On August 19, 1854, U.S. Army lieutenant John L. Grattan led a detachment of twenty-nine soldiers and one civilian interpreter to a large Lakota encampment near Fort Laramie to arrest an Indian man accused of killing a Mormon emigrant’s cow. The terrible series of events that followed, which became known as the Grattan Massacre, unleashed the opening volley in the First Sioux War—and marked the beginning of a generation of Indian warfare on the Great Plains. All Because of a Mormon Cow tells, for the first time, the full story of this seminal event in the history of the American West.
Where previous accounts of the Grattan Massacre have made do with limited primary sources, this volume includes eighty contemporary, annotated accounts of the fight and its aftermath, many newly discovered or recovered from obscurity. Recorded when the events were fresh in their narrators’ memories, these documents bring a sense of immediacy to a story more than a century and a half old. Alongside the voices heard here—of the Indian leaders Little Thunder and Big Partisan, of Mormons from passing emigrant trains, and of government officials charged with investigating the massacre, among many others—the editors include a substantial and thorough introduction that underscores the significance of the Grattan Massacre in all its depth and detail.
All Because of a Mormon Cow offers a better understanding even as it evokes the drama of a highly controversial episode in the history of relations between Indians and non-Indians in the American West.