Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Paul Prucha

Second Advisor

Robert P. Hay

Third Advisor

Frank L. Klement

Fourth Advisor

Karel Bicha

Fifth Advisor

Athan Theoharis


The soldiers and the Sioux have been the subject matter for books too numerous to mention. Some volumes have become period pieces and in this sense valuable works. Others, aimed at a popular audience, have glorified the western experience at the expense of factual evidence and scholarship. Some were serious efforts that fell short. In the past twenty years several books on military-Sioux relations have merited the attention of serious students. Edgar I. Stewart's Custer's Luck (1955) was an effort to separate the myth and legend from the actual events of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. His detailed account of the Indian's "last defiant gesture" has stood the test of time. In 1956 Robert G. Athearn published William Tecumseh Sherman and the Settlement of the West, in which he portrayed the post Civil War army's role as protector of frontier settlers. This fine work illustrated the problems of a top military official during the years 1865-1883. Other officers who served for brief interludes on the northern Plains have also received the attention of scholars. James T. King's War Eagle: A Life of General Eugene A, Carr (1963) shows the varied experiences of a field commander in the West. Another book, larger in scope, is Richard N. Ellis' General Pope and U.S. Indian Policy (1970) in which he described the development of a western department and division commander who changed from a militant to a humanitarian on the question of Indian policy.

Two of the finest works to appear in recent years on the military and the Indians are from the pen of Robert M. Utley. In his excellent synthesis, Frontier Regulars: The United States Army and the Indian, 1866-1890 (1973), the author tried to reach a middle ground between the eastern humanitarian view of the soldier as butcher of Indians and the military's picture of themselves as the "advance guard of civilization." In an earlier work, The Last Days of the Sioux Nation (1963), Utley masterfully described the military and psychological conquest of the Sioux which culminated in the Ghost Dance delusion and the Wounded Knee tragedy of 1890-1891. In another recent book, James C. Olson' s Red Cloud and the Sioux Problem (1965), the author took the story of Red Cloud's people and described their transition from "warriors to wards of the Government." In both Utley's book on the Sioux and Olson's book on Red Cloud, the point-of-view is primarily that of the Indians.

General Alfred H. Terry appeared in all of the above works but only as a minor figure. And yet be was a significant individual who served for eighteen years during the critical period in the development of military-Sioux relations. He commanded the Department of Dakota from 1866 to 1869 and from 1873 to 1886 and the Division of the Missouri from 1886 to 1888. When Terry came to the northern Plains after the Civil War the Teton Sioux roamed Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana almost as they pleased. By the late 1880's the Tetons had been relegated to a portion of South Dakota and forced to subscribe to the practices of the white man's civilization. By using the general's correspondence and reports as well as other materials, I have tried to determine his role in the decline of the Sioux. He held a true concern for the native American which was illustrated in his work of formulating and carrying out Indian policy.

While top army officers moved from department to department, Terrv remained in Dakota. Through his long experience on the northern Plains the general was in an excellent position to make wise decisions on the management of Indian affairs. His keen legal mind and his humane character led him to seek the best treatment available for the Sioux in the context of late nineteenth century America.



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