My new series I’m currently writing is set in Montana, 1867, a setting and time period chose mostly because of my interest in Chief Red Cloud, one of the fiercest enemies the U.S. Army ever fought. He led the successful Indian Campaign known as Red Cloud’s War between 1866 and 1868. There are so many one-sided tragic battles in Native American history, and the victory Red Cloud achieved, however short lived, has been a fascination of mine. Red Cloud foresaw the expulsion of the Lakota from their land. In June of 1865 Red Cloud’s Lakota Sioux joined a coalition lead by Woqini (Roman Nose) of the Cheyenne, to attack a military post on the North Platte River.
In 1866 the military was building forts along the Bozeman Trail straight through the Lakota Territory of Wyoming and Montana—a violation of their treaty. As miners and pioneers started encroaching on Lakota Land, Red Cloud feared the demise of the Indian way of life there. He started Red Cloud’s war, which was the most successful war an Indian nation ever waged against the US Army. Through a number of battles and series of attacks on the forts over two years, he was able to drive out military troops.
Red Cloud’s victories resulted in a new Treaty of Fort Laramie by which the United States abandoned all forts on the Bozeman Trail and acknowledged Lakota possession of what is now the Western half of South Dakota, including the Black Hills, and much of Montana and Wyoming. As the Military retreated, warriors followed close behind, burning the forts to the ground.
Sadly, peace was short-lived. Red Cloud never again went to war against the USA. He made several visits to Washington, DC and undertook speaking tours in Eastern cities, lecturing in 1870 at the Cooper Union in New York City. In 1874, General Custer attacked Red Cloud. Red Cloud did not take part in the Lakota war of 1876–77 with Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and other war leaders.
Despite his peaceful ways, he was removed by the government from his position as chief in 1877, and he and his people were removed to the Pine Ridge Agency in South Dakota. Red Cloud continued to fight for the freedom of his people. At Pine Ridge, he fought corrupt Indian agents who stole from the natives. He died in 1909 at the age of 87.
Certainly all/most of these details won’t be in my books, though I do hope to give a glimpse of the struggles faced by the miners, settlers, soldiers and Lakota—all of whom are characters in my upcoming books. As a historical romance writer, I always strive to weave in bits of history that really strikes a chord in me. As a historical romance reader, I love to learn little tidbit on historical eras I might otherwise not be exposed to—sneaky history lessons.
Can you think of some historical tidbit of surprising interest you gleaned from a romance novel?