In 1866, a new gold discovery and an inconclusive conference force the U.S. Army to build a road and fort in territory ceded by previous treaty to the Sioux...to the disgust of frontier ...
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In 1866, a new gold discovery and an inconclusive conference force the U.S. Army to build a road and fort in territory ceded by previous treaty to the Sioux...to the disgust of frontier scout Jim Bridger, whose Cheyenne wife led him to see the conflict from both sides. The powder-keg situation needs only a spark to bring war, and violent bigots like Lieut. Rob Dancy are all too likely to provide this. Meanwhile, Bridger's chance of preventing catastrophe is dimmed by equally wrenching personal conflicts. Unusually accurate historically. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The main action towards the end re-enacts the 'Fetterman Fight' (aka 'Fetterman Massacre') an actual event that took place in December 21 1866. The basic facts are correct - reinforcements are set to protect a wagon train of soldiers gone to collect wood. However, the numbers of troops involved and their disposition are incorrect. Fetterman had 49 infantry (none in this film) and 27 cavalry as part of his detachment (all were killed). Similarly there were significantly more Indians attacking them. As the fight occurred in December, there were areas of snow and ice in the higher areas around the fort. No secondary attack took place against a relief force. See more »
When Dancy is shot and killed by an arrow, padding can clearly be seen beneath his shirt. See more »
Tomahawk is a good B western with some A list cast players in the credits. The lead character in it is famous mountain man Jim Bridger who in 1868 when this story is supposed to be taking place was 64 years old and according to Wikipedia was suffering from arthritis and rheumatism at that time and was retiring from army scouting, trapping, and all other frontier activities. But what we have is 40 year old Van Heflin in the part. Knowing what I know it does make the film just a trifle ludicrous.
But no more than a whole lot of other Hollywood product which had famous frontier characters in all kinds of situations and plots that were historically and physically impossible. In fact there is some truth in some of the story line in Tomahawk. Bridger in fact did find a scout an alternate trail to the Bozeman trail which did run through Sioux country and it was called the Bridger trail. Red Cloud did go on the war path at this time when an army fort was built on land ceded to him by treaty. It's just that Bridger was out of the picture in real life at the time of this story.
Heflin makes a stoic and impassive Bridger who is on army business and business of his own. He arrives at the fort commanded by Colonel Preston Foster with sidekick Jack Oakie and Susan Cabot, an Indian maiden. He's there to scout for the army though his sympathies are well known to be with the Sioux. But Heflin is also hunting an army man, known to have been involved in the infamous Sand Creek Massacre of 1864.
Along the way Heflin does help rescue Yvonne DeCarlo and her partner Tom Tully who were traveling in a medicine show wagon when they were attacked. A bit of a romance does develop, though it is definitely in second place to the action, if not the accuracy.
Tomahawk though a B film is definitely in line with such post World War II westerns as Fort Apache, Broken Arrow, and Pony Soldier which had a sympathetic Indian point of view. It's got good production values and moves at a decent clip. But don't write any term papers based on it.
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