Finerty was a great story teller. Being Irish was a help in that regard. He describes the campaign under Crook at the Rosebud in June, 1876 in wonderful descriptive detail. You can almost see the action, smell the gunpowder and hear the Indian yells. As a primary source it is a treasure and helps us understand how someone on the scene experienced the last big Indian war.
Finerty was right in the thick of it in some cases, especially when he and scout Frank Grouard and some troops were ambushed and pinned down in some woods by the angry Sioux. His account of how they survived and escaped is terrific story of adventure and human endurance. As a journalist, he was also interested in getting the story from the Native Americans (a term not favored by most of the people to whom it applies today and seldom used in the 19th century).
He took pains to visit Sitting Bull in Canada when he was living in refuge there. He didn't get much, but at least he tried. One disappointment is that when he accompanied General Crook into Deadwood after the battle of Slim Buttes in northwest South Dakota, he didn't provide more detail about that famous wild west town. What he does provide is entertaining and it would have been nice to have had more. But he was only there a short time and may not have been that impressed, given what he had just gone through with the military campaign.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the American frontier of the second half of the 19th century, especially anyone interested in the war by which the United States came to control the Black Hills and ended the wild life of the hunter gatherers that were the plains tribes of that time. It a shameful story especially when viewed from our perspective more than a century later, but accounts like Finerty's help us to understand how it was viewed at the time.
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