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Webisode 8: 1865-1875 Page: 1 | 2

Indians on Horseback
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Indians on Horseback
In this photograph a Plains Indian family on horseback moves its belongings. The vast majority of eastern Indians had been forced west during the period of the 1830s, and settled on the lands that the federal government allotted to them. "There, beyond the limits of any state," promised President Andrew Jackson, "[they shall be] in possession of land of their own, which they shall possess as long as grass grows or water runs." But Jackson's fine words were just that. As soon as white settlers needed lands in the West, treaties were broken and reservations broken up or made smaller. Between 1860 and 1890 there erupted terrible Indian wars in the West. In the end, the Indian was simply outnumbered and outarmed.



William Tecumseh Sherman
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William Tecumseh Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman, shown here as he looked during the Civil War, was one of the major figures in American military history. After the war he continued on in the army, succeeding to the post of commanding general after Ulysses S. Grant became president in 1869, and keeping that post until 1884. That meant he presided over most of the Indian wars. In this role he was brutal. When U.S. troops fought the Modoc Indians along the Oregon-California border in 1872 Sherman told his officers, "You will be fully justified in their utter extermination."


Plains Indians Hunting Buffalo
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Plains Indians Hunting Buffalo
In 1830 the artist George Caitlin traveled west and painted Indians in their natural habitats. Here he depicts a Plains Indian buffalo hunt in the days before whites had encroached on their civilization. Buffalo once numbered in the tens of millions on the western prairies. Exterminated by white bounty hunters, by 1889 their number was fewer than 600.


Settlers Attacked by Indians
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Settlers Attacked by Indians
In this etching, white settlers in a wagon train are attacked by hostile Indians on the prairie. These kinds of incidents helped the federal government justify an increasingly hard-line position towards the western tribes. And from the 1860s through the 1880s Plains Indians went to war with the United States over ownership of the West.


Custer's Last Charge
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"Custer's Last Charge"
This 1876 lithograph depicts "Custer's Last Charge" (otherwise known as "Custer's Last Stand"). On June 25, 1876, George Armstrong Custer and his troops were attacked by Sioux Indian warriors under the leadership of Crazy Horse. All of Custer's men were killed that day, in what became known as the Battle of Little Bighorn. Custer's defeat led to a new determination to subdue all western Indians.


Chief War Bonnet
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Chief War Bonnet
Pictured here is War Bonnet, a chief of the Cheyenne Indians of Colorado. He was photographed at Mathew Brady's studio in New York City, having traveled there from Colorado for an appearance at P.T. Barnum's American Museum. He died in 1864 at the Sand Creek Massacre, a full-fledged butchering of Cheyenne Indians, including unarmed women and children. That massacre was led by Col. John M. Chivington, who was never punished for his role in the massacre.


Gold Prospectors
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Gold Prospectors
Here are five gold prospectors heading out to a new gold field in the West, their wagon pulled by two oxen.


Ulysses S. Grant
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Ulysses S. Grant
President Grant, shown here, presided over much of the era of the Indian wars; during his two terms of office more than 200 battles were fought. Grant was far more sympathetic to Indians than most other early presidents; he once wrote his wife, "It is really my opinion that the whole race would be harmless and peaceable if they were not put upon by the whites." In 1870 he agreed that it would be cheaper to house and educate all Indians than to carry on the Indian war for even one more year. But the war went on.


Buffalo Bones
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Buffalo Bones
In the mid-nineteenth century, professional white hunters began to thin the Western buffalo herds. They were slaughtered to provide buffalo robes to eastern buyers, but also as part of an official policy to destroy the Plains Indian's chief food source. Most carcasses were left simply to rot where they fell. In the photograph here, huge piles of buffalo bones are gathered up from northwestern plains.


Carl Schurz
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Carl Schurz
Carl Schurz -- shown here as he looked in the 1870s -- was an émigré from Germany, and a leader of German-Americans in the nineteenth century. In 1869 he became the first German-born member of the U.S. Senate.



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