February 2005

Jack D. Crispin, Jr.

nonfiction

Dog Soldier Justice: The Ordeal of Susanna Alderdice on the Kansas Indian War

Kansas has been getting a bad reputation lately, what with the Red State nonsense and Thomas Frank's book What's the Matter with Kansas. We will leave that argument for another day. What cannot be argued is the fact that the settlement of Kansas was anything but boring. Many consider it the birthplace of the Civil War, with Quantrill's burning of Lawrence, and John Brown's murdering slave owner sympathizers. The long cattle drives ended at the rail heads in several Kansas towns, and the cowboys revelries are notorious. Throw in with these the usual mix of lawmen and lawless, criminals and crusaders, the early days of Kansas were quite lively. But few dramas played out as fierce and horrifying as the Indian Wars.

The cause of these wars are multitude and are still being debated today. Jeff Broome's Dog Soldier Justice: The Ordeal of Susanna Alderdice on the Kansas Indian War looks not for historical answers, nor does it take a political stance. Its aim is to depict the situation of the white settlers during this time. These people were not policy setters, and as such, they played no part in the creation of problem. They were people that wanted a place of their own, land to work and live on. They were a continuation of the creation of this country that started with the first white footsteps on this land.

The story is primarily that of Susanna Alderdice and her family. Through extensive research in the National Archives, author Jeff Broome pieces together the story of this pioneer woman and her capture by Dog Soldiers, the warrior society of the Cheyenne Tribe. During a raid that ended in the murder of two of her sons and her daughter, the pregnant woman was abducted and taken to Colorado. Her husband tried desperately to get the Army to intercede (including a personal appeal to George Custer), but their efforts were hampered by the difficulty of finding the Indians on the empty plains of Kansas, Nebraska and eastern Colorado. When they finally raid the Indian camp, Alderdice is not among the living.

The facts of the story are extremely well documented. Suppositions are identified as such. The great efforts by the author to recreate this story, and to verify the facts give the reader a real glimpse into the lives and hardships of the settlers. The book makes no pretense to consider every point of view, but it gives a concise and clear view of this piece of the puzzle.

This book can be obtained from the Lincoln County Historical Society, 216 W. Lincoln Avenue, Lincoln, KS, 67455. 785-524-9997

Dog Soldier Justice: The Ordeal of Susanna Alderdice on the Kansas Indian War by Jeff Broome
Kansas State Historical Society
314 Pages