Jerome A. Greene,
Nez Perce Summer 1877:
The U.S. Army & the Nee-Me-Poo Crisis

(Montana Historical Society, 2000)

The first thing you notice about Nez Perce Summer 1877 is the massive thickness. This is, with no competition, the most thorough and exhaustive volume ever produced on the Nez Perce War. But this is not the only difference between this book and the others produced on the subject. This book focuses on the inclusion of the Nez Perce perspective, something that has often been sickeningly lacking! Let us all applaud Jerome Greene for attempting to treat this subject objectively and fairly and for going where nobody else desired to tread. Thank you, Mr. Greene.

The Nez Perce "War" began in June and ended in October, spanning 14 weeks and 1,700 miles across the most rugged terrain in this country. The Nez Perce whipped or fought to a standstill the 10 best units in the Army in 13 engagements, while always being extremely outnumbered and outgunned, during a fighting retreat for freedom. The Nez Perce consistently proved their superiority in tactical operations, yet never stooped to the level of the Army's scout's of taking scalps or raping and mutilating the women and children. They were a peaceful, agricultural people who never wanted a fight in the first place. All they wanted was to live freely and peacefully!

The book is based upon a study executed by the National Park Service and completed in 1996, "Historic Resource Study: The U.S. Army and the Nee-Me-Poo Crisis of 1877: Historic Sites Associated with the Nez Perce War." The purpose of the study was to collect site-specific and contextual information that would aid in the management of the land resources related to the war.

The author's "notes" comprise 126 pages. Normally, I do not devote time to reading the notes in their entirety, only referencing certain footnotes. But these notes read almost as well as the narrative and I ended up devouring every word. The bibliography comprises another 35 pages and indicates the amount of reference work that Greene invested in this project. The list of casualties takes 18 pages and drives home the human cost of this most heinous crime against a peaceful people by the U.S. government! Greene's work is most exemplary. He has produced a historical masterpiece, complete with 16 maps, 49 photographs and numerous line drawings and diagrams.

Greene's narrative will keep you turning pages and eagerly anticipating the next. He writes with vivid detail, picturesque descriptions and high-tension action. His narrative progresses smoothly and flows well chronologically. He recounts the events and conversations with remarkable freshness, as if they were happening today. A writer does not achieve better clarity and ease of comprehension than Greene possesses. He is a superb storyteller with a dramatic flair for keeping the reader's senses fully engaged. You will believe you are a witness to this war firsthand and will see the lives of those involved unfolding around you. I urge you to get this book and spend some time reading it slowly and carefully with great attention to the details.

Greene is a historian with the National Park Service and has published many works on Indian wars.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 24 May 2003

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