New Map

My Nana story in the December issue of Wild West is illustrated with a great map by Joan Pennington. I have posted another one of Joan’s maps here on Tracking Nana. I originally commissioned this map to accompany a new, hardcover edition of my book, but I’m not at all sure I’ll ever get around to doing the work necessary to revise, annotate and index a new edition.

December Wild West on Newsstands

My Nana’s Raid story is in the December issue of Wild West magazine now in the mail and on newsstands. It’s always hard for me to look at something I’ve written on a printed page and I suspect this may be the last time I see my byline in a real magazine. But having said that, I’m pretty pleased with the result. Plus, Wild West came up with some great photographs to illustrate, as well as an interesting piece by Lynda Sanchez on Rattlesnake Power in Apache culture.

Fiddler’s Green

Just noted one of the links I’ve been using is gone. Here’s a new link to the “Cavalrymen’s Poem,” better known as “Fiddler’s Green.” Originally an Irish fisherman’s shanty, the verses were adapted by some anonymous barracks poet sometime before the turn of the (19th-20th) Century. Published in the U.S. Army’s Cavalry Journal in 1923, the rhymes became associated with the 1st Cavalry Division.

Farewell to Marse Robert

This week the State of Virginia took down the statue of a man who sacrificed his career, his family fortune and his health in its defense. The photos remind me of Gulliver in Lilliput, a giant in a diminished world ensnared by little men. Today’s culture warriors are so convinced of the absolute rightness of their convictions that they will not trouble themselves to learn more about a man who opposed both slavery and secession and yet fought a war in support of both.

They might at least pause to hear the testimony of the Rev. Wm. Mack Lee, a Baptist minister who began life as Lee’s slave, was freed by him ten years before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and yet continued to serve him through the Civil War and until the general’s death. “I was raised by one of the greatest men in the world,” the Reverend Lee later wrote. “There was never one born of a woman greater than Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to my judgment.”

Even if they knew more of the man behind the statue it’s unlikely the iconoclasts would change their minds about him, since the principles that guided his life — duty, personal responsibility, self discipline, courage in adversity and faith in God — are denigrated in today’s world. Certainly the bemedalled careerists at the top of our current military bureaucracy would benefit from studying Lee’s life and career. At least he knew how to lose a war with dignity.

‘For want of a horse…’

This piece at Today in History on the warhorse Sgt. Reckless reminded me of the important role horses played in warfare up until little more than a century past. Certainly horses — or the lack thereof — played a key role in Nana’s Raid. For Nana and his men horses were both loot and getaway vehicles. They rounded up horses and mules from every ranch they passed, replacing jaded mounts with freshly rustled stock. This instant remount system allowed them to cover astonishing distances at a rapid pace, leaving pursuit far behind.

“Horses move long distances at a fast walk or a slow trot, not at a gallop,” Kaywaykla later told Eve Ball (In the Days of Victorio, p. 73). “They can maintain a pace of five or six miles an hour half the night. When ours became exhausted we changed mounts, preferably to ranch horses roped out as we went. Our tired ones were loose-herded with us, or if we had them long, they followed.”

While the raiders generally had as many fresh horses as they could handle, the poor 9th Cavalry was still recovering from the previous year’s campaign against Victorio and was critically short of serviceable mounts in the summer of 1881. The rocky and arid high country desert used up horses at a fearful rate. As early as 1868, the Quartermaster General was suggesting that horses bred in Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia and states still further north be “acclimated” with a year’s residence in Texas before entering field service. Unfortunately, the demand for horses by not just the 9th but by all the cavalry regiments in the West was so urgent that the Army continued to send untrained and all but unbroken horses straight from the farm to the mountains of the Southwest.

The Apaches recognized this vulnerability and preyed on it, deliberately targeting their opponents’ horses in engagements and stealing them whenever possible. In 1879, Victorio opened his war with a raid on Company E’s herd at Ojo Caliente, killing eight men and running off 68 horses and mules. Nana took three dozen horses away from the civilian posse in Red Canyon and another 30 from the mixed cavalry and civilian force in the Gavilan Canyon ambush.

“For want of nail, the shoe was lost” runs the old proverb . “For want of a horse, the rider was lost. For want of a rider, the battle was lost.”


The Last Man

50 years ago John Kerry launched his political career by asking: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?’ I don’t believe we ever got that man’s name after Vietnam, but we know the names and faces of (hopefully) the last U.S. casualties in our latest lost war. The list of deceased US servicemen, their ages and hometowns.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25, Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, Sacramento, California.

Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, Indio, California.

Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, Omaha, Nebraska.

Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, Logansport, Indiana

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, St. Charles, Missouri.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, Jackson, Wyoming.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, Rancho Cucamonga, California.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, Norco, California.

Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, Berlin Heights, Ohio.

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, Corryton, Tennessee.

Kipling wrote a fitting epitaph, not for these courageous young people but for the fools that sent them into harm’s way and then turned their backs and walked away:

A DEAD STATESMAN

    I could not dig: I dared not rob:
    Therefore I lied to please the mob.
    Now all my lies are proved untrue
    And I must face the men I slew.
    What tale shall serve me here among
    Mine angry and defrauded young?