Sam's Reviews > American Carnage: Wounded Knee, 1890

American Carnage by Jerome A. Greene
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it was amazing
bookshelves: wounded-knee

This is the best book on Wounded Knee that I have ever read, and I've read most all of them.

This is an absolutely masterful work of historical research and reporting. Jerome A. Greene took on the highly controversial subject of the Wounded Knee tragedy, often a visceral historical topic that a century and a quarter later continues to evoke raw emotion. Deftly walking a line between government accounts depicting Wounded Knee as a battle and those Lakota accounts describing it as a brutal massacre, Greene is able to bring to the reader both perspectives, and treats both views with dignity and respect, something that, until now, seemed unattainable.

Moreover, Greene has presented perhaps the most historically accurate and thoroughly researched work to date on this American tragedy. Where Robert M. Utley's The Last Days Of The Sioux Nation and Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee were landmark works in the 1960s and '70s, Greene's American Carnage is the definitive work that spectacularly melds the two points of view.

That Jerry Greene has presented what I now consider the definitive work on Wounded Knee, I am hesitant to point out two minor, even trivial, inaccuracies, and do so only to ensure historical purity. On page 288, Greene states, "Beyond Lieutenant Godfrey and the men who committed that desolately conspicuous deed [referring to the tragedy at White Horse Creek], no witnesses survived." Edward Settle Godfrey on 29 December 1890 of course was a captain, not a lieutenant, having risen to that rank on 9 December 1876, a full fourteen years before Wounded Knee. Greene accurately portrays Godfrey's rank in all other references, and this is certainly just an editorial oversight. Historians more often refer to Godfrey as a lieutenant because that was his rank at the Battle of Little Bighorn, an episode in his career that receives far greater historical attention than that of Wounded Knee.

The other error occurs on page 357, when Greene confuses James W. Forsyth with Edward S. Godfrey. Greene states "Forsyth, who had withstood the humiliation of his brief removal from command of the Seventh Cavalry after Wounded Knee, succeeded to the grade of brigadier general only as he verged on retirement in 1907." James W. Forsyth was promoted to the rank of brigadier general on 9 November 1894 and served as the commanding general of the Department of California, before being promoted to Major General on 11 May 1897 and retiring two days later. He died on 24 October 1906. It was Edward S. Godfrey who was promoted to brigadier general in January 1907, the same year that he was required to retire by law at the age of 64.

Army at Wounded Knee
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Reading Progress

May 15, 2014 – Started Reading
May 31, 2014 – Shelved
May 31, 2014 – Shelved as: wounded-knee
June 1, 2014 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by Julia (new)

Julia Robb I intend to read this at the first opportunity. A fair and accurate account of Wounded Knee would do a lot to heal this country's divisions and hatreds.

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