Lewis B. Patten was a consistent western author that wrote over 90 titles. His novel, “Massacre Ridge”, was released in 1971 by Signet. It was a fertile time for Patten as he released six books that year. The author takes a slightly different approach with this book. It's a fictional account of the real-life 1866 Fetterman Fight between troops and Native Americans in present day Wyoming along the Bozeman Trail.
While using the historical figures of the battle, like Colonel Carrington and Colonel Fetterman, the main character is the fictional civilian named Jess Paddock. He's an everyman laborer that assisted in building Fort Phil Kearny despite the constant barrage of Sioux attacks. Along with building the fort, Paddock voluntarily serves Carrington as a scout reporting on Sioux patterns and strategies.
As the laboring finishes, Paddock realizes the only reason to continue residing at the fort is Molly, a young widow that he's fallen for. The two have plans to marry and that time is fast approaching. As the two talk about the safe passage from the Fort, Paddock is drawn into a dense battle plan to defend the fort from ongoing attacks.
Carrington's aggressive strategy is to bait the Sioux with a wood cutting detail. When they are attacked, which is normal, Colonel Fetterman and Lieutenant Bingham will ride to relief and then pursue the Sioux along the typical escape route through two hills and across two valleys. Carrington will lead a flank attack that will catch the Native Americans between Fetterman's force and his own. Paddock disagrees with this approach and advises the Army that the Sioux are much smarter than that and they are simply baiting the troops for a counter-attack.
Paddock opposing this battle strategy is a big part of the book. Patten places the character into the battles, both as a scout watching from a far or inserted into the intense action. Western fans will be pleased that Patten creates a villain for Paddock as well. Early in the book, Paddock wins big off of Sergeant O'Mara during a night of poker. The ridiculed sergeant fights with Paddock throughout the premise, adding another level of action to what is already a satisfying thrill.
“Massacre Ridge” is another outstanding western tale from Lewis B. Patten. I couldn't be more pleased with it. If you haven't tried this author yet...please find a used book store and grab one of his many western paperbacks. It's money well spent.
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