In Oh What a Slaughter, Larry McMurtry has written a unique, brilliant, and searing history of the bloody massacres that marked, and marred, the settling of the American West in the 19th century, and which still provoke immense controversy today.
Here are the true stories of the West's most terrible massacres: Sacramento River, Mountain Meadows, Sand Creek, Marias River, Camp Grant, and Wounded Knee, among others. These massacres involved Americans killing Indians, but also Indians killing Americans, and, in the case of the hugely controversial Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857, Mormons slaughtering a party of American settlers, including women and children.
McMurtry's evocative descriptions of these events recall their full horror, and the deep, constant apprehension and dread endured by both pioneers and Indians. By modern standards the death tolls were often small, Custer's famous defeat at Little Big Horn in 1876 was the only encounter to involve more than 200 dead, yet in the thinly populated West of that time, the violent extinction of a hundred people had a colossal impact on all sides. Though the perpetrators often went unpunished, many guilty and traumatized men felt compelled to tell and retell the horrors they had committed. From letters and diaries, McMurtry has created a moving and swiftly paced narrative, as memorable in its way as such classics as Evan S. Connell's Son of the Morning Star and Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.