History and Fiction Combine in Time Traveler’s Thrilling Journey Through the Nez Perce War

What’s it About?

History and historical fiction fans alike will enjoy the panoramic scope of the story.

The following synopsis and review was produced by Book Trib.


In Bitter Groundthe third installment of D.A. Galloway’s innovative Frontier Traveler series, time traveler Graham Davidson and his Crow wife, Makawee, join up with the Nez Perce tribe, led by the inspirational Chief Joseph, as they flee the U.S. Army toward freedom in Canada.

Four months after the Battle of the Little Bighorn (covered in Fatal Ground), Graham and Makawee are searching for a new home after Makawee’s father refuses to accept the orphaned Sioux toddler they took from the battlefield, a child they have named Dakkoótee (the Crow word for “Sioux”). Crow Chief Long Horse cannot abide a child of the hated Sioux living among them.

Refusing to abandon the child, Graham, Makawee, and their four-year-old daughter, Nahkash, light out for the Idaho Territory to dwell with the Nez Perce tribe (longtime allies of the Crow) led by the honorable and wise Chief Joseph. It is the fall of 1876.

After nearly a year with the Nez Perce, Graham and Makawee are part of their new tribe with close associations, including Chief Joseph and Graham’s best friend, Yellow Wolf. But trouble has a way of following Graham and his growing family. The United States government, represented by the U.S. Army under General Oliver O. Howard, is adamant that the remaining Nez Perce holdouts abide by the treaty that demands they leave the Wallowa Valley in eastern Oregon for the reservation.

Perfect Blend of Real History and Thrilling Fiction

Galloway’s portrait of Chief Joseph is moving, faithful to the essential peaceful nature of the man, who at first accedes to Howard’s demands, only to have the retributive actions of several bands of Nez Perce bring down the wrath of the Army.

Chief Joseph realizes that fight or flight are the Nez Perce’s only options: thus begins Bitter Ground and its thrilling — and heartbreaking — reimagining of the Nez Perce 1,200-mile flight to the Canadian border to find refuge with Lakota Chief Sitting Bull and his followers. It is a journey that Graham, Makawee, and their children also take as they try to stay one step ahead of Howard’s bloodthirsty soldiers.

Galloway’s research into Chief Joseph’s War is impressive, including his keen ear for Native American language, dialect, and their varying tribal cultures and customs. He juxtaposes the narrative of Graham and Makawee’s journey alongside Howard’s desperate pursuit of Joseph across one thousand miles of territory — a pursuit that could make or break his military career. The battles and clashes are exciting and historically accurate, and the novel’s photos of the battlefields and real-life people he writes about enliven the story.

Poignant Panoramic Scope of Heartbreaking Story

In Bitter GroundGalloway escapes the “knowability” of the recorded history of the Nez Perce War with poignant and painful scenes that get to the heart of the reader.

As a soyapu (white man), Graham must constantly prove his trustworthiness, not only to the leaders of the Nez Perce, but also his close friend, Yellow Wolf. Galloway also brings Graham face-to-face with his nemesis from previous novels, Lt. Gustavus Doane. But it is the portrayal of Graham and Makawee’s rich and sensual relationship — their dreams and hopes — that is the emotional heart of the novel.

Forced with a difficult decision that will impact their family — perhaps forever — Graham and Makawee race toward the Canadian border along with the few hundred Nez Perce survivors. What will be their future? One thing is certain: Galloway has surprises up his sleeve that readers of the series will never see coming.

History and historical fiction fans alike will enjoy the panoramic scope of Galloway’s story and will come away with a hunger to learn more about the brave Nez Perce, Chief Joseph, and this sad time in U.S. and Native American history.