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11 August 2021

Book Review - Ridgeline by Michael Punke

This is why I read. Every now and then, I come across a book that has a profound impact. Endurance by Alfred Lansing was the last one, and now I have found Ridgeline by Michael Punke.

Ridgeline is a historical fiction account of the Fetterman Fight (Fetterman Massacre, Battle of the Hundred-in-the-Hands) on the 21st of December 1866, involving a confederation of the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes and a detachment of the United States Army, based at Fort Phil Kearny, Wyoming.

As I read this book, I was constantly interrupted by my own thoughts. Sparks of new and old ideas could only be quietened by repeatedly assuring myself I will reread when I am finished. The underlying comparison of fighting an experienced enemy on their own land with technological overmatch was not lost on me. I often found myself reevaluating my own actions as a leader in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The lessons don't stop at the philosophical. Crazy Horse taught me that one man's tactical pursuit is another man's trap, and the point of most friction is in between each team. Punke shifts the story across the battlefield by focusing on the leaders from all sides, highlighting the power of a leader that can synchronise effects and place themselves at the right place at the right time.

We can never know what conversations were had between Red Cloud and Crazy Horse or between Infantry Captain William Fetterman and the brash Cavalry Officer Lieutenant George Grummond. Still, through his research, Punke re-creates these interactions giving an insight into the leaders and men from both sides, setting the conditions for you to draw your own conclusions of what happened on a frozen day in 1866 in Wyoming.

I was genuinely disappointed when this book finished and have put it straight back into the lineup to read again. Highly recommended.

Michael Punke is also the author of Revenant, an incredible story of American frontiersman Hugh Glass later adapted into a screenplay starring Leonard DiCaprio and Tom Hardy.

Written by : Ben Horton