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Oh What a Slaughter: Massacres in the American West: 1846--1890

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  357 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
A Simon & Schuster eBook. Simon & Schuster has a great book for every reader.
ebook, 192 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Simon Schuster (first published November 1st 2005)
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Pam ☼Because Someone Must Be a Thorn☼ Tee
I've read quite a few reviews of "Oh, What a Slaughter" and I have to say that I'm surprised that most reviewers seem to have missed what this book is really about (my humble opinion, of course).

"Oh, What a Slaughter" is not a popular pulp book about the Old West, nor is it your standard military or political history. If it was, McMurtry would have talked more about the famous individuals that were involved in these incidents, and/or he would have written more about how these events changed the
Oct 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McMurtry discusses six massacres that occurred in the American West between 1846 and 1890 - most of Indians, some of whites, and their causes and aftermaths. Periodically, he puts them in context to other massacres, historical and contemporary. It's a dark book, but a good one, a reminder of how our own history in the US is riddled with human passion and mistake. It's also a good study of how government policy is as slow to change as the people who make it, not matter what one individual knows o ...more
Apr 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-booklist
Very informative. This was mostly about the lesser known massacres that occurred out west. I'm so close to finishing "Black Hills" and there is a lot of the Sioux language throughout and mentioning of many historical figures. That book is the reason why I wanted to learn more about this subject. I also read "Custer" by McMurtry a little while back so I guess that's the book that started it all for me.
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mcmurtry
McMurtry discusses 6 massacres in the Old West: Sacramento River, Mountain Meadows, Sand Creek, Marias River, Camp Grant, and Wounded Knee. Along the way he refers to other massacres leading up to the main one or that happened as a result. He tries to look behind the scenes to figure out why people commit massacres. He discusses the efforts to find out the truth, including body counts. He looks into whether or not perpetrators felt guilty later. I believe he is fair-minded in his approach.
Bob Cantrell
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The other side of the coin

This is short book, but it packs a punch. I majored in History in college so a several of these massacres were known to me: The Mountain Meadows, Sand Creek and Wounded Knee. Mcmurty doesn't go into the Fetterman and Custer Massacres, because they dealt with the military being the victims. The majority were massacres of Native-Americans with The Mountain Meadows massacre being a wagon train of immigrants from Arkansas. In each of these tragic events women and children w
Steve Brooks
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mike Perry
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Concise, straightforward with McMurtry's thoughts and opinions tossed in. He knows the subject as well as anyone out there. A welcome addition to anyone's library on the American West.
Karl H.
Oh What a Slaughter is a look at the massacres of native peoples in American history. One thing it did very effectively was highlight my ignorance about how the west was won- I didn't know even the names of five out of the six massacres highlighted in the book. It was good to have my gaps in history filled in, even just a little. It also made me more interested in the Wild West in general. A fuller accounting of the nation during this period would make for fascinating reading material. McMurtry ...more
Oct 28, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Poor historiography and too much author opinion. McMurtry acknowledges that some of these massacre chain-of-events are hard to piece together, yet still comes to the absolute conclusion that the Mormon Church, and not rogue units, instigated, or at the very least condoned Mountain Meadows despite a continuing legitimate debate based on source documents. He inconsistently gives the U.S. Army a break at Wounded Knee saying that differing reports make it nearly impossible to determine how the massa ...more
Apr 11, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Oh What a Slaughter," is a look into American history that most of us would rather avoid. It's a slight history of six massacres of Westward Expansion that reminds us our nation was founded in blood, and draws parallels to the bloody deeds humans of any nationality continue to perform in the name of this, that, or the other ideology. As an American it was impossible for me to read about Sand Creek, or Wounded Knee without thinking about My Lai, or wondering what abuses will be uncovered in the ...more
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As usual, Larry McMurtry writes a highly readable work of nonfiction, full of wit, humor, and his signature understatement.

"Oh, What A Slaughter" chronicles five massacres that took place in the west. More importantly, it is a study as to what constitutes a massacre (including its butcher-shop like results) and what can we learn as a species from all these slaughters.

Relating these wild west massacres to recent events, including the violence in Africa, the wars in the Middle East, and the Holoc
Eli Mercer
Feb 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans who want a more complete understanding of their history
Recommended to Eli by: library
Haunting read,

McMurtry does a pretty good job of documenting and telling the stories of some of our nations greatest travesties and bloodiest human massacres. It is not a happy book. However, after having read various accounts of many of these stories, it was refreshing to hear what at least seemed like a more fully informed depiction of the characters and details involved.

His writing style is a bit stayed, but the information gained is sobering and the stories are healthy for all Americans to
Mark Valentine
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up at the library on a whim--I have read two other McMurtry histories and have enjoyed them--so let's try this. It sounds like a morbid topic, but hey!

It is a morbid topic. Analyzing different massacres that have occurred in the West during the 19th C. is like reading one's palm and finding about six death lines. Some massacres happened because someone fired a rifle at the wrong moment and then everyone started shooting (Wounded Knee); some went beyond massacres to mass slaugh
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Larry McMurtry has admitted he prefers nonfiction reading to fiction for the past few years. This book grew out of his many years of historical research for his westerns. He takes the word massacre as his jumping-off point; he looks at a half-dozen such slaughters in the frontier west: Sacramento River (1846), Mountain Meadows (1857), Sand Creek (1864), Marias River (1870), Camp Grant (1871) and Wounded Knee (1890). While McMurtry's conveys a comfort level with the events he chronicles (and his ...more
David Brown
I rated this only two stars and perhaps some of that is a carry over from reading the "Last Kind Word Saloon." This book was too short to give the subject the examination it deserves. Although I appreciate readable non-fiction without being overburdened by foot notes, Mr. McMurty gave only a cursory overview and one with a definite political bent -- although it is difficult to find fault with his conclusions on a moral base. Overall, similar to the "Last Kind Word Saloon", it just seems the book ...more
After Wounded Knee I wanted to get another prospective on the Indians of 1800’s. In this book 6 Indian massacres are studied and weight is giving to both sides of the different stories unlike Wounded Knee. Again it can’t be denied the Indians got a raw deal all the way around but in this book more of the Whites’ cause and effects rightly or wrongly are fully examined. The one massacre I had no knowledge of was the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Southwestern Utah. All the slaughter of the Indians w ...more
This book is a very short reflection on six massacres (including the Sand Creek (Chivington), Mountain Meadows (Mormons), Marias River (slaughter of small-pox infected Blackfeet) and the Ghost Dance-caused Wounded Knee massacres) in the trans-Mississippi West by a popular writer in the Western genre. While the comparisons to modern genocidal events do not really work and useful comparisons to contemporary events such as the Zulu Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, and the Mahdi’s actions in the Sudan are ...more
Zach Vaughn
McMurtry spends a good portion of his book on the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which inspired the movie September Dawn, and the massacre at Wounded Knee, of which there was a good miniseries on HBO. McMurtry does not just cover the history of these massacres, but relates them to modern massacres, which may be higher in body count, but no less brutal thereby. He also regrets the lack of knowledge by Americans about the history of the West and its figures. It is true that Americans seem to know litt ...more
McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove and many other Western-set novels, gives his take on several massacres that occurred in the time period known as the "Old West." I was most interested in his thoughts on the Mountain Meadows Massacre and on Sand Creek. He gives the LDS Church a fair shake on the MMM although he doesn't see how the Church cannot admit complicity today. He muses that perhaps it is for legal reasons--to keep or prevent descendants from suing the Church for retributions or reparatio ...more
This had interesting subjects, but felt more like a one-off project than one deeply researched and considered. McMurtry's voice and personal experiences slipped through the narrative quite a bit, which was distracting. It would have been better if it had firmly gone in one of two directions: his personal journeys to the sites of the massacres while discussing their history (a la Sarah Vowell) or a strictly historical discussion, with more in-depth information. Either way, after reading it, it's ...more
A tossed-off collection of random thoughts on Indian massacres. Severely in need of editing. Substanceless. Seems like an outline for a bad book. The bibliography and photos are somewhat worthy of the few dollars I wasted on this mishmash. Not to mention McMurty frequently outright steals word-for-word descriptions and outright apologizes for the whites' behavior. He also spends too much time on Mountain Meadows, which isn't really an Indian massacre so much as Mormon weirdness. A waste of time ...more
David Ward
Oh What A Slaughter: Massacres in the American West 1846 –1890 by Larry McMurtry (Simon & Shuster 2005) (973.0497). Larry McMurtry classifies the massacres in the Old West into three categories: settlers killing Indians, Indians killing settlers, and Mormons killing settlers in the Mountain Meadows butchery. Though the numbers killed were usually not great by twenty-first-century standards, the slaughters themselves generated terror and notoriety which was disproportionate to the number of v ...more
Jan 07, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I checked this one out mostly because I wanted to read more about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, but I needn't have bothered: McMurtry offers substantially less than other books I've already read. In fact, he offers very little information on any of the massacres at all. In a way, this is not surprising due to the dearth of reliable information available about most of them. What he lacks in information, he seems to try to make up for with extraneous commas. Whatever won him the Pulitzer Prize, i ...more
Feb 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those wishing for a brief overview into the Plains Indian wars.
A quick read, a few hours is all. Not limited to White/Indian violence. Morman involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre is looked at also. Accounts of graphic violence.

"The Great Plains of the American West is a huge space, and yet there proved to be not enough room in it for two races, two ideas of community identitity to coexist. Both races, it seemed, needed all the land there in order to survive in their traditional ways. Wounded Knee was a final spasm in the long agony of dispossession
Kirk Astroth
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A disheartening account of 6 massacres in the US West and what caused them. Bottom line is that women and children are never spared and most times the causes are trivial. The result is like a meat shop--in McMurtry's jaundiced language. But it all goes back to the Bible.

Ezekiel 9:5-6.

"Go yet after him through the city and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: slaughter old and young, both maids and little children."

Since time immemorial to even the Tutsis in Rwanda, Ezekiel's ad
Elle Druskin
Jun 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book before Empire of the Sun which told me much more but not a bad start if you want to read about American history and specifically the many battles, wars, and eventual downfall of the Native Americans in the Plains. Until now, I have only read McMurtry's fiction--Lonesome Dove remains an all time favorite so I was surprised in a way to see non-fiction by the same author. It is worth reading as a starting point if you are going to delve into the topic but not comprehensive and it i ...more
Feb 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McMurtry examines six western massacres, paying particular attention to Mountain Meadows, Sand Creek, and Wounded Knee. This book worked well right after reading Dee Brown, McMurtry puts the incidents in a little more context. I found the section about Mountain Meadows the most interesting since somehow I had never heard of it. Current attempts by the Mormans to deny their role in the massacre only increased my interest.
Jim Gallen
May 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Oh What A Slaughter" is an expose of several of the Old West's most notorious slaughters, mostly whites killing Indians, but some white on white and a couple in which the Indians won. The stories it tells say a lot about the people of the time and their attitudes toward each other. The writing is execellent and the stories are intriguing. This is a must for any fan of the Old West.
Mrs Bond
Mar 10, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: northamerica, war
The introduction lasted chapters and read like a high school term paper. The discussion of the events and circumstances of 6 lesser known old west massacres, the stated purpose of the book, was skimpy at best. That said, I managed to learn a couple of things so this book receives a bonus star.
Don (The Book Guy)
I learned a little about several massacres that I had never heard of, but found him repetitious and not very informative. He spent most of the book on two events and barely touched on 3 of the others though from his intro I expected more.
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Larry McMurtry was born in Wichita Falls, Texas on June 3, 1936. He is the author of twenty-nine novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove, three memoirs, two essay collections, and more than thirty screenplays.

His first published book, Horseman, Pass By, was adapted into the film "Hud." A number of his other novels also were adapted into movies as well as a television mini-serie
More about Larry McMurtry...