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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 331

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This is the grave of George Crook.

Born in 1830 on a farm near Taylorsville, Ohio, Crook managed a nomination to West Point but wasn’t very good at it and finished close to the bottom of his class in 1852. He was assigned to the army posts in the west, mostly in California, for a long time, from 1852-61. There he was involved in the region’s various conflicts with Native peoples, usually oppressing them, sometimes theoretically helping them. He was the commander of the Pitt River Expedition in 1857, which was part of the genocidal project to clear potential California gold fields of Native peoples. He was seriously wounded by an arrow while on his command. Crook slowly rose in rank and was a captain when the Civil War broke out in 1861. Now told to come east, he was promoted to colonel and given charge of the Ohio’s 16th Volunteers. He rose fairly rapidly during the war, leading troops at Antietam and then given an infantry command in the Army of the Cumberland, which fought at Chickamauga among other battles, finally working heavily in southwest Virginia. He was actually captured by the Confederates toward the end of the war and spent a month as a POW until a prisoner exchange freed him, allowing him to be back in the military and at Appomattox when Lee surrendered his treason army.

Crook’s work in the Civil War is not why he is famous. He was sent back to the West after the war and was one of the lead generals in the genocidal campaigns of the next 20 years to crush all indigenous resistance to white expansion. He, following the lead of Sherman and Sheridan, used the tactics of total war pioneered against the South to end Native resistance. He first did this in the Snake War. Fighting the Paiute was hard because they moved around a lot except during the winter, so he concentrated his fighting then in order to capture them and destroy their food supplies. He then was the commander in the Yavapai War in Arizona, which took place in the aftermath of the Camp Grant Massacre, where American settlers allied with the O’odham massacred 150 Pinal and Aravaipa Apaches one of the worst moments in the entire history of American genocide. Crook’s role was the force those Apache groups onto reservations and end any resistance or revenge for the massacre. Successful at this, he was then sent against the tribes of the northern Plains, heading the Department of the Platte and leading American troops in the Great Sioux War. That included the Battle of the Rosebud in 1876, where he and his Crow and Shoshone allies barely survived an attack from the Lakota and Cheyenne. In the aftermath of the Little Bighorn, Crook was tapped to lead the revenge, destroying Lakota supplies at the Battle of Slim Buttes and helping to bring Lakota resistance to a close. Finally, he was sent to crush Geronimo and the Apaches in Arizona, where he negotiated the famed warrior’s surrender. But that night, a whiskey dealer told Geronimo that he would be murdered so he and his warriors fled to Mexico. This cost Crook his command and he was replaced by Nelson Miles, who finished this genocidal campaign and made sure that everyone involved was imprisoned, which infuriated Crook, who was less openly genocidal than Miles.

While I don’t think Crook ever expressed any regret, Crook clearly was upset by how the conquered Native peoples were being treated and he spoke out against the worst violations of their human rights in his last years, even as he was still of the Military Division of the Missouri. In fact, he died suddenly in 1890 in Chicago while still commander.

George Crook is buried on the confiscated lands of the traitor Lee, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

If you would like this series to cover additional participants in the genocide against Native Americans, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. I head to Baltimore today for the Baltimore Book Festival and visiting various dead of people of the region. Your contributions made this happen so thanks. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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