Here are incisive accounts of the campaign directed by Major General William Tecumseh Sherman—from the first skirmishes with the Sioux over the Bozeman Trail defenses in 1866 to the final defeat and subjugation of the Northern Plains Indians in 1890. Utley's brilliant descriptions of military maneuvers and flaming battles are juxtaposed with a careful analysis of Sherman's army: its mode of operation, equipment, and recruitment; its lifestyle and relations with Congress and civilians.
Proud of the United States Army and often sympathetic toward the Indians, Utley presents a balanced overview of the long struggle. He concludes that the frontier army was not "the heroic vanguard of civilization" as sometimes claimed and still less "the barbaric band of butchers depicted in the humanitarian literature of the nineteenth century and the atonement literature of the twentieth." Rather, it was a group of ordinary (and sometimes extraordinary) men doing the best they could.