Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend. (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2013).
On Christmas night 1866, a man rode into Fort Laramie. Near death from riding 236 miles in four days, through a blizzard, Portugee Phillips completed his mission. Phillips delivered dispatches from Colonel Henry Carrington, the commander of Ft Phil Kearny. The news was shocking. Days earlier, on December 21st, warriors from several Indian tribes staged a coordinated assault that annihilated a unit from the US Army. “Fetterman’s Massacre” marked the first time the United States military lost to a Native force.
In their book, The Heart of Everything That Is, authors Bob Drury and Tom Clavin provide an excellent work of history. Red Cloud, the Sioux Chief who orchestrated Captain Fetterman’s stunning defeat, is the book’s subject. Opening a window to humanity in the old west, Red Cloud’s story is told in vivid narrative. Readers walk beside Red Cloud as he master’s both the skills of a warrior and the wiles of plains Indian politics. You are reminded of the extreme brutality of life on the northern plains. The same man who advocated for his people with eloquence, doled out cruelty to his enemies in extra measure.
The Heart of Everything That Is relates the full scope of Red Cloud’s life. It is the story of the Sioux Nation’s migration from Minnesota to the Dakotas and their expansionist war against the northern plain’s other native groups. Here, Red Cloud hones his martial skills against the Crow and Pawnee. It is the story of his loves. Pine Leaf, the woman he loved and Pretty Owl, the woman he married. It is the story of inconsolable tragedy. It is the story of a man who eventually resigns himself to the fate of his people.
While Drury and Clavin tell Red Cloud’s incredible story, in The Heart of Everything That Is readers are reminded of the legends that co-existed in Red Cloud’s life. Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Jim Bridger all play parts in the story. Though he died in 1909, just a little more than one hundred years ago, Red Cloud seems to belong to far older era. The Heart of Everything That Is reminds us that the seismic clash of cultures that took place across the North American continent, that ended in Native subjugation, was a recent event. If you are at least 50 years old, you likely knew people who were alive when Red Cloud died. I strongly recommend this book, it is enlightening.