The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

In the last decade, Robert Wooster of Corpus Christi State University has
emerged as a major scholar in frontier military history. His first book focused on
the military on the Texas frontier. His second, The Military and United States Indi-
an Policy (1988), was an important and thoughtful book, and Nelson A. Mzles and
the Twilight of the Frontier Army is of comparable quality. It is also the first serious
biography of one of the most important army officers of the late nineteenth cen-
tury.
Miles had a long and distinguished military career, rising from lieutenant in
1861 to brigadier general of volunteers in 1864. He was Jefferson Davis's prison
warden, served with the Fr eedmen's Bureau, briefly commanded the black Forty-
first Infantry, and then commanded the Fifth Infantry. In the West, he partici-
pated in the Red River Campaign against the Cheyennes, Kiowas, and
Comanches; directed a brilliant winter campaign against the Sioux and
Cheyennes following Custer's defeat; prevented the escape of the Nez Perce to
Canada in 1877; was responsible for Geronimo's final, if controversial, surren-
der; and commanded the troops on the northern plains during the Ghost Dance
troubles. He served against virtually all of the important western tribes and also
commanded troops in Chicago during the Pullman strike before becoming com-
manding general of the army.
Miles may have been the best officer in the Indian-fighting army, but he had a
dark side as well. As Wooster concludes, he "symbolized the best and worst of the
old army." His bravery and tactical skills were unquestioned, but his personal
ambition was overwhelming. Convinced that he was surrounded by enemies, he
quarreled with virtually all of his peers and sought to use Sen. John Sherman
and Gen. William Sherman, relatives of his wife, to advance his career.
As commanding general, Miles reflected the past. He had no contingency
plans for war with Spain; he provoked controversy with the navy and antago-
nized Secretaries of War Russell Alger and Elihu Root and Presidents William
McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. He also opposed military reforms, including
the creation of a general staff. After his retirement from the military, he unsuc-
cessfuly sought political office.
Wooster provides an even-handed portrait, based on wide use of primary ma-
terials, of Miles and his career and concludes that Miles was an able though irri-
tating officer whose talent was rivaled only by his ambition. His assessments of
Miles's role as commanding general and activities after retirement are particu-
larly valuable. This is an important and balanced biography.
Center of Southwest Studies, Fort Lewis College RICHARD N. ELLIS
Los Comanches: The Horse People, z75z-r845. By Stanley Noyes. (Albuquerque:
University of New Mexico Press, 1993. Pp. xxix+364. Notes, bibliography,
index. ISBN 0-82631-459-7. $39.95.)
This is a curious book. It purports to be serious scholarship and comes from
an excellent university press, yet the dust jacket describes the author as "poet
and novelist," hardly a common background for producers of sound history.

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/. Accessed January 29, 2015.