Book Review: The Gray Fox: George Crook and the Indian Wars


by Paul Magid

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015. Pp. xvi, 496. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 0806147067

George Crook in the “Indian Fighting Army”

Following up his earlier George Crook: From the Redwoods to Appomattox, which covered Crook’s early life and service in the Civil War, Magid gives us the second of his projected three-volume life of the general.

This is a very readable and nuanced account of Crook’s years in the West. Crook not only he gained a reputation as an Indian fighter, but earned the respect of his foes for his honesty and knowledge of their culture, and even taking up their cause with senior officers and politicians, often at the risk of his career. Magid’s examination of Crook’s familiarity with Native American custom and culture is valuable, as the general was by no means unusual among frontier officers in this regard, a matter often ignored in the literature.

While Crook is less well known than many other officers who served on the frontier, he arguably was one of the ablest, and certainly among the most experienced. Crook campaigned against the Cheyenne, Snakes, Paiute, Sioux, and Apache.   There are many accounts of marches and battles, but also, and at times much more interesting, the problems organizing and sustain operations in the wilderness and conferences with Indian leaders, that often give us insights into the Crook's personality as well as that of other officers and the Native Americans leaders.  Magid recounts Crook’s career within the overall picture of the Indian Wars, showing how the changing political and military policies, the personalities, the advance of “civilization,” the inter-tribal relations, and much more, all affected the various campaigns.

Magid takes special note of Crook’s willingness to lead from the front, often personally conducting reconnaissance, and Crook’s very careful attention to logistical preparations.

An excellent book, particularly for students of the Indian Wars or military leadership.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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