The Northern Cheyenne Breakout from Fort Robinson, 1878–1879
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
352 Pages | 6 x 9 | 24 b&w and 3 color illus., 6 maps
Historian Jerome A. Greene is renowned for his memorable chronicles of egregious events involving American Indians and the U.S. military, including Sand Creek, Washita, and Wounded Knee. Now, in January Moon, Greene draws from extensive research and fieldwork to explore a signal—and appallingly brutal—event in American history: the desperate flight of Chief Dull Knife’s Northern Cheyenne Indians from imprisonment at Fort Robinson, Nebraska.
In the wake of the Great Sioux War of 1876–77, the U.S. government expelled most Northern Cheyennes from their northern plains homeland to Indian Territory, in present-day Oklahoma. Following mounting hardships, many of those people, under Chiefs Dull Knife and Little Wolf, broke away, seeking to return north. While Little Wolf’s band managed initially to elude pursuing U.S. troops, Dull Knife’s people were captured in 1878 and ushered into a makeshift barrack prison at Camp (later Fort) Robinson, where they spent months waiting for government officials to decide their fate. It is here that Greene’s riveting narrative edges toward its climax.
On the night of January 9, 1879, in a bloody struggle with troops, Dull Knife’s people staged a massive breakout from their barrack prison in a last-ditch bid for freedom. Greene paints a vivid picture of their frantic escape, which took place under an unusually brilliant moon that doomed many of those fleeing by silhouetting them against the snow. A climactic engagement at Antelope Creek proved especially devastating, and the helpless people were nearly annihilated.
In gripping detail, Greene follows the survivors’ dreadful experiences into their aftermath, including creation of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Carrying the story to the present day, he describes Cheyenne tribal events commemorating the breakout—all designed to ensure that the injustices of nineteenth-century U.S. government policy will never be forgotten.
Greene’s January Moon should prompt more research into aftermath of the Great Sioux War (and other Indian conflicts of the late 19th century) and the effects of the disreputable reservation system, the concentration of tribes far from their Native homelands and the failure of the federal government to protect and treat America’s indigenous people with the respect they deserved as human beings and fellow Americans.—True West magazine
“Greene’s January Moon should prompt more research into aftermath of the Great Sioux War (and other Indian conflicts of the late 19th century) and the effects of the disreputable reservation system, the concentration of tribes far from their Native homelands and the failure of the federal government to protect and treat America’s indigenous people with the respect they deserved as human beings and fellow Americans.” —True West
“To call this the definitive history of the Cheyenne Outbreak might be premature. Still, Greene has come close. He has done an admirable job pulling the sources together. Military historians especially will find here much to ponder about soldiering in the American West and the trappings of the government’s Indian policy. As this book shows, inflexible policies conjured up by bureaucrats in distant halls prevented more humanitarian responses in the field. The outcome was a tragedy that could have been prevented.”—U.S. Military History Review
“January Moon adds to Greene’s already sterling reputation by providing the most thorough, well-documented account of the Fort Robinson Breakout."—Journal of Arizona History
“In January Moon: The Northern Cheyenne Breakout from Fort Robinson, 1878–1879, Greene unveils the silhouette of Northern Cheyenne history as an indivisible part of the larger Great Sioux War… This is an engaging book that makes a significant contribution to the larger history of the Indian Wars… January Moon is well-suited to popular audiences broadly interested in the Indian Wars or the American West, as well as specialists interested in the complex history of the High Plains Indigenous peoples or the Northern Cheyenne specifically.—Western Historical Quarterly