Oh What a Slaughter: Massacres in the American West: 1846-1890

Larry McMurtry

Larry McMurtry knows a thing or two about both the West and good storytelling. In this slim volume, he looks closely at six massacres, including the little-known Sacramento River Massacre. He also considers a pair of military battles (including Little Bighorn) that had the quality of massacres, since they were what McMurtry calls “the total wipeout, a battle in which one side succeeds in annihilating the other to the last man.” The 1846 massacre of Maidu, Wintu and Yana people by soldiers under the command of the famous Capt. John C. Frémont is so forgotten that its location is only approximately known. Of more than local interest, McMurtry’s insightful meditation on the long-term moral consequences of the massacres for the West makes this book both thoughtful and necessary.