Into the West Part 4: Hell on Wheels

Clara Wheeler has reached Omaha, hoping to be taken in by her father’s cousins, Daniel Wheeler and his family. Unfortunately, Daniel doesn’t want anything to do with her. In the middle of the war, he wants to send Clara back to Virginia to be with ‘her own people’. But his son, Robert, can’t see turning their backs on someone who needs their help as the right thing to do.

In the fourth episode of Into the West, Hell on Wheels, we see how the lives of each character intertwine with each other as the brutal settlement of the west continues.

Clara was adopted by Samson and Susannah Wheeler, it is slightly hinted that that might be one of the reasons why Daniel and Samson didn’t get along. Though no one can be certain of that, because it is simply stated in the third episode of the series that Samson and Daniel were never on good terms. However, Robert holds no grudge against Clara’s family and decides to take full responsibility for her, watch out for her and care for her himself. Daniel doesn’t like the idea, but as long as he doesn’t have to have anything to do with her himself, he agrees.

In the meantime, the Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific are racing to the finish line. And Abraham High Wolf Wheeler is in the midst of it. Laying tracks for the Central Pacific railroad, he makes friends with the Chinese workers and discovers just what station he’s at in this life. They see that he’s an Indian, and he never tries to hide that fact, even though he’s treated like nothing. Like his father always said, ‘You are one part Lakota and one part Virginia, be proud of both.’

Margaret Light Shines and her husband, Ethan Biggs, have decided to see the places where her mother used to live. Thunder Heart Woman’s world always seemed so different, and Margaret decides she wants to see it. So off to Colorado they go, only to be met with an attack. Thankfully, Margaret’s knowledge of the Lakota language saves her and Ethan from being murdered by Cheyenne warriors. Not only that, but Ethan’s being a photographer also saves them, as the Indians believe the camera to be a magic box.

Margaret vows that she won’t let anything happen to her and Ethan. And it would seem that she can hold true to that vow as they make friends with the Cheyenne tribe. Ethan takes pictures and Margaret speaks to the chief, Black Kettle. But when Black Kettle asks Margaret to be a go between for him so that he might make peace with the white men, it is clear that Margaret is hesitant at first.

Jacob Wheeler Jr. has left home and enlisted in the army as a translator and scout. He never expected to be playing a part against the Indians. Under the command of Custer, Jacob meets with a different brutality that he doesn’t like. But he can’t get out from under the army’s thumb. He never wanted to see the destruction of the Indian, he wanted to help the Indians with his knowledge of the language. But it would seem that all the army wants to do is kill.

While Black Kettle meets with Colonel Chivington to state his desires for peace, the meeting leaves the Indians slightly bewildered. They are left wondering if the white men truly understand that they are for peace, and the white men give them an American flag, saying that as long as they raise it above their village no army will attack them. However, as the Indians ride away, Colonel Chivington plans his attack on the Cheyenne village.

Below are spoilers!!

The morning that Margaret and Ethan plan to leave, Colonel Chivington attacks the village. The massacre of Sand Creek was depicted extremely well in this series. The true savages there that day were not the Indian, but the white men as they killed women, children and defenseless old men. Margaret and Black Kettle raise a white flag alongside the American flag, but it does nothing to stop the attack.

Frantic to get away, Margaret rushes back to Ethan, who is trying to save his equipment and pictures. However, in a struggle with a white soldier, Ethan is intentionally shot and killed. Margaret has lost her husband, and the hole that was in her heart before fills up with grief and sorrow. She runs with what is left of the Cheyenne people and joins them, living the life that her mother lived before her.

In the meantime, Red Cloud has decided to gather up their forces against the white men’s forts. Running Fox’s son and grandson, join Red Cloud. But Dog Star has no wish to lose another son to the white men. He keeps his family out of the fighting. Haven’t they lost enough of their people already?

Led by Crazy Horse, the army of Cheyenne and Souix warriors attack a supply train near Fort Phil Kearny. Leading an army of men over Lodge Trail Ridge, the Indians massacre the small group of white soldiers and a victory is won. Red Lance, Running Fox’s grandson, also becomes a man that day and the Cheyenne warrior Roman Nose, gives him the medicine wheel necklace that Thunder Heart Woman once gave to Jacob. It has been passed now from Loved by the Buffalo, to Thunder Heart Woman, to Jacob, to Jacob Jr., to Margaret who had it taken from her by Roman Nose and now to Red Lance. Where will this necklace end up next?

Clara and Robert  have endured Daniel as best they can. Daniel Wheeler is after his fortune, creating boomtowns wherever the railroad stops as it makes its way towards where the tracks will eventually meet. Love is in the air between Clara and Robert, and Daniel sees that. He strongly disapproves, but Robert is very much against his father’s ways and is slowly pulling away with the desire to strike out on his own…with Clara at his side.

Margaret has endured enough hardship with the loss of her husband. When a peace treaty is signed by Black Kettle, she thinks that maybe, just maybe, they will finally live peaceably. But that hope is soon shattered when the soldiers attack them once again and Black Kettle is killed. Even more devestating for Margaret is when she sees her youngest brother, Jacob, among the white soldiers after she has been made a captive by them.

Jacob never expected to see his sister among the Cheyenne people. But when he tries to get her out of the prison she is now in, Margaret refuses to run. She fights him, grabs his pistol and holds it to his chest as she cries that these people, who he says she doesn’t belong with, are her sisters. Her brothers and her mothers…her children. She won’t leave them. Jacob too is overcome by the devestation that now fills his sister and they hold each other and cry together. He returns her to the prison, and that is the last time brother and sister see each other.

Abe Wheeler has been proud to be a part of the completion of the railroad. Even when the last track is set and the people scorn them because he’s and Indian and the others are Chinese, he knows they can’t take this accomplishment away from him, or his friends. He walks away from the railroad, once again a loner in the world.

Clara and Robert have gotten married and strike out on their own after the railroad has met. Determined to make it in this wild and new west, they ride off into the sunset, leaving the greed that filled Daniel Wheeler’s heart behind them forever.

But, the annihilation of the Indian nation has only just begun. More and more they are persecuted, and now the white men have run a trail of iron through their land. They have been robbed, murdered and taken captive, forced to live on reservations where their is no meat for them to hunt. This is their plight, this is what the white men have done to them…and it will only get worse.

Into the West: Hell on Wheels, drove a knife into my heart. This is history. This is our history. This is what we did to a nation of people. The taming of the west was brutal and destroyed so many lives. If you want to know the true history of this country, then you should watch this series. You’ll learn alot from it. I know I did.

Coming Soon: Fearing that she won’t be accepted by her uncle because she’s a girl, Sydney decides there’s only one thing she can do…pretend to be a man! Look for my review of Fancy Pants, by Cathy Marie Hake, soon!!

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