individuals who did not play a huge role. At some points Powers would go on a tangent listing family members, but it just became too convoluted at times. But it's a very minor nitpick.

It's more of a biography of General Crook's campaign to bring the Sioux onto reservation
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