This review first appeared in the Tally Sheet (Spring 2014, Volume 60, Number 2)

NO GREATER CALLING: A Chronological Record Of Sacrifice And Heroism During The Western Indian Wars (1865-1898).

Compiled by Eric S. Johnson. Schiffer Military History 2012. ISBN: 978-0-7643-4255-4. 408 pages. Hardback $39.99 16 plates. One map.

After a childhood in England, growing up with western movies, TV and comics, I began to seriously study the American Indian Wars in 1969. At the time I was a 20 year old Private in the British Army and because of this I started to compile a Roll of Honour for the US Army in the Indian Wars from 1846 to 1898. It was not long before I expanded to include wounded as well. Officer casualties were fairly quickly found due to Francis B. Heitmanís Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army. However Enlisted Men, Indian Scouts and attached civilians were far harder to find. In the early 90's I was able to search some Regimental Returns at the National Archives in Washington DC. Other than this I was confined to published books and articles. In the more than forty years I collected the names of Army casualties in the Indian Wars, I have record most, but far from all. Thus it was with more than normal interest that I received Mr Johnsonís book, knowing just how hard it is to collect the data.

The author has listed 1332 operations, skirmishes, actions, engagements, attacks on citizens and surrenders of Indians, in date order from Operations, Canyon City Road, Oregon, (January 1 to November 30, 1865) to Engagement, Sugar Point, Leech Lake, Minnesota, (October 5 and 6, 1898). Under each military entry is listed, if known, the officer or NCO in command, the unit or units involved, and, if there were any casualties, the names and unit of the killed and wounded, in most but not all cases. For many of those wounded, there is also description of the nature of the wounds; i.e. "arrow wound, abdomen, severe wound", or "gunshot wound, right leg, slight wound," etc. If applicable, gallantry awards, such as the Medal of Honor, Brevets for officers, etc. are added. The entries for citizens just list the place and date of the incident, with the numbers killed (if any). Each entry is footnoted with sources, and sometimes the names of citizens killed. While the majority of the fights listed are with Indians, a small number are with bandits and at least a couple in Texas, May 1865, with Confederates.

At the end of each year a total number killed of officers, enlisted men, Indian scouts and citizens is provided. Unfortunately for many of the years the totals do not agree with the entries for that year. For some reason a total for the period 1865 to 1898 is not given. However if my addition is correct, the total comes to 79 officers, 1006 enlisted men, 72 Indian scouts and 87 army employed or attached citizens, a grand total of 1244 killed.

Appendix A is a Western Indian War casualty roster (1865- 1898) in alphabetical order of 1119 men killed or mortally wounded. First 79 officers, then 926 enlisted men, 37 Indian scouts. 10 Indian police and 67 citizens. For the officers there is also a brief outline of career and burial sites, most of which are shown in the16 pages of plates.

Appendix B, is a list of 425 Medal of Honor recipients, while appendix C is a list of 210 officers awarded Brevets, and appendix D is a list of 84 enlisted men awarded Certificate of Merit. With such a great mass of information, there is bound to be some errors, for example Private Augustus Delaney, Co. B 7th US Cavalry, shown on page 101 as being wounded November 27 1868, Washita River, Indian Territory, died the same day and should have been included with the killed. Also there are a few omissions, mostly volunteer soldiers killed in 1865 and 1866. For example on June 30, 1865 near the Little Arkansas River, Kansas, Corporal Abel F. Douglas of D Company 2nd Colorado Cavalry  and Privates Henry Hogan, James Jones and George W. Norris from D Company, 13th Missouri Cavalry were killed by Indians. More surprising, as the author used Gergory Michnoís book, The Deadliest Indian War in the West as one of his sources, he doesnít include the death of Sergeant Arnold Denoille, 23 US Infantry and his wife, killed near Camp Lyon, Idaho on October 21, 1867. According to the 23rd Infantry Regimental Returns, Sergeant Charles Denoile of C Company was killed on October 22, 1867. This is a good example of how different sources gives different dates and variations of names which makes compiling casualties list like this so difficult.

While Mr Johnson has omitted some casualties I have found, he has named others that I have missed, especially the names of some Indian Scouts. Both of us have been unable to find some names of casualties. For example on June 12th, 1865 two soldiers were killed and three others wounded from the 2nd U.S. Volunteers near Fort Dodge Kansas.

Personally I would have liked Mr. Johnson also to have covered the period from the Mexican War to the end of the Civil War. While not complete, and despite some errors, Mr Johnson has done an outstanding job with a very difficult task and this reference book is a must have for anybody interested in the US Army and the Indian Wars.

Rod MacNeil




English Westerners' Society  

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