Happy Fourth of July


“You may have been exposed to harmful extremist content recently,” Facebook frets. “Violent groups try to manipulate your anger and disappointment. You can take action now to protect yourself and others.”

Presumably Mark Z and his minions would prefer the patriotic farmer use his musket to take a potshot at the galloping extremist in the road rather than the oncoming redcoats. The Patriots called them “King’s Men” and less complimentary epithets.

“And yet it moves.”

A post at Today in History on Galileo Galilei serves as a timely reminder when we are so often told that “the science is settled” or this theory is “disinformation” and that is a baseless “conspiracy theory.” The Inquisitors who sentenced the great astronomer to a lifetime of house arrest are with us yet, and stronger today than in my youth.

Nana & (not) Victorio

Interesting piece by Daniel Aranda in the June 2021 issue of Wild West on the famous but incorrect picture of the great Victorio. Included in the photo galleries of most popular histories of the Apache Wars (and even featured on the cover of Dan Thrapp’s seminal 1974 biography of the Chihenne chief) the image above has now been correctly identified as the portrait of a handsome young Mojave named Beitero. No authentic photograph of Victorio is known to exist, although Aranda believes one may have been taken before the chief’s death at Tres Castillos in 1880 and a copy may still exist somewhere.

If unearthed, such a photo would help resolve the differing written descriptions of the man. Some of those, like Lt. Charles Gatewood’s unflattering depiction of “a palsied, aged and decrepit chief who was barely able to accompany squaws and children in their forays,” likely confuses Victorio with his much older uncle Nana.

‘the judgments of the Lord’

I rose to the defense of Black Jack Logan in an earlier post, but today it’s appropriate to revisit the General John Logan Memorial with an emphasis on the “Memorial” rather than the man whose name it bears. Logan flourishes his country’s flag astride a horse in Chicago’s Grant Park not for his military qualities (he was abler than most of the Union’s generals, but that’s faint praise). His most significant and lasting achievement came in 1868 when as Commander In Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic he called on his fellow veterans to make May 30 a national day of remembrance for their 365,000 comrades who gave their lives to preserve the Union.

They also not coincidentally ended slavery in the “Land of the Free.” Those today who have forgotten the sacrifice that entailed would do well to revisit Lincoln’s Second Inaugural: “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'”

Not Constantinople

Coincidental with our own Memorial Day, May 29 marks the 568th anniversary of the fall of the city built by the Caesar Constantine to the Turks in 1453. This Christian disaster, well told by Roger Crowley, extinguished the last flickering embers of the empire that ruled for more than a 1,000 years. By comparison, the Czars ruled Russia for about half that and their successors for scarcely 70, the British lasted perhaps 200, the French on and off for only 60, the Italians and Germans even less. The American Century (from the Spanish-American War to date) has lasted nearly 125. Constantine’s city still stands, but its great church is now a mosque and “you can’t go back to Constantinople, been a long time gone.”

Jed Smith

Another man in Nana’s mold worth remembering: Jedediah Strong Smith. A devout Christian who carried his Bible and a good rifle wherever he ventured, Jed was a double-tough mountain man who fought a wounded grizzly until his comrades arrived to drive the bear off and then calmly directed one of them in piecing back together and sewing up his torn face, scalp and ear. He survived and went on to discover the South Pass, opening the Oregon Trail to the Pacific Northwest. He next led a party of fellow trappers from the Salt Lake down through today’s Utah and across the Mojave to sunny southern California, becoming the first white man to cross that desolate terrain, and then brought the survivors back across the Sierra Nevada, through the Great Basin and back to Missouri. From there he adventured southwest along the new Santa Fe Trail. His luck finally ran out somewhere in today’s southwest Kansas when a party of marauding Comanches spooked his horse and overwhelmed him — but not before he killed three of them. That was 190 years ago today, on May 27, 1831.


The Cold Vanish

I’ve occasionally posted what I think of as “Lost in the Woods” stories here for reasons already explained. Beyond that I think survival stories, whether successful or not, hold a certain fascination for anyone who even occasionally wanders off pavement.

In pondering these sad tales my focus has always been on the hapless adventurer and his or her struggles. But intertwined with that story are the experiences and emotions of a whole cast of rescuers, relatives and loved ones whose lives are affected by the event.

When the lost is never found quick or dead, an element of eerie mystery is added to the appeal.

The Cold Vanish is built around the narrative of one man’s search for his missing son. It’s no accident this heroic quest began in Washington’s Olympic National Park. With author Jon Billam riding shotgun as his Sancho Panza, Randy Gray’s obsessive determination to find his 22-year-old son Jacob takes him from the frigid depths of a snow-fed stream to the surfing beaches of central California and on to the secluded retreats of religious cults in the San Juan Islands. He meets a man who trains bloodhounds, a woman who feeds powdered donuts to a family of Sasquatch (or are they raccoons?), and a host of other colorful characters.

Along the way Billam digresses into other disappearances and the frustrating searches that follow, providing a basic education in the art and science of Search and Rescue.

“die like a hero going home.”

“Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”
~ Tecumseh

Record of Engagements

I have added a link in Sources to the Record of Engagements with Hostile Indians within the Military Division of the Missouri from 1868 to 1882, compiled from official records and published by General Sheridan’s headquarters in August 1882. The link goes directly to the pages dealing with Nana’s Raid, but the whole document makes interesting reading. Unfortunately, the report deals only with the Department of the Missouri, which included New Mexico Territory, but not Arizona, which was in the Department of the Pacific.