Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Book Review: I Will Fight No More Forever

(Blogjob tags: 1880’s1890’sAppaloosa horse breedhistory of injustice in the United Statesmilitary historyNez Perce history.)

Title: I Will Fight No More Forever 
Author: Merrill D. Beal
Date: 1963
Publisher: Ballantine
ISBN: 0-345-32131-6
Length: 398 pages including references and index
Illustrations: black and white photo centerfold
Quote: "Joseph and his band remain an example and inspiration to those who today are seeking recognition as human beings, equal in the sight of God and therefore entitled to like status among men...The Indian problem remains to plague the American people and their government."
This is the official history book, cited in all the newer ones, about Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce resistance effort. Several editions are available; the one I physically have for sale is one of the cheaper ones, as shown in the photo above.
Joseph was among the first of his people to receive Christian baptism and an English name as a child. He is sometimes called "Young Joseph," and his father is sometimes called "Old Joseph."
Old Joseph, a Christian who wanted peace, laid a heavy charge on Young Joseph: "My are the chief...Always remember that your father never sold his country...This country holds your father's body. Never sell the bones of your father and your mother."
The first wave of European and Euro-American immigrants did not press Young Joseph to sell his tribal homeland. They were mostly gold miners; the Nez Perce lived in the Wallowa Valley, where gold was not found. The Wallowa Valley was not especially attractive to farmers either, although the Nez Perce practiced low-tech farming as well as hunting and gathering. But, most of all, the valley was a pastureland where the Nez Perce raised a special breed of "Palouse" or Appaloosa horses. They bred these horses selectively for a distinctive look as well as for speed and toughness.
(Appaloosa photo courtesy of Jusben at
By the 1870s, Euro-Americans wanted to commandeer the pastures where these horses grazed. They had mixed feelings about "Spotted Horses," but they appreciated the long journeys Nez Perce people made riding on these animals, and wanted to nourish their own livestock on what the Appaloosas ate. The peace-loving Nez Perce did not at first mind sharing the valley with a few outsiders, but when stockmen brought in hogs that destroyed the wild plants the Nez Perce ate, problems began to arise.
The bulk of I Will Fight No More Forever describes the battles in detail, concluding with General Sherman's summary: "The Indians throughout displayed a courage and skill...abstained from scalping; let captive women go free; did not commit indiscriminate murder of peaceful families...and fought with almost scientific skill...Nevertheless,they would not settle down on lands set apart for them...They should never again be allowed to return to Oregon."
Most U.S. readers are familiar with the end of the story: Joseph surrendered, uttering the words that form the title of this book, and remained a respected chief of his exiled people. He petitioned Theodore Roosevelt for "a small piece of the Wallowa Valley," but died, "of a broken heart," before a decision was made. His heartbreak must have been due in part to family tragedies: eight of his children died in childhood, and the ninth also died before Joseph did. Nevertheless, for the sake of their survival, he demonstrated to his surviving followers how to be a good and magnanimous loser.
Overall I Will Fight No More Forever may appeal most to those who like reading about battles and military strategy, but it's one of the classic reference books every student of American history needs to read.
Although Merrill Beal no longer needs a dollar, the minimum cost for books sold through this web site, $5 per copy + $5 per package +$1 per online payment, still applies. You can buy I Will Fight No More Forever (alone) cheaper on Amazon. However, if you buy it here, you can add it to a package containing other books and pay only the one $5 shipping charge, which may bring the total cost lower than the cost of the same package on Amazon.