Historian and author Shannon D. Smith will discuss her book “Give Me Eighty Men: Women and the Myth of the Fetterman Fight,” shedding new light on the Fetterman Massacre, which was the U.S. army’s worst defeat in the West until the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. This talk will be held outdoors, so bring your lawn chairs (and possibly blankets!) for what’s sure to be an informative, lively discussion. Free and open to the public. Note that food and drink will not be offered, but you may bring your own. No alcoholic beverages, please.
Please wear masks and practice social distancing.
Sponsored by Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.
Smith is from Western Nebraska and is currently the executive director of the Wyoming Humanities Council. The Neihardt Foundation is pleased to feature Nebraska authors as part of its Sunday at the Museum program as it continues its Centenary Celebration of John G. Neihardt being named Nebraska’s Poet Laureate.
More about the book from Goodreads.com: “With eighty men I could ride through the entire Sioux nation.” The story of what has become popularly known as the Fetterman Fight, near Fort Phil Kearney in present-day Wyoming in 1866, is based entirely on this infamous declaration attributed to Capt. William J. Fetterman. Historical accounts cite this statement in support of the premise that bravado, vainglory, and contempt for the fort’s commander, Col. Henry B. Carrington, compelled Fetterman to disobey direct orders from Carrington and lead his men into a perfectly executed ambush by an alliance of Plains Indians. In the aftermath of the incident, Carrington’s superiors—including generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman—positioned Carrington as solely accountable for the “massacre” by suppressing exonerating evidence. In the face of this betrayal, Carrington’s first and second wives came to their husband’s defense by publishing books presenting his version of the deadly encounter. Although several of Fetterman’s soldiers and fellow officers disagreed with the women’s accounts, their chivalrous deference to women’s moral authority during this age of Victorian sensibilities enabled Carrington’s wives to present their story without challenge. Influenced by these early works, historians focused on Fetterman’s arrogance and ineptitude as the sole cause of the tragedy. In Give Me Eighty Men, Shannon D. Smith reexamines the works of the two Mrs. Carringtons in the context of contemporary evidence. No longer seen as an arrogant firebrand, Fetterman emerges as an outstanding officer who respected the Plains Indians’ superiority in numbers, weaponry, and battle skills. Give Me Eighty Men both challenges standard interpretations of this American myth and shows the powerful influence of female writers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”
Join us for the first virtual book club hosted by the John G. Neihardt Foundation! The first book we’ll read is Lonesome Dreamer, the definitive biography of Neihardt written by Timothy G. Anderson.
A wine selection chosen by the author will be announced.
A Lonesome Dreamer playlist (made up of songs with the words lonesome and/or dreamer in them!) is available on Spotify at: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3dVd0XWVs8ehWcXNvLiPbn
This invitation is open to anyone who wants to join!
Special Guest – Timothy G. Anderson
Moderator and host – Nancy Gillis
Thursday, October 15, 7-9 p.m. Central.
Via Zoom (an invitation will be shared on the web site and Facebook, and via email).
If you’re uncomfortable with the technology, call or send us an email before Neihardt Book Club and we’ll help you figure it out!
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Available at neihardtcenter.org/store $24.95 plus shipping or your local book store or library.
This is the first biography of Neihardt in nearly 40 years. Offering insight into both his personal and his literary life, this biography reaffirms Neihardt’s place in American literary history, his successes and failures, and his unbreakable spirit. The author describes Neihardt’s life from his humble beginnings in Illinois, to being named poet laureate of Nebraska in 1921, to his wildly popular appearance on the Dick Cavett Show at the age of 90.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER WHILE READING “LONESOME DREAMER”:
- What do you make of the book’s title, “Lonesome Dreamer”? Did you find Neihardt to be lonesome? Was he a dreamer?
- Neihardt was a prolific reader and writer. What were his successes and failures?
- What role do you think his parents played in the direction of his writing career?
- What about his wife, Mona? What impact did she have?
- What did you know about Neihardt prior to reading this book?
- What’s Neihardt’s most admirable trait? Would you like to have known him?
- Which events in the book were most interesting to you?
- What did you learn about the time period in which the book is set that you did not previously know?
- What do you think was the impact of place on Neihardt’s writing?
- If Neihardt were here today, what do you think he would be thinking, saying, and writing about?