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Summary

Oliver Otis Howard thought he was a man of destiny. Chosen to lead the Freedmen's Bureau after the Civil War, the Union Army general was entrusted with the era's most crucial task: helping millions of former slaves claim the rights of citizens. He was energized by the belief that abolition and Reconstruction, the country's great struggles for liberty and equality, were God's plan for himself and the nation.

But as the nation's politics curdled in the 1870s, General Howard exiled himself from Washington, DC, rejoined the army, and was sent across the continent to command forces in the Pacific Northwest. Shattered by Reconstruction's collapse, he assumed a new mission: forcing Native Americans to become Christian farmers on government reservations. Howard's plans for redemption in the West ran headlong into the resistance of Chief Joseph, a young Nez Perce leader in northeastern Oregon who refused to leave his ancestral land.

Claiming equal rights for Native Americans, Joseph was determined to find his way to the center of American power and convince the government to acknowledge his people's humanity and capacity for citizenship.

©2017 Daniel J. Sharfstein (P)2017 Tantor

Critic reviews

"One of the epic tales of American history, rendered by a master storyteller. Daniel Sharfstein breathes new life into the fascinating figures at the heart of the Nez Perce War." (Karl Jacoby, author of The Strange Career of William Ellis)

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Everyone should read this book

An accomplished work that is a classic. Superbly written, telling of an epic engagement with exceptional character descriptions and giving great food for thought. Superb in every respect.

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  • Tristan
  • 10-05-18

Interesting but lenghty.

Enjoyed the window into this slice of history. The lead up to the conflict was well explained and thorough. The narrator was very good and contributed to the flow of the book. The narrative however was lengthy in some areas and incomplete in others. So much information was presented about Howard, which ended up being of little advance to the narrative, but also of sub-par general interest. Loved the insight on Joseph's character, but he almost completely dissapears during the most crucial moments of armed conflict. To understand his role during these moments are key, yet we are left wanting. Yellow Wolf takes over during these moments, but again he also dissapears when moments of negotiation and diplomacy arise. Both characters are crucial in Nez Perce history, but yet we lack a continuous account, the other seemingly picking and choosing the moments they appear in his story or, more likely, where he has enough sources to put forward some analysis. He also focuses on Wood, who is himself and much more intriguing character than Howard, but who's impact toward the Nez Perce is almost negligeable. All in all, the author eleborated on Howard and Wood, which is difficult to defend according to the announced theme and title of the book, while the information about the Nez Perce characters have huge gaps.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael M.
  • 19-08-17

Extraordinary history lesson

This book portrays the history of the Nez Perce flight and all the circumstances surrounding that part of the nations history in a way I have never heard before. Detailed but never tedious; a can't put it down until you are done book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Richard D. Spiering
  • 07-06-18

Not good enough to keep me interested

It really helped me sleep.....I'd not recommend this for average listeners. I am an American history nerd but could not finish this.

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  • Karen E Veldhuizen
  • 13-04-18

A piece of history that should not be forgotten

What did you like best about this story?

I appreciated the depth and complexity that all the characters were given. This is especially true for General Howard, who in my opinion, is hard to understand. Yet reading this in-depth account of General Howard gave me a sense of his motivations. This then challenged me as I consider my motivations and priorities.

What does Joe Barrett bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Joe Barrett has a unique voice that fits the time period well. He adds accents where I would not even acknowledge accents as being needed, which gives the characters more depth.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, this is an in-depth account that, at least for me, includes a lot of moral questions. It takes some time to digest, but I still listened to the book continuously and finished within a couple weeks at most.

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  • Janushka,
  • 20-02-18

One of the best books on this chapter of history

I was moved by the poetic prose and intricate detail. I've read several books on the Nez Perce War. This may be the best. It starts slowly with background but I understood later why it was necessary. The author tells many stories and biographies within the larger narrative.

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  • Buretto
  • 31-10-17

Even with best intentions, it's an atrocity

This is an engaging, thorough telling of the story of the Nez Perce. Perhaps a bit tangential at times, but it only serves to draw the wider canvas. The book gives a more comprehensive view of members of both sides of the conflict than is usually found.

It details building from what may have been well intentioned, though bigoted and paternalistic, efforts to civilize native peoples, to all-out bloody war when those same native people refuse to accept that the benefits of a free society don't apply to them. How long can people accept murder without chance of redress because of the color of their skin or their choice of spirituality? When that dam breaks, the rationalization of quelling the savage revolt is cast. It's the same story, to a greater or lesser degree, all over the continent.

Of particular interest was that it paints Howard in a sympathetic light, noting his work in the Freedmen's Bureau, though never quite absolving him of the inherent supremacism in his evangelical Christianity. It's very measured and does well to maintain objectivity. But ultimately, the truth is the truth.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Terry Tillman
  • 14-06-17

A rich personal account

This really personalized the story--much more enjoyable and informative than the typical "names, dates and events" style of history, the way I was taught through school. I've read maybe 20 books about Joseph and the Nez Perce War this is by far the best.

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  • M. Isaza
  • 13-05-17

Great narration of the events

I enjoyed listening to thi great book . I learned a lot a part of American history , great narration and detailed descrption of how things were back in the late 1800's.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 30-11-17

hard to get through

I found it hard to get through.... general Oliver is not a likeable person.... he is a typical corrupt self righteous do gooder.... who has selective forgiveness for the people he runs into..... it is difficult for me to read about.... was not enjoyable

0 of 2 people found this review helpful