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The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend

Unabridged Audiobook

Written By: Bob Drury

Narrated By: Tom Clavin, George Newbern

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Date: November 2013

Duration: 12 hours 7 minutes


An astonishing untold story of the American West.

Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Geronimo, Quannah Parker—each enjoys a place of honor in the pantheon of the Old West. Lesser known is their contemporary Red Cloud, who may in fact have been the most powerful, and was definitively the most successful, Indian war leader in the history of the West.

The great Oglala Sioux chief Red Cloud was the only Plains Indian to have a war named after him. More impressive, he was the only war chief to defeat the United States Army in that war, forcing the American government to sue for peace on his terms. At the peak of Red Cloud’s powers the Sioux could claim control of one-fifth of the contiguous United States and the loyalty of thousands of fierce fighters. But the fog of history has left Red Cloud strangely obscured. Now, thanks to the rediscovery of a lost autobiography, and painstaking research by two award-winning authors, the astonishing story of the nineteenth century’s most dynamic and successful Indian warrior can finally be told.

Born in 1821 near the Platte River in modern-day Nebraska, Red Cloud lived an epic life of courage, wisdom, and fortitude in the face of a relentless enemy—the soldiers, settlers, and other invaders who represented the “manifest destiny” of an expanding America. He grew up an orphan and had to overcome myriad social disadvantages to advance in Sioux culture. Red Cloud did that by being the best fighter, strategist, and leader of his fellow warriors. Around campfires and in lodges men and women told stories and sang songs of praise for Red Cloud’s exploits that included fearless raids against the Crow, Pawnee, and other tribes who would try to steal horses and hunting grounds where literally millions of buffalo roamed. But it was the nascent United States that soon emerged as his peoples’ greatest threat.

As the white man pushed further and further west along the famous frontier trails—the Santa Fe and Oregon, the California and Bozeman—they stole the Indians’ land, slaughtered the venerated buffalo, and murdered with impunity anyone who resisted their intrusions. The final straw for Red Cloud and his warriors was the post–Civil War Army’s frenzied spate of fort building throughout the pristine Powder River Country that abutted the Sioux’s sacred Black Hills—Paha Sapa to the Sioux, or “The Heart of Everything That Is.” The result was a gathering of angry tribes under one powerful leader. “The white man lies and steals,” Red Cloud told his thousands of braves at council fire. “My lodges were many, now they are few. The white man wants all. They must fight for it.” What came to be known as Red Cloud’s War culminated in a massacre of American cavalry troops that presaged the Little Bighorn and served warning to Washington that the Plains Indians would fight, and die, for their land and traditions. But many more American soldiers would die first.

In The Heart of Everything That Is, Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, the New York Times best-selling authors of Halsey’s Typhoon and The Last Stand of Fox Company, restore Red Cloud to his rightful primacy in American history in a sweeping and dramatic narrative based on years of primary research. As they trace the events leading to Red Cloud’s War they provide intimate portraits of the many and various men and women whose lives Red Cloud touched—epic mountain men such as the larger-than-life Jim Bridger; American Generals like William Tecumsah Sherman who were charged with annihilating the Sioux; fearless explorers such as the dashing John Bozeman; and the memorable warriors whom Red Cloud groomed, the legendary Crazy Horse in particular. And residing in the heart of this narrative is Red Cloud, fighting for the very existence of the Indian way of life.

Red Cloud's two-year war featured the deaths of hundreds on both side as well as unspeakable atrocities. The fighting peaked on a bitter cold day in December 1866 when the decorated Civil War hero Major William Judd Fetterman led a column of cavalry and dragoons into the war’s climactic engagement. By the end of that fateful day not a white man was let alive on the blood-soaked battlefield. The government in Washington sued for peace and agreed to abandon the forts defacing the Powder River Country. A triumphant Red Cloud burned them to the ground.

This fiery narrative, fueled by contemporary diaries and journals, newspaper reports, eyewitness accounts, and myriad first-hand sourcing, is the definitive story of the conflict between an expanding white civilization and the Plains Indians who stood in its way. The Heart of Everything That Is not only places the reader at the center of this stirring epoch, but finally gives the great warrior-chief Red Cloud the modern-day recognition he deserves.

Red Cloud's New York Times obituary

December 10, 1909

Red Cloud, the famous old Sioux Indian chief, is dead. This information was received today by Supt. Brennan of the Pine Ridge Indian Agency, who is in Washington attending the meeting of those interesting in the education of the Indian.

Red Cloud was formerly one of the greatest of Indian chiefs. He had been desperately ill for the last three years, and toward the end he was blind and decrepit. Although at one time lord of all Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and parts of Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming and Montana, it is most likely that Red Cloud died practically penniless. For the last twenty-five years he had been living as a pensioner of the government on its reservation in North Dakota.

Red Cloud was born about 90 years ago. He was brought up in obscurity, his father being a common Indian warrior, and not one of the chiefs whom his son might have succeeded. By sheer force of will, bravery, and intelligence Red Cloud rose step by step to be the chief of the greatest, most warlike, and most savage tribe of American Indians. In his war of thirty years against the whites Red Cloud became known to the government’s Indian fighters as the boldest and fiercest of Sioux leaders, and it was during those years that he gradually worked his way up until he was recognized as the leader of all the Sioux bands and tribes.

In 1866 he went among the restless tribes who had been wasting their strength in feuds among themselves and persuaded them to make common war against the whites. The military authorities were aware that some disturbing influence was at work, but they did not suspect Red Cloud until he appeared suddenly at the head of several thousand members of the Sioux tribe, and by masterly strategy succeeded in wiping out an entire command that had been dispatched against him. His first notable victory, however, is called the “Massacre of Fort Phil Kearney.” In this fight the Indian chief wiped out the entire government force at this little fort, losing several hundred of his own warriors in accomplishing this.

Red Cloud was a diplomat of rare ability. In the councils and meetings of his people he ruled them with a stolid hand, and gained his points through an orator whom he would always hire on such occasions. His mouthpiece, however, was instructed what to say and how to handle points under consideration. When Red Cloud fought the whites he did so to the best of his ability. But when he signed the first peace paper he buried his tomahawk, and this peace pact was never broken.

At the close of the long campaign against the Sioux Indians, Gen. Crook in 1876 defeated Red Cloud in the presence of thousands of his followers and Spotted Tail was named as his successor. Spotted Tail was later killed by crow dog and Sitting Bull became the real leader of the Sioux, although he was not properly a war chief. Red Cloud was induced to make a trip to Washington to ask the government for assistance to his men, and on this trip he was convinced of the white man’s superiority over the Indian. When Sitting Bull again stirred the tribes Red Cloud refused to join him, and warned the young warriors against listening to evil advice. During this attempted outbreak Indian policemen were dispatched to arrest Sitting Bull, and when he resisted arrest he was killed. This ended the Indian trouble for all time.

The government built a house for Red Cloud on the reservation at Pine Ridge, N. D., and there he had lived peacefully ever since.


  • Christopher Zott

    Enjoyed this book very much. Learned so much of Red Cloud and his influences. The book,I felt, was balanced in its detailing of all the horrendous acts on the frontier on both sides. It was a great example of history story telling. Only as they say fact is always stranger than fiction.

  • Kenneth Johnson

    When I'm done listening I'm sure I will buy the book and read it again, exceptionally well written.

  • glenice nickel

    Well written and will read enjoyed the great depth and detail depicting the travesties inflicted upon the American Indians by a current government. Unfortunately it has not ended

  • James Ziegler

    It's a book that is more then just about Chief Red Cloud, it's about the entire indian nation at its pinnacle. The author does a excellent job of explaining the details and keeping you enthralled! I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves American history.