Sam's Reviews > Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America

Miracles and Massacres by Glenn Beck
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did not like it
bookshelves: wounded-knee

Absolute fictional drivel. To be fair, I've only read portions of the section on Wounded Knee, but enough to note that Glen Beck, whom I enjoy as a radio commentator, took huge license in drafting a fictional version of events surrounding Wounded Knee, quoting conversations for which there are no records, or which likely never occurred. Although my thesis is listed as one of Beck's sources, I doubt he ever read it. He makes sweeping generalizations, and reorders events or facts to suit the narrative he wished to depict, despite a well documented historical record.

One such example was a conversation that Major General Nelson A. Miles, Commander of the Division of the Missouri, has with Major S. M. Whitside, 7th U.S. Cavalry, on 6 January 1891 in which he confronts the major with several newspaper and magazine articles. While Whitside does document that he was summoned by Miles, there is no record of what the conversation entailed. Further, at least one of the articles that Beck quotes Miles as complaining of was not released until the end of January.

A second Miles conversation that Beck quotes entails medals of honor. It is absolute fiction. Beck indicates that Miles was presented with at least a dozen medal of honor recommendations in June 1891, and ranted that he was furious that so many medals were being awarded. Allegedly stating that it was the greatest number of medals of honor for a single engagement. By June 1891, 17 soldiers from the Pine Ridge campaign had already received their medals, including 12 from action at Wounded Knee, all with General Miles's concurrence. There was no stack of medal of honor recommendations forwarded to General Miles in June 1891. The event never happened.

Further, Wounded Knee, was not the single greatest number of Medals of Honor for a single engagement during the Indian Wars period, and Miles would have known that. To demonstrate that 30 Medals of Honor awarded during the Pine Ridge 1890-91 Campaign--18 for Wounded Knee--was not an anomaly, I offer the following statistics:

81 awarded for the Little Big Horn 1876-77 Campaign
27 awarded for the Apaches 1873, 1885-86 Campaign
18 awarded for the Nez Perce 1877 Campaign
12 awarded for the Ute 1879-80 Campaign
177 awarded for actions not covered under an Army campaign streamer including:
49 awarded for actions against Apaches in 1868
53 awarded for actions against Apaches in 1869

For numbers of medals awarded for single actions:

34 awarded to the 8th Cav Regt for Aug 1868 actions against Apaches
31 awarded to 1st and 8th Cav Regt for action on 10 Oct 1869 against Apaches
31 awarded to 5th and 22nd Infantry Regts for action on 21 Oct 1876 at Cedar Creek, Mont. Ter. (under Nelson Miles' command)
24 awarded to 7th Cav Regt for actions on 25 Jun 1876 at the Little Big Horn, specifically Reno Hill
20 awarded to 1st and 5th Cav Regts for actions in 1872 against Apaches
18 awarded to 7th Cav and 1st Art Regt for action on 29 Dec 1890 at Wounded Knee
13 awarded to 6th Cav Regt for action on 12 Jul 1870 at Wichita River, Tex.
12 awarded to 5th Inf and 6th Cav Regts for action on 9 Sep 1874 at Upper Wichita River, Tex. (under Nelson Miles' command)
10 awarded to 5th and 9th Cav Regts for action on 29 Sep 1879 at Milk River, Colo.

Nelson Miles's fingerprints are on more medals of honor from the Indian Wars era than perhaps any other officer from that period. Moreover, he personally headed up the 1916-'17 review of every medal of honor, in which over 900 were revoked, and still he sanctioned the Wounded Knee medals. The only documented record of Miles commenting unfavorably on recommendations was regarding honorable mention and recommendations for brevet promotions for Colonel J. W. Forsyth and Major S. M. Whitside, the two field grade officers of the 7th Cavalry at the battle of Wounded Knee. In that same document, he praises the actions of several company grade officers.

As a historical work of non-fiction, Glen Beck's Miracles and Massacres is little more than hysterical fiction--at least concerning the Wounded Knee portion--taking an actual event and spinning it into a narrative that he presents as history. Beck assumes his readers will have only a nominal understanding of Wounded Knee, likely formed from Hollywood depictions of the event, and that the reader will accept whatever he presents as being historically accurate. Sadly, that is probably true in many cases, and depending on the volume of sales of this novel, he has led tens of thousands of readers to believe they understand the events surrounding Wounded Knee based on this concocted fiction he has peddled them.

For a historically accurate and balanced view of Wounded Knee, I recommend Jerome Greene's American Carnage.

Army at Wounded Knee
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 26, 2014 – Shelved
July 26, 2014 – Shelved as: wounded-knee

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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Morgan McMahon Thank you for your review and your work on documenting actual history. This book is an insult to all fans of history. Beck's ridiculous melodramatic historical fiction is absolutely disgusting.

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