Review: ‘The Last Campaign’ straightforward but dramatic

“The Last Campaign: Sherman, Geronimo and the War for America,” by H.W. Brands (Doubleday)

Though they’re mentioned in the subtitle, William Tecumseh Sherman and Geronimo often feel more like supporting players in H.W. Brands’ latest book “The Last Campaign.”

That’s more a compliment than a complaint, because it illustrates just how much history is packed into Brands’ latest book. The Army general and Apache leader are the pillars for Brands’ straightforward yet dramatic retelling of the nation’s westward expansion and battles with American Indians in the years following the Civil War.

Brands, a prolific historian who has tackled many figures and eras of American history, provides an account that’s accessible to any casual reader of history and not just academics.

The book does serve as a dual biography of Sherman and Geronimo, showing how these two figures shaped a tumultuous era. But its most gripping parts rely on firsthand accounts of American Indians’ loss of their land and way of life, and the violence that ensued during these years.

The book introduces readers to the wide cast of players during this period, and not just the familiar names like Sitting Bull or George Custer. Brands also doesn’t lose sight of the larger picture of the nation’s politics, avoiding a book that could have easily turned into a simple recitation of every battle and conflict without context.

Brands’ writing style and his mastery of history make the book an excellent introduction to the time period for newcomers, and a fresh perspective for those already familiar with this chapter in the nation’s history.

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