- Aug 2011
- The Castle Anthrax
Nice article linked from HistoryNet. There can be no doubt that the extermination of the plains buffalo helped end the Indian Wars. As an aside, and as already been mentioned, it's difficult, at best, to homogenize all Indian conflicts as "The Indian Wars." There were many factors that tipped the balance in favor of the settlers, such as climate, the development of the railroad infrastructure, and disease to name a few. Also the acts of "Opening" a particular area to settlement or mining provided a moral and psychological boon given the settlers were then not merely trying to overpower local tribes for conquest's sake, but rally around effected settlements. The west is littered with skirmish and massacre sites. All of which had their moment in the frontier and sometimes national press. Subsequently, they severed as rallying cries. I believe the least effective factor against the Indians was the Army. Ultimately it was weapons technology which finally allowed the Army to prevail. Evolving weapons tech notwithstanding, the Army did much to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. One example was the Army's pass on Samuel Colt's new revolver when he offered it to the Department of War. The list of military blunders is extensive. A common tactic was to pursue retreating riders. How many ambushes did the Army run right into? As far as the effect of the extermination of the buffalo herds, the buffalo was the plains tribes' way of life. Extinguishing the herds hastened the settlement of the tribes onto the reservations. I often think in this era of romantic revisionist history what if there were large free roaming herds of buffalo today? We would never tolerate it. Can you imagine driving across the midwest at 80mph and hitting one of those things! Deer and antelope are bad enough, but a buffalo?! Buffalo are an animal that was completely incompatible with the roaring industrial and subsequent revolutions.