Naturalized U.S. citizen Colonel Phillipe Régis Denis de Kérédern de Trobriand was in his native France working on Four Years With the Army of the Potomac, a personal memoir of the Civil War, when he was recalled to active duty in 1867. As commander of the Middle District of the Department of the Dakotas, de Trobriand was assigned to Fort Stevenson in present-day North Dakota. He used the opportunity to continue his interest in painting; his landscapes and portraits of American Indians have been compared to the works of well-known Western artists George Catlin and Karl Bodmer.
De Trobriand also continued writing. His journal, Military Life in Dakota, offers a unique perspective on the Indian wars and what he termed the “absurd policies” of the federal government’s 1868 Peace Commission: “Hostilities have been revived among the Sioux, who are supposed to have been disarmed by a generosity which they very naturally take for fear….[T]hey make use of the gifts in making war with greater confidence and energy. The only way to bring the thing to an end is, before all else, to chastise them thoroughly. From the moment when they become convinced that we are the stronger, they will keep quiet. Until then, no.”
De Trobriand remained in the West, serving at posts in Montana, Utah and Wyoming until 1875, when he was transferred to New Orleans in the waning days of Reconstruction. He retired from the Army in 1879 and divided his time between New Orleans, France and New York. He died in Bayport, N.Y., in 1897.
Originally published in the July 2006 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.