Around 1868, the Indian Wars had briefly paused and the soon to be butchered treaties remained in force. However, the US Federal government
and private interests were well aware that the “Indian Question” and “problem
of the savages” was still unanswered. In other words, the “problem of the
savages” was that the savages still existed. Those “savages” had been beaten
back for years by the US regular army but they were not completely vanquished.
In fact, despite being outmanned and outgunned and with little to no
competition for the advancements in weaponry of the US Army, the Native
Americans routinely routed the American military, at times slaughtering whole
But now that the secessionists had been dealt with, it became apparent
that it was now time to remove the gloves from the iron fist of the coming
settlements and that the Native Americans had to be annihilated, subjugated, or
displaced from their native lands. Railroads, telegraphs, mines, and the like
were all being hampered by the very existence of Native Americans.
Enter William Sherman, the general famous for his brutal
March to the Sea, the burning of Atlanta, and the destruction of civilian
infrastructure in the US Civil War. Say what you want about Sherman, the man
knew how to win a war. He knew that breaking the backs of the civilian
population and the ability of the society as well as military to sustain itself
was a successful method of warfare. He also knew that the Native Americans
relied upon buffalo for food and shelter and indeed their very survival. In a letter penned in 1868, he wrote that as long as the buffalo were alive, “Indians will go there.
I think it would be wise to invite all the sportsmen of England and America
there this fall for a Grand Buffalo hunt, and make one grand sweep of them