Circle of Fire Review

Circle of Fire
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Circle of Fire ReviewThis book has two things going for it:
1. It covers an often overlooked period of the Indian Wars of the West.
2. It is footnote heavy, for those of us who want to explore more deeply into this period.
It has six things going against it:
1. Dryly written. McDermott just doesn't have a flare for writing interesting narrative.
2. Poor maps. The course/routes of the Connor, Cole and Walker prongs of the summer/fall offensive is not mapped, but McDermott, for some inexplicable reason, includes a useless map showing 10 "avenger" campsites in the Julesberg area from December 1864 to February 1865 without dates for the 10 sites. It is of no value to the narrative.
3. Editor mistakes. The footnote numbers for Chapter 9 are one out of sequence for their explanation in the Notes section at the end of the book. There are also several index listings that are erroneous (can't be found on the page listed).
4. Incongruity. McDermott for some reason devotes over a full page to a menu of food served at a banquet in honor of General Connor after his campaign was completed. This is not important or necessary.
5. Misstatements. The one that comes to mind was the statement McDermott makes concerning the range of the Spencer carbine being 900 yards! Perhaps if it was fired at a 45 degree angle. The EFFECTIVE range of a Spencer carbine is around 150 yards.
6. PCness. As mentioned by another reviewer, McDermott refers to the Indians throughout his book as "avengers". He dismisses the Indian custom of horribly mutilating white dead/captives as just part of Indian culture. He amazingly accepts at face value George Bent's claim that no white prisoners were ever tortured (p. 165). Yet McDermott mentions a case of a white captive having his tongue cut out by his Indian captors because he was screaming too much while being slowly roasted (p. 151). George Bent, as one of the Indian leaders in the 1865 war, would have a rather good reason to deny any torture took place.
The book is not all bad, but needs re-writing and re-editing in my opinion.
In all honesty, I got a better overall view of the 1865 Sioux War by reading the long chapter 15 of Robert Utley's "Frontiersmen in Blue". Check that out.Circle of Fire Overview

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