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Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay: The Enlisted Soldier Fighting the Indian Wars

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Book Overview

The enlisted men in the United States Army during the Indian Wars (1866-91) need no longer be mere shadows behind their historically well-documented commanding officers. As member of the regular army,... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

The Enlisted Soldier during the Indian Wars

Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay is an interesting look at the life of the enlisted soldier during the Indian Wars 1866-91. Most books of this time period deal with the campaigns and battles of the US Army and the Indians or are the subject of the personalities of more famous commanders. In this work we find the stories of the forgotten soldiers, the enlisted men, and how he endured army life. Don Rickey takes up through the daily life of these soldiers starting from enlistment through final discharge or retirement. Along the way we meet and view the recruit depots, an introduction to army life, the noncommissioned officers, assignment to companies or troops and venture forth into the daily life of the ordinary common soldier. There are no high-powered generals here or very important people deciding crucial matters of policy; just the average soldier as he struggles to endure life as a common soldier. Extremely well researched and first published in 1963, Don Rickey spent hours in actual interviews with then aged veterans who has served during this period, along with pouring over a great many diaries, personal papers, newspapers and journals of the time. There are very few books cited in the bibliography as this work is compiled almost exclusively from first hand source materials. There is no romanticism here, no glory. This book tells life, as it was, the true story of the enlisted soldier and his buddies serving on the frontier.

As essential to the Indian Wars student as beans and hay were to the frontier army

Although it has been a few years since I have read this book in its entirety, I have continued to reference it and as I am in a book reviewing mood, thought I would write this one up. First published in 1963, this book has become a bible of sorts for all those interested in the everyday details of frontier army life. Dr. Rickey, who once served as historian at the Little Bighorn battlefield, benefitted from actually talking to many old veterans of the late Indian Wars period (1880s/1890s) who were still alive when this was being compiled in the 1950s. Beyond that, he drew from diaries, contemporary newspapers and regimental records to give the reader a very complete view of typical frontier army life. Chapters detail officers, non-coms, enlisted men, army discipline, the recruit depots, life at army posts, field service, combat, etc. All of this adds up to an intimate portrait of the hum-drum and the exciting, the trivial and important, all the events and places that made up the frontier army experience. Also included is a nice map of the West, showing the location of key forts and battle sites. Photographs of soldiers and army posts are intermingled throughout the book. Many of these I do not recall encountering elsewhere. A few years back, a now-retired NPS hsitorian who worked at the Little Bighorn as well as Fort Davis told me that he was on his second copy of this book. Over the years, he had literally worn out the first one as he constantly referenced it on an almost daily basis. No higher compliment as to its value can I make.

Good book but lacks proper documentation

This book is filled with interesting anecdotes and tidbits of information. However, the lack of footnotes and documentation for much of the content is horrendous.

Solid history on the frontier soldier

As I cast about for research material for an upcoming book, several American Indian War experts recommended Don Rickey's book as the "Bible" on the frontier soldier's life. I am not an Indian War buff, but I can tell you this book is chocked full of details and insights that are not likely to be found collected in any other single volume.The book is broken down into logical chapters, from a description of the Western troubles to the typical routines of the soldiers' discharges. We are treated to what might be some of the last in-depth interviews with Indian War veterans and, as has been pointed out, we begin to get a feel of the frontier soldier's daily life as 99 percent boredom and physical labor and 1 percent terror.Many books have been written around the edges of this subject, and several were awful in their historical value. But this is a solid history, well-researched and full of interesting anecdotes to boot!

An in-depth look at the Soldiers serving in the west.

This book really enlightens the reader with interesting personal narratives. The book also dispells the myth of a "John Wayne, She wore a Yellow Ribbon" frontier Army. It picks up from the end of the Civil War and leads you straight into the Spanish American War. A wonderful book for those interested in in the daily lives of the soldiers form typical daily lives to military justice. This book also helped with my summer Interpretation job at Fort Mackinac. Michigan were we portray 1880's U.S. Army.
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