Monday, November 18, 2019

The Year Was 1881


American illustrator Thomas Nast is said to have "invented" the image that we recognize as Santa Claus. Created in woodblock, Thomas Nast made his familiar illustration of "Merry Old Santa Claus" for the January 1st, 1881, issue of Harper's WeeklyIt's believed that he first drew Santa Claus for the 1862 Christmas season Harper’s Weekly cover and center-fold illustration to memorialize the family sacrifices of the Union during the early days of the Civil War. 

America has always had a majority of Christians, and of course the holiday celebrating the birth of Christ is a long standing American tradition. When Nast created his image of Santa Claus, it's said that he was drawing on his native German tradition of Saint Nicholas who was a fourth century bishop known for his kindness and generosity. Nast’s Santa appeared as a kindly figure representing Christmas. It would be how Americans see Santa for the rest of time.

On January 11th, 1881, Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff George Gillis was shot in El Monte, California. He died the next day.

Deputy Gillis and Los Angeles County Sheriff William "Billy" Richard Rowland had gone to the city of El Monte while attempting to find a man who was believed to be a person of interest in a criminal investigation. Sheriff Rowland returned to Los Angeles after they could not locate the man, but Deputy Gillis remained in El Monte to continue the search.

Deputy Gillis located the man while the individual was fighting with another man. Deputy Gillis identified himself as a deputy and ordered the men to stop fighting. The man then pushed Deputy Gillis out of the saloon door, drew a handgun, and shot the Deputy. The subject then stole Deputy Gillis' horse and fled to San Juan Capistrano. The killer was later captured, tried and convicted of Deputy Gillis' murder.

If you've ever wondered why vigilante groups acted out in so many instances in the Old West, it's because lenient sentences took place even back in those days. No, it's not just something taking place these days. A great example of that is how Deputy Gillis' killer was sentenced to a mere 11 years in prison. It is said that many there at the time felt Deputy Gillis' killer got away with murder.

On January 25, 1881, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell formed the Oriental Telephone Company. During that same year on February 5th, the City of Phoenix, Arizona was incorporated.

On February 19, Kansas became the first state to outlaw alcoholic beverages in its Constitution. By 1878, the temperance movement was organized and had a great deal of political influence there. That movement wanted a national constitutional prohibition, and they started their march to obtain their goal in Kansas when they staged the first National Temperance Camp Meeting in Bismarck Grove near Lawrence in late August and September of 1878.

While they couldn't organize a Prohibition Party, Kansas voters elected Republican John St. John as their governor. He was a prohibitionist. In his inaugural address to the state legislature, he called for decisive action to deal with the liquor issue. In response, the legislature passed a state constitutional amendment that prohibited "the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors" in the state. It was ratified by a majority of the voters in November 1880, and took effect on January 1, 1881.

The Kansas Legislature made manufacturing alcohol a misdemeanor. While the law took effect on May 1st, 1881, the law had no teeth and did not "dry up" the state. Saloon owners simply paid the $100 fine each month to keep their businesses open and the booze flowing. It is interesting to note that because of built in loopholes in the state law, and the law's poor enforcement, all in all the law led to an increase in the number of saloons and other "joints" in Kansas. And just for the record, Kansas didn't drop it prohibition on alcoholic beverages until 1948.

On March 4th, James A. Garfield was inaugurated as 20th President. He was the first sitting member of Congress to be elected to the presidency, and still remains the only sitting member of the House to have gained the White House. Later that same year, he would be assassinated.

For those of us who love a circus, and I'm not talking about the sort that goes on in Congress these days, the "Greatest Show On Earth" was formed by P.T. Barnum and James A. Bailey on March 16th, 1881. A few days later, the "Barnum & Bailey Circus" debuted its "Greatest Show on Earth" in Madison Square Gardens, New York City.

On April 7th, 1881, a North Carolina moonshiner by the name of Lewis R. Redmond was wanted for two murders and cornered at his home. Back on March 1st, 1876, twenty-four year old Deputy U.S. Marshal Alfred Duckworth attempted to arrest Lewis Redmond on a warrant for transporting illegal alcohol in Transylvania County, North Carolina. Redmond was found on a road near the East Fork area of the county. He was told that he was under arrest.

During the arrest, Redmond supposedly demanded that Deputy Marshal Duckworth read the arrest warrant out loud. After reading it, Redmond faked surrender by saying that he would go along peacefully. Marshal Duckworth made the mistake of believing him and started to put his pistol away when Redmond produced a small pocket pistol and shot Duckworth in the neck.  

Marshal Duckworth was killed while serving a federal warrant on Redmond for the illegal manufacture and sale of distilled liquor. Right after he murdered Marshal Duckworth, Redmond fled to Pickens County, South Carolina. It was an area known as "Dark Corners." 

While there, Redmond is said to have has a number of encounters with the law. Sympathetic newspapers who saw nothing wrong with killing lawmen, actually labeled Redmond the "King of the Moonshiners." And as surprising as it might sound, there was a lot of local sympathy for Redmond. 

Supposedly, the folks there at the time attempted to justify their support for the killer by saying that Redmond was just living the life that he was accustomed to living. The justification was that since he grew up in the 1850's and 1860's when the production of distilled alcohol was seen as simply an additional source of income for Southern farmers, he was just fighting for his way of life.

Newspapers were portraying that cop killer as a folk hero. During Reconstruction, many illegal distillers, known as moonshiners because they produced their product "out of the light of day," tried to get around paying liquor taxes. This led to an ongoing war with the federal government.  

Lewis Redmond shot and killed Deputy U.S. Marshal Van Buren Hendrix on February 12th, 1877, while the marshal led a posse to track down and arrest Redmond. Redmond shot and killed Deputy U.S. Marshal Van Buren Hendrix in Greenville County, South Carolina. That killing didn't stop other lawmen from hunting him down, and two years later he was captured Swain County. 

Even though he was shot six times while trying to escape, believe it or not Redmond survived to stand trial. And yes, this story also goes along with what we were talking about previously with Officer George Gillis who was shot in El Monte, California, and his killer only got 11 years. 

Though murdering two Deputy U.S. Marshals, Lewis Redmond was acquitted on grounds of self-defense for his killing of Deputy U.S. Marshal Van Buren Hendrix. As for killing of Deputy U.S. Marshal Alfred Duckworth, he was convicted and only sentenced to 10 years in prison. As incredible as that sounds, Redmond was pardoned after only serving just 3 years. 

Of course, one of the more famous events in 1881 took place on April 28th. On that day, William Bonney, also known as Billy the Kid, escaped from the Lincoln County Courthouse jail, near Carrizozo, New Mexico. In his wake, he  killed two deputies who were assigned to guard him.

He was being held for the shooting of Sheriff William Brady. On April 13, Judge Warren Bristol sentenced Bonney to hang. His execution was scheduled for May 13th. While legend says that they Judge pronounced sentence saying they he was to hand until he was "dead, dead, dead!" The rest of the legend says that Bonney responded to that by telling the judge, "you can go to hell, hell, hell!"

This is the sort of Hollywood legend that takes hold and simply won't go away. Fact is, according to the county records, William Bonney did not say a word in response to Judge Bristol issuing his sentence. While awaiting his sentence, Bonney was held in the Lincoln County Courthouse jail under guard on the second floor. There were two guards on duty, Sheriffs Deputies James Bell and Bob Olinger.

On April 28, while Sheriff Pat Garrett was away, Officer Olinger went across the street to the Wortley Hotel to have lunch. This left Officer James Bell with Bonney. It was during that time that Bonney asked to use the outhouse. The jail's outhouse was located behind the courthouse.

After coming out of the outhouse, on their return to the jail, Bonney was walking ahead of Officer Bell up the stairs to his cell. One story says that Bonney got ahead of Bell and somehow slipped out of his handcuffs before beating Officer Bell with the iron handcuffs. Supposedly, during the fight with Bell, Bonney is said to have grabbed Officer Bell's revolver and shot him.

The other story is that a sympathetic citizen placed a 1876 Colt Single Action Army revolver in the outhouse and Bonney retrieved it. From there, as with the first version, since there were no witnesses it's actually anyone's guest how he shot Officer Bell in the back. Some say it was when Officer Bell tried to get away.

We do know that after killing Officer Bell, Bonney broke into Sheriff's office and found a loaded shotgun that supposedly belong to Officer Olinger. Legend says that Olinger used to taunt Bonney by telling him that he had special loads just for him.

Legend says that Bonney waited at the upstairs window of the jail as Olinger returned after hearing the gunshot that killed James Bell. Legend says that he called out to him, and when Olinger looked up, Bonney shot and killed him before fleeing town. Deputy Robert W. Ollinger was the last victim of William Bonney, alias Billy the Kid.

On May 1st of that year, a little known story is that of a family wagon got stuck on train tracks in the town of San Lorenzo, California, as a train approached. The accident was horrifying as 5 of 6 children aboard the wagon were killed.

On May 16th, Guadalupe County, Texas, Deputy Sheriff Richard "Texas" McCoy who was shot and killed in LaSalle County while searching for cattle thieves. He was part of a posse of several Texas Rangers and cattlemen when they discovered approximately 100 stolen cattle. The posse round up the cattle and took them to a nearby home to temporarily store them. What they didn't realize was that that was the home of the cattle thieves.

After arriving at the ranch, Deputy McCoy asked the woman of the house if he could pen the cattle there. Deputy McCoy was no rookie. He was a veteran of the Confederate Army, and had previously served as a Texas Ranger for a year. McCoy and the others didn't know that the cattle thieves inside the house had setup an ambush. When they opened fire on the posse, they killed Deputy McCoy almost instantly as he opened corral gate.

Those who did the ambush were charged with Deputy McCoy's murder. But because the defense questioned the credibility of a witness, believe it or not, the charges were dropped. One of those men later murdered another Deputy in another part of Texas on April 7th, 1887. It is said that there were a large number of residents in Guadalupe County, Texas, who felt that they should have taken those killers out to the nearest tree. Some folks are said to have voiced the opinion that if that had, then they may have saved the life of that second Deputy.

On May 21st, Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons founded the American National Red Cross. It was set up as a charitable group with links to the U.S. military to provide humanitarian aid to victims of wars and natural disasters.

On Sunday, June 5th, 1881, in Ohio, Oberlin Police Department's Constable Frank Stone succumbed to a gunshot wound sustained on May 12th.

Constable Frank Stone chased down a subject on an assault warrant. The suspect is said to have initially cooperated with the Constable, but then changed his mind when they passed a blacksmith shop where his father and brother were working.

When his family members came out of the blacksmith shop, they attacked Constable Stone. This gave the subject the opportunity to escape. Right after that, Constable Stone swore out warrants for the father and brother.

The following day, Constable Stone attempted to make the arrest at the home the subject's father. As the countable stood in the doorway, the subject appeared with a rifle and shot the constable in the chest. Constable Stone was taken to his home where he remained until passing away on June 5, 1881.

The subject's father was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. But, he only served 10 years because he was pardoned in 1891 due to his frail health. Knowing that the killer only spent 10 years in prison for murder, and then being pardoned, didn't sit well with a lot of folks there at the time.

On June 12, the steamship USS Jeannette sank under ice during an expedition to reach the North Pole. The crew abandoned ship, and attempted to reach Siberia in three lifeboats. Less than half of the men survived the ordeal.

In early July of 1881, US Army Lt. Augustus W. Greely led a scientific expedition to Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic and called the site Fort Conger. While the expedition set out with 25 American soldiers with the mission of establishing a scientific base in the Arctic, it was a horrid failure and only 6 survived before starving to death.

On July 2nd, less than five months after his inauguration, the 20th President of the United States, James Garfield, was assassinated by Charles J. Guiteau at the Washington railroad station. As insane as it sounds, the killer's motive was that he felt that he earned an appointment as consul to France -- because he worked so hard to get the president elected.

President Garfield lived out the summer with a fractured spine and seemed to be gaining strength until he died on September 19th. As for Guiteau, he was arrested at the time of the shooting. And, in spite of his plea of insanity, he was convicted of murder. Guiteau was hanged in June 1882.

On July 4th, former slave Booker T. Washington establishes the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He started out with 30 students. His goal was to establish a "normal" school and industrial institute where "colored" people with little or no formal schooling could be trained as teachers and skilled workers.

On of my favorite events in history took place on July 8th when Edward Berner of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, created the first Ice Cream Sundae. Such a wonderful contribution to mankind should not go unsaid.

On July 14th, the punk killer who was known as Billy the Kid, though born as Henry McCarty, and used the names William H. Bonney or Kid Antrim, was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Just a few months earlier, he had killed two deputies and fled to Fort Sumner.

Accompanied by lawmen John Poe and Thomas C. "Kip" McKinney, Sheriff Pat Garrett set out to find Bonney after Pete Maxwell alerted the law to his whereabouts. Sheriff Garrett arrived and awaited inside as Bonney entered the room. Garrett shot him in the chest.

On July 20th, while still fugitives from the reservation, Sioux Chief Sitting Bull leads the last group of his tribe to surrender to U.S. Army at Fort Buford, Montana. He and his group fled into Canada after the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876.

Sitting Bull had his young son hand over his rifle to General Terry in an attempt at insulting the General, then saying, "I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle. This boy has given it to you, and he now wants to know how he is going to make a living."

Then there was the case of Silverton, Colorado, Town Marshal David Clayton "Clate" Ogsbury. He died on August 24th, 1881, at the age of 33, while in the capacity of acting town marshal. He was only in that position for three months when he was killed in the line of duty by a member of the Stockton-Eskridge Gang. The gang was known for robbing and rustling cattle in northern New Mexico then escaping into the Silverton, Colorado, area.

The gang had arrived in town on August 24th. Marshal Ogsbury and the San Juan County Sheriff were said to be waiting for arrest warrants to arrive from La Plata County. The warrants did not arrive until 11 p.m. that night. That was when La Plata County Sheriff Luke Hunter showed up from Durango with the warrants in hand.

Sheriff Hunter contacted Marshal Ogsbury who was asleep in his room in the back of Goode's Saloon. The two, along with town deputy Emerson Hodges, walked to the Diamond Saloon where the outlaws were drinking it up.

It is said that Marshal Ogsbury saw one of the wanted men leaning against the saloon in the dark. But before he could say a word, or draw his pistol, the outlaw opened fire mortally wounding Marshal Ogsbury. It was then that the other outlaws pulled their guns and started firing. Sheriff Hunter and Deputy Hodges were forced to retreat out of the saloon. When the lawmen returned, it's said the townsfolk joined them. Soon, the outlaws were captured. The townsfolk, what some call vigilantes, took over and lynched the killers.

On August 27th, a hurricane hit Florida and the Carolinas. More than 700 Americans died as a result of the horrible devastation. Also in August of that year, The Edison Electric Illumination Co. began building its 1st DC generating plant in Manhattan. The station was completed in September of 1882.

On September 5th, a fire in Michigan burns over a million acres and killed 169 people. On September 13th, Inventor Lewis Latimer patented an electric lamp with a carbon filament.

On September 19th, the 20th President of the United States, James A. Garfield, died of wounds inflicted by assassin madman Charles J. Guiteau. What some might find interesting is that inventor Alexander Graham Bell made several unsuccessful attempts to remove the assassin's bullet from the dying President with a new metal detection device. Also, it's said that standard medical practice at the time had doctors inserting their un-sterilized fingers into wounds in an effort to probe and locate the path of the bullet.

Germ theory had not been accepted as standard practice yet. So even though 16 doctors attended to President Garfield, and each probed his wound with their fingers and dirty instruments, it's believe that infection was a significant factor in President Garfield's death. Of course, the day after President Garfield's death, Vice President Chester A. Arthur was sworn in as the 21st President of the United States.

End of an era! Here's something to think about. The last big cattle drive to Dodge City took place late that summer of 1881. There are a few reasons for the end of the era of the cattle drives. Mostly it was because livestock became plentiful on the plains, and that made long drives no longer profitable. Also, by 1881, most states were then prohibiting driving out-of-state cattle across their borders.

Another thing was barbed wire. The increasing use of barbed wire to enclose farms and grazing land effectively ended the era of the open range. In the 15 years since Texas cowboys first hit the trail, over two million longhorns were driven to market in Dodge. By the end of that summer, that all ended.

Just as a side note to the end of the cattle drives. Let's think about this when comparing cattle boomtowns with mining boomtowns. In reality, while mining towns dried up and blew away, turning into ghost towns, most cattle boomtowns actually survived after their boom went bust. The reason has to do with who stayed. In relation to mining towns, miners left when the mines petered out. Subsequently, most mining towns simply died.

In contrast, even though the trail drives stopped, the cattle and agriculture industries around cow towns survived because ranchers and farmers took root in the surrounding areas. They stayed put, endured, and prevailed.

On Saturday, October 1, 1881, McLean County Deputy Sheriff Henry "Teddy" Frank was shot and killed in Illinois. The forty-one year old deputy was shot and killed by a prisoner who he was moving within the county jail. The prisoner, who was a convicted horse thieve, somehow grabbed Deputy Frank's service weapon. The prisoner actually grabbed the Colt .38 caliber revolver from Frank's hip pocket when he was unlocking a door. That was at 6:30 pm.

Deputy Frank yelled at the prisoner to stop. The prisoner turned and fired. The round stoke the deputy in the shoulder. This didn't stop Deputy Frank from grabbing the prisoner. During the struggle, the prisoner fired four more shots. Two struck the deputy in the chest and actually exited his back.

It is said that Deputy Frank's sense of duty wasn't slowed despite being mortally wounded. In fact, it's said that he was actually able to stop the prisoner's escape until the Sheriff and other reinforcements arrived. Though shot three times, twice in the chest, Deputy Henry "Teddy" Frank is said to have actually walked to a nearby cot to lie down. Once there, he succumbed to his wounds and died.

Within a couple of hours of hearing what took place, vigilantes gathers outside the jail. At the same time, in the jail, the Sheriff and his Deputies tried to keep the citizens from entering the jail. It's said that a mob is defined as "a large and disorderly crowd of people especially -- one bent on riotous or destructive action." The mob that gained entry to the jail that night used two telephone poles used as battering rams. They also brought a keg of gunpowder to blow up the door if the Sheriff and his Deputies found a way to stop them from battering it down.

Deputy Frank was a Union veteran who served during the Civil War. He was survived by his wife and daughter, his parents, and six siblings. The townspeople knew him and his family. They weren't going to chance his killer getting away with it. They demonstrated the same sort of anger and frustration over lenient sentences, acquittals, and pardons that fueled the growth of vigilante groups.

In fact, it's said that more than 5,000 local citizens, no hoods or disguises, gathered outside of the jail and demanded the prisoner be turned over to them. Once inside, they took the prisoner and walked him across the street where he was hanged from a tree.

On October 26th, in Tombstone, Arizona, Deputy U.S. Marshal/ Tombstone Town Marshal Virgil Earp, his two brothers Wyatt and Morgan, and "Doc" Holliday showed up a lot adjacent to the rear of the OK Corral livery stable. The official story is that they were there to disarm, arrest, and fine Ike and Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury, and Billy Claiborne for violating a city ordinance pertaining to a ban on carrying guns in the city limits.

While I have been in contact with people who say it was merely the Earp faction exercising their ability to disarm their enemies, I've had others tell me that the Earps were there simply to enforce the city ordinance. Some see the Earps as simply lawmen doing their job, while some see them no different than the people they were confronting. Either way, during the subsequent shootout, Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury were killed; Virgil and Morgan Earp were wounded.

And while I have heard from readers who tell me that Wyatt Earp was not even shot at during the short gunfight, it is a fact that Wyatt Earp's role in the shootout grew after his autobiography was published in 1931. Because of a 1950's movie of the same name, people will come to call the 30 second incident the "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral."

On August 30th, 1881, the Battle of Cibecue Creek took place. In that fight, the U.S. Army and White Mountain Apaches clashed at Cibecue Creek on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. After soldiers arrested a prominent Cibecue Apache medicine man named Nock-ay-det-klinne, the soldiers were taking Nock-ay-det-klinne back to the fort when they were ambushed by Apache warriors.

During the fight, U.S. Army soldiers killed the medicine man and most of the twenty-three Apache scouts actually mutinied. It was the first time that Indian scouts had mutinied in United States history. The mutiny forced the soldiers to retreat to Fort Apache.

The following day, the White Mountain Apache mounted a counterattack. The events sparked general unrest and led to White Mountain Apache warriors leaving the Fort Apache Indian Reservation to join forces with Geronimo.

On November 7th, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were arrested and jailed for their participation in the now famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. 

On November 8, after counting 45,497 votes, Denver was elected Colorado's capital city. Denver was named after the governor of the Kansas Territory, James William Denver.

On November 14th, assassin Charles J. Guiteau went on trial for murdering President Garfield. He was convicted and hanged the following year.

On December 1st, the Earps and Holliday were exonerated in court for their action in what later became known as the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

On December 13th, San Jose, California becomes the first city west of the Rocky Mountains with civic electric lighting when they erect a 237-foot-tall "moonlight tower" to illuminate downtown.

On December 28, at about 11:30 pm, in Tombstone, Arizona, Virgil Earp was ambushed as he walked from the Oriental Saloon to his room. Though not killed, he was crippled for life. After the shootout near the O.K. Corral, the Earps relocate their families to the Cosmopolitan Hotel.

On the day after the ambush Marshal Virgil Earp, newspapers reported that "he was fired upon with double-barreled shotguns, loaded with buckshot, by three men concealed in an unfinished building diagonally across on Allen street."

Virgil was hit in the back and left arm by three loads of buckshot from about 50 to 60 feet away The Crystal Palace Saloon and the Eagle Brewery which were on the other side of Marshal Earp were hit with a large number of buckshot. In fact, it is said that three buckshot went through a window and landed about a foot over the heads of some of the men who were standing at a faro-table.

There was little doubt that the Clanton faction did the shooting. Ambushes and not straight out duels were the way enemies settled things more than not in the Old West.

In 1881, the Marlin Firearms Company was incorporated. Marlin-Ballard rifles are well-known for their accuracy and workmanship. It was that year that Marlin introduced their Model 1881 lever-action tubular magazine repeating rifle. This rifle was available in a variety of calibers including the big .45-70 Government. Marlin's Model 1881 lever action repeater was the first lever action that could handle big bore cartridges such as the .45-70. The Winchester didn't come out with a big bore lever action until 1886.  

In 1881, Reverend F.M. Warrington described the mining town of Bodie, California, as "a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion."

In that same year, the city directory of San Francisco included 233,959 residents, 428 restaurants, 342 oyster saloons, 18 oyster dealers, 90 coffee saloons, 299 bakeries, 254 retail butchers, 205 fresh fruit sellers, some 1400 grocers and an equal number of bars, 40 brewers and 15 champagne importers. One of those businesses was owned by Joseph Brandenstein who opened a coffee company in San Francisco. He named it after his son Michael J. Brandenstein and Co. The name was later shortened to MJB Inc.

In 1881, Fort Hays, Kansas, became the temporary home to the U.S. Army's "buffalo soldiers." 

It was during that year that Hawaii's King David Kalakaua embarked on a world tour with San Francisco as his first stop. The United States Navy provided him with a warship to make his world wide tour. 

Up in Oregon's Rogue River area, Henry Rosenbrook, also known as Dutch Henry, went on trial for murder. He homesteaded in the area, raised cattle, grew crops, and mined. Oregon's Dutch Henry was a German miner best known as the "Gangly Murderer." He was tried in 1881, but acquitted for the murders of his two mining partners. William Black was Dutch Henry's second victim. 

While it's believed that Dutch Henry murdered a large number of miners, he claimed they were all in "self defense." He was never convicted. He shouldn't be mistaken for Montana's outlaw bandit by the same alias of Dutch Henry.

In 1881, Frank Baum was the publisher of the South Dakota Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. Believe it or not, Braum called for the extermination of American Indians. He wrote, "Having wronged them for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the Earth."

Here's something to think about, Frank Baum later authored "The Wizard of Oz."

Tom Correa









Thursday, November 14, 2019

Gold Nuggets Can Be Found With Metal Detectors

A few years ago, I thought I lost a ring around my barn. I searched and searched and couldn't find it. While I knew that a very good metal detector can run a person anywhere from $600 to $800, some detectors come with all sorts of extras, including portable metal labs, and can reach into the thousands of dollars. Since I couldn't afford to spend that kind of money on a metal detector, I bought one for a couple of hundred dollars.

The Butte Nugget
No, I never did find my ring. But, all in all, I found a lot of nails, screws, nuts, bolts, and even an old watch. I also found that I didn't have the patients required to use a metal detector.

For those who do, big gold can be found with metal detectors. No kidding, big nuggets can be found. 

A beautiful gold nugget which weighed in at over 5 pounds was found with a metal detector. Imagine that. A solid gold nugget believed to be one of the largest gold discoveries in California in the past century was found in the summer of 2014 by an prospector using a metal detector.

Known as "The Butte Nugget," the confirmed weight of the solid gold nugget was 75 troy ounces. The nugget has no quartz inclusions and gold from this area is generally very high purity. What's amazing is that the guy who found is said to have been expecting to dig up a piece of iron when his detector went off. Instead, he turned up a find of a lifetime.

No one was dumb enough to say the exact location of the find, but it's believed that the monster nugget was found somewhere in Butte County, California. And if Butte County, California, sounds familiar, it should. From November 8th to the 25th of 2018, a major wildfire which became known as the "Camp Fire" destroyed most of the town of Paradise. That fire killed more than eighty people, and over 50,000 people in that county were displaced. That fire also wiped out 150,000 acres, and destroyed nearly 20,000 buildings. Today, the "Camp Fire" is known as California's most destructive and deadliest fire on record.

As for gold in Butte County, it was one of the original 19 counties that made up the State of California in 1850 for a reason. Since its beginning, it was a major producer of gold in the state. In fact, many millions of ounces of gold have been found there since the early days of the California Gold Rush.

For those who think all of the gold in California is gone, think again. It's said the state still has excellent potential for gold prospecting. Of course, huge discoveries like "The Butte Nugget" is proof that there are still some really big nuggets out there just waiting to be dug up. As for the worth of "The Butte Nugget," supposedly it was sold for $400,000.

So now you're thinking, what's the chances of that happening? Well, though rare, it's certainly not impossible to make such a find with a metal detector. Take for example the solid gold nugget known as "The Boot of Cortez."

The Boot of Cortez
"The Boot of Cortez" is another example of a prospector heading out to search for gold with a metal detector. In fact, it is said that the guy who found it was using an inexpensive metal detector that he bought from Radio Shack.

The story goes that he was from Senora, Mexico, about 70 miles south of the Arizona border. In 1989, he went to a Radio Shack and bought a cheap metal detector. Then, he simply went out seeing what he could find.

Though not an expensive detector, and what it was able to find was questionable at first, he started finding nails, a few shell casings, and the basic discarded nuts and bolts. Of course none of that stopped him from continuing his hunt. In fact, he actually kept going because he was finding all sorts of things that most would describe as junk.

His persistence paid off one morning when he got a big hit on an object. The large signal from his detector was unusual to say the least. Some say he thought it was a horseshoe. Others say he thought he found a buried metal box because it was so large. To his surprise, he found and dug up a huge solid gold nugget.

Appropriately, due to its shape resembling the boot of a Spanish conquistador, it's been named the Boot of Cortez. And yes, it was found using a cheap metal detector. Of course such huge nuggets like the Boot of Cortez are exceptionally rare. In fact, it is the largest existing gold nugget found in the western hemisphere -- actually taking that title form a solid gold nugget found in Alaska.

So now you're asking, How can that be the largest gold nugget if it was only found in 1989? Well, that's a legitimate question. The answer to that has to do with the fact that there have been larger nuggets found during the early California Gold Rush -- but they have all been melted down and sold for their gold content. The Boot of Cortez is the largest existing gold nugget.

One reason that the Boot of Cortez wasn't found earlier is because Mexico hasn't been prospected as much as other areas. Mexico is actually rich in gold and other valuable minerals. While there are some very large gold mining operations in Mexico that are in operation today, and there are currently mining operations that are producing considerable amounts of gold, fact is that the harsh desert climate limits searching for gold.

Because of the lack of water, the only realistic mining methods for prospectors looking for gold on a small-scale are metal detectors and dry washers. Dry washers use a mechanical apparatus to separate  free particles of placer gold from dry sediments.

Gold nuggets like the Boot of Cortez are highly collectable, if for no other reason than the fact that they are exceedingly rare. At 389 troy ounces, the prospector sold it to his boss for $30,000. It has changed hands over the years, and the last recorded public sale of the Boot of Cortez was in January of 2008 where it sold at auction for over $1.5 million. Many experts consider the Boot of Cortez to be finest solid gold nugget of its king in existence today. That is especially true due to its high purity gold.

I find it interesting that these nuggets remained in place for millions of years, up until the day that someone with a metal detector came along to find them. While I've read stories of prospectors with metal detectors finding all sorts of small nuggets here and there, this all makes me wonder if there are other gold nuggets out there, even bigger, just waiting to be found. It's a safe bet that there are. 

Tom Correa



Friday, November 8, 2019

Unknown California Ghost Towns -- Part One

Johnsville, California, circa 1890

I was recently talking with a friend about the town of Johnsville, California. Located in Plumas County. At an elevation of 5,180 feet, the old town sits in the heart of what is today Plumas-Eureka State Park. In fact, it actually became a part of the state park back in 1959.

As for the name Johnsville, it was made official in 1876 when the town was named after William Johns who was the well respected manager of the Plumas-Eureka mine there at the time.

The mining town of Johnsville was the site of a gold strike in 1849. That made it one of the earliest discoveries of gold in California when the rush was just getting started. Fact is, the folks there were placer mining in 1849. Then in 1851, the Eureka vein was discovered and the town boomed. And while the value of the total output of that mining district is really unknown, some believe the production of that area to be somewhere between $10 million and $20 million worth of gold.

Let's keep in mine that we're talking about 10 to 20 million dollars worth of gold at about $26 an ounce. So knowing that, just imaging how much gold was recovered from that area? Yes, tons!

Besides mining, the area was a well-known early-day "snowshoe" or ski resort area. And while we are all too familiar with the California wildfires in the news these days, we all hear them taking place these days in just about everywhere in California, such fires are really nothing new to California. The area of Johnsville is said to have been it with a number of disastrous fires.

Of course, as with most other mining towns, when the mines petered out, the people left. Today, the town of Johnville has a population of 20. That makes it an official ghost town.

Mormon Island, California, is another little know ghost town that was once a mining town. Located in Sacramento County, it was named Mormon Island because of the large number of Mormon miners looking for gold in the American River during the California Gold Rush. 

The story of their gold discovery is interesting because they stumbled on it. That took place in March of 1848 when a couple of members of the Mormon Battalion left Sutter's Fort to hunt deer. The story goes that they stopped on the south fork of the American River to fill their canteens when they found gold. 

Supposedly, they told others about what they found when they returned to the fort. Well, as anyone can imaging, it didn't take long for almost 200 Mormons and others to return to where that gold was found. Soon enough, that area became known as Mormon Island. And really, one of the reasons that this find is so interesting is because that was the first major gold strike in California after James W. Marshall's initial discovery of gold at Coloma. 

As for the town of Mormon Island? Well, the population boomed to 2,500 by 1853. It's said that there were four hotels, three dry-goods and five general stores, it had an express office, a blacksmith's shop, two livery stables, a number of restaurants, and other small shops there. Supposedly, the first actually Ball to take place in Sacramento County was held there on December 25, 1849. 

As with Johnsville and other towns in the Old West, including Dodge City and Tombstone, a fire ravaged the town. For Mormon Island, their fire hit in 1856. Sadly, unlike Dodge and Tombstone, the town was never rebuilt. Technically, the town didn't have enough people left there not to call it a ghost town. 

Then when the Folsom Dam Project was started in the late 1940s, the town was flooded over. And while during droughts Folsom Lake drops to expose a few of the old structures of the town, most of the town remains underwater. Of course, there is the Mormon Island Cemetery which was relocated south of the Folsom Lake on the dry side of the Mormon Island Dam. The Mormon Island Cemetery may give people the impression that only Mormon immigrants and pioneers are buried there, but that's not the case. That cemetery also contains the re-interned remains from other cemeteries that were flooded over. 

Some of the folks buried in that cemetery are from the town of Prairie City. If you've never heard of Prairie City, California, you're not alone. Prairie City was a gold-mining town that was also located  on the American River here in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Yes, it was near what is today the City of Folsom.

What happened to the town of Prairie City? Well, when the mining petered out, the town simply died. It went from a town of hundreds to just a few within a 30 to 40 year span. Then in the early 1900's, what was left of the town is believed to have been covered in river rocks from gold dredging of the American River. 

The town itself was forgotten until the construction of a freeway on-ramp began on Highway 50 in Folsom. During the moving of earth during the construction of that on-ramp, bodies were unearthed. Soon enough, a lot of bodies were unearthed. Though the names of those people are known only to God, it's believed that those folks were residents of Prairie City. 

Their skeletal remains were re-interned at the Mormon Island Cemetery. Today, the only note that Prairie City itself ever existed is an off-ramp in Folsom known as Prairie City Road. It leads to a Folsom subdivision named Prairie Oaks which is believed to be where the old town once stood.

For me, I find it interesting that not all ghost towns are easily found such as is the case of Johnsville located out in the wilderness of Plumas-Eureka State Park. I also find it interesting that some old towns only make an appearance now and then during a drought after years of sitting under some lake or reservoir. Then there are those towns that may have simply been plowed over, paved over, or simply blown away by the elements of time. For them, I can only wonder about the people who lived and died there. 

Tom Correa





Monday, November 4, 2019

Democrats Have Convinced Me To Vote For Trump In 2020


President Trump has focused on fixing our economy and working to make our nation a manufacturing giant once again. He has worked tirelessly to create low unemployment, and has taken on our global adversaries for us. Yes, on our behalf. Let that sink in, on our behalf.

He has accomplished a great deal of good for us while putting our concerns ahead of that of the rest of the world. These are things Americans have wanted, and we finally get it in President Trump.

But that's not the primary reason that I will vote to re-elect President Trump in 2020. I will vote for President Trump because Democrats have viciously and relentlessly sought to impeach him since he was elected in 2016.

Democrats started going after President Trump, and those of us who support him, before he took his oath of office. And sadly, Democrats have worked against our economic recovery while consciously refusing to work with him to keep us safe, secure, or prosperous. In fact, as pathetic as it is, Democrats have worked to shutdown businesses and attacked corporations who employ Americans. All while attempting to instill economic uncertainty among we the American people.

Shamefully, Democrats have done this while fostering hate, division, and violence throughout America. In fact, Democrats and the mainstream media which they control have done everything in their power to stop us from having a more harmonious nation since the 2016 Election. Their slanderous, unsubstantiated attacks, unfounded as they are, are all designed to increase discontent and hate among Americans. And it never stops!

Because of this, because of what Democrats have been doing since the 2016 Election, because of their drive to overturn the 2016 Election through "impeachment without cause," because I see Democrats as the real enemy of the American people as demonstrated by their actions, Democrats have convinced me to Vote for President Donald Trump again in 2020.

So now, for my readers who have written to ask why I'm voting for President Trump in 2020, there's my answer. If I lose you as a reader because you think that somehow what the Democrats have done is justifiable, than so be it. Frankly, I have to wonder about the value system, the basic character, the integrity of anyone supporting the hate and the underhanded viciousness of the Democrat Party today.

Tom Correa 


Saturday, November 2, 2019

A Handgun or Rifle for Self Defense


After reading my article on The Rifleman, a reader wrote to ask if carrying a handgun is really a good option for self-defense. My reader insisted that having a rifle is the way to go. He asserted that carrying a rifle would accomplish more than carrying a handgun in a lot of ways.

He wrote to say, "a handgun is less accurate and less powerful than a rifle. A handgun has less of an effective range than a rifle, especially if your assailant is over 100 yards away. There's the added bonus of people wanting to leave you alone if they see you carrying a rifle."

Since he also wrote to say how he loves the Old West and would have loved to have lived during that time period, I thought he was referring to being armed in the Old West. And since I see the Old West time period as being between 1867 with the first cattle drives and 1916 just before World War One, I thought he was going to tell me his choice of rifle was one of the many different firearms makers back in the day.

Talking about his preference of rifle in the Old West, he said that he would prefer a "modern rifle" to pack on a daily basis. He went on to say that because of poor ballistics of period rounds and metallurgy of the weapons of the times, that he would want an AR-15 of some sort.

So OK, that's when I realized that he was just being flippant and messing with me. And no, I don't think he was serious. In fact, I know he's a collector of antique firearms and messes with me all the time over this and that.

But, for the sake of having something to write about other than history today, let's say he was serious. Of course he's right about a handgun being "less powerful than a rifle." Just as he is when he said, "a handgun has less of an effective range than a rifle, especially if your assailant is over 100 yards away." And yes, he's also right that "people will leave you alone if they see you carrying a rifle." While not the case so much in the Old West, that would certainly be the case today.

Of course, as an old Marine Grunt, I can tell you that I would prefer a rifle or a shotgun in a firefight when everything hits the fan. Let's be honest, like anyone, I'd want a rifle over a handgun if I knew that I was going into a combat situation that wasn't close quarters. In fact, it's a safe bet to say that any infantryman would want a rifle if going into a situation where you expect a firefight and it was in the open.

Some say a handgun is used as a weapon of last resort. Some say a handgun is used until we can get to a rifle or shotgun if things have gotten that out of hand. But all of this leads us to the question, should any of us arm ourselves for a military level combat situation on a daily basis? Yes, even if they were in what some perceive was a violent Old West? Which by the way, it wasn't that violent in comparison to what was taking place in the East. But that's a subject that I'd like to write about at another time.

For me, I carry a handgun because I would rather have a gun and not need it -- then to need a gun and not have it. Since most assaults take place between 3 to 7 feet, with 20 to 25 feet being the farthest, a handgun is the idea weapon for what's needed in that circumstance. That hasn't changed and is also how it was back in the Old West. And while handguns are the weapons of choice by criminals, handguns are excellent self defense equalizers because they are effective in close combat situations as I just mentioned.

And let's be frank here, if a threat is far enough away that we'd need a rifle -- then a jury wouldn't see it as a threat at all. Most juries would not see us in mortal danger if a threat is too far away. That's just how they look at it. That's where justifying the use of a rifle can be difficult.

Now, I realized that someone out there is going to think that I'm bad mouthing the use of an AR-15. Well, I assure you all that that's not the case. In fact, I was just reading a news story about a man who used an AR-15 against multiple intruders during a home invasion. He needed all of the firepower that he could muster against multiple assailants to keep his family safe. I tip my hat to him.

I have rifles and shotguns at my home for self defense purposes. It is a fact that I can get to any of them before getting to a pistol when I'm at home. And as for having a ranch rifle in my truck, I did for years before getting my CCW. So please, don't think this post is bad mouthing the use of a rifle or a shotgun for self defense. Fact is, while there is a place for every weapon, what's I'm talking about here is simply the practicality of walking around with an AR-15 platform as one's carry gun. I don't see that as very practical at all.

The practical aspects of handguns are overwhelming. Simply put, they are a great self defense equalizer simply because they enable anybody, regardless of age, sex, or strength level, the ability to defend themselves while using deadly force. Because of that, and concealability, handguns are used in thousands of self-defense situations and have saved countless lives. 

As for the limitations of carrying a handgun? Handguns cannot be carried everywhere. Like it or not, there are legal restrictions as to where we can and can't carry a gun. Besides airports and courthouses, most all government buildings forbid carrying a handgun on their premises. But then again, the same goes for someone carrying any sort of gun on their premises, rifle, shotgun, bb gun, musket, you name it. Even back in the Old West, officers were known to search people upon entering courtrooms. That's especially true after a few gun battles that took place in courtrooms back in the day. 

Unlike Lucas McCain in The Rifleman, it's not very wise to carry a rifle around with us on a daily basis without frightening people. In the Old West, people did. But they also put them up with the bartender or local law, especially in towns that had no carry laws. And again, let's be honest, more and more towns were adopting such laws as more and more Easterners came West to "civilize" the frontier. Of course, many were escaping the violent East. But as I said before, that discussion is for another day.

Fact is, in the hands of a citizen who has sought training, a handgun is all anyone will need in most self defense situations. Handguns have been a good fit for most all self defense situations and have served the purpose which they were designed for. Yes, close combat. Proof of this is in the statistics that show armed citizens are more likely to escape being robbed, raped, or assaulted than that of unarmed citizens. 

As for the deterrence aspect of handguns, studies show that a large percentage of felons are actually frightened by armed citizens, felons seldom if ever commit crimes on citizens who they believe are armed, felons are more concerned about being shot by an armed citizen than by the police, and felons are in fact afraid of the unseen handgun in the hands of a citizen trained in its use.

It is said that using a firearm is the last resort when no other option is left. So while we may not carry a rifle like Lucas McCain did in The Rifleman, a convenient, easy to conceal, easy to carry handgun is an undeniable self defense equalizer. And in an emergency, it may mean the difference between life and death. 

Tom Correa

Friday, November 1, 2019

The New London Texas School Explosion 1937


It is interesting what I stumble across on the Internet. I've been looking at homes in Texas lately and found the town of New London. The town is located on Texas State Highway 42 about 12 miles south of Kilgore and about 120 miles or so southeast of Dallas. It's actually in Rusk County. While looking at a piece of property there, I found an interesting story about what turns out to be the worst school disaster in United States history.

It sounds as though the town started out simply as "London, Texas" back in 1855 when the folks there on the frontier opened a post office. Sadly, that post office was only open for a short time before closing in 1876.

Until the 1930's, the town of London, Texas, was all about agriculture. It was primarily a cotton and corn growing area. But, it should be noted that farmers there were known to also produce supplemental crops such as watermelons, peaches, and tomatoes. All of the local produce was shipped from the Henderson and Overton Branch Railroad depot which was a spur of the International-Great Northern.

In 1930, things changed when the first oil well in the East Texas oilfield was drilled a few miles from the town. That made London an instant oil boomtown. With the old boom, a number of landowners became wealthy overnight. And with the money coming in, among other things, the folks there were able to open a new post office. That was when the folks there found out that a "London" post office was already established in Kimble County. Knowing that was the case, they used the name "New London."

By 1931, the Humble Oil and Refining Company relocated over a hundred families from the Corsicana oilfield and their district headquarters to New London. With that, refineries were built and more jobs came to New London. While there are a lot of people today who vilify oil companies, that was the Great Depression and the people there at the time saw the oil companies as a blessing. Because along with the oil companies providing jobs, they provided housing, electricity, and even free gas and water.

The oil companies are said to have even spent the money to built parks, community buildings, and improve infrastructure. About that time, they also built a modern school to replace the old schoolhouse that was built in 1877. 

I find it remarkable that the labor unions at the time negatively called what took place in towns like New London, "paternalism." Paternalism is defined as "the policy or practice on the part of people in positions of authority of restricting the freedom and responsibilities of those subordinate to them in the subordinates' supposed best interest." Another definition says, it's "a system under which an authority undertakes to supply needs or regulate conduct of those under its control in matters affecting them as individuals as well as in their relations to authority and to each other."

Whether it was the pineapple and sugar can companies in Hawaii, car companies in Michigan, or oil companies in Texas, labor unions attempted to incite unrest and discontent by thrown a negative slant on companies providing essential services for their employees. Calling what companies did at the time as "paternalism" was a propaganda to get people to join the Unions.

Labor Unions tried to say that big corporations such as the oil companies in Texas tried enslave their workers, to restrict their freedom and responsibilities, and treat them like children. In return, labor unions attempted to recruit members by saying that they would give workers benefits. I find it ironic that what the labor unions called "paternalism" is what we today call great company benefits such as providing available medical and dental, company stores, housing, discounts, community involvement, daycare, meals on wheels, and support for local schools.

In 1937, the folks in New London had one of the richest rural school districts in the entire United States. It's said that residents there were very proud of the beautiful, very modern, steel-framed, school building. No one was emotionally ready for happened on March 18th, 1937.

The following report is what took place:

On March 18, students prepared for the next day's Interscholastic Meet in Henderson. At the gymnasium, the PTA met. At 3:05 P.M. Lemmie R. Butler, instructor of manual training, turned on a sanding machine in an area which, unknown to him, was filled with a mixture of gas and air.

The switch ignited the mixture and carried the flame into a nearly closed space beneath the building, 253 feet long and fifty-six feet wide. Immediately the building seemed to lift in the air and then smashed to the ground. Walls collapsed. The roof fell in and buried its victims in a mass of brick, steel, and concrete debris. The explosion was heard four miles away, and it hurled a two-ton concrete slab 200 feet away, where it crushed a car.

Fifteen minutes later, the news of the explosion had been relayed over telephone and Western Union lines. Frantic parents at the PTA meeting rushed to the school building. Community residents and roughnecks from the East Texas oilfield came with heavy-duty equipment. Within an hour Governor James Allred had sent the Texas Rangersqqv and highway patrol to aid the victims.

Doctors and medical supplies came from Baylor Hospital and Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children in Dallas and from Nacogdoches, Wichita Falls, and the United States Army Air Corps at Barksdale Field in Shreveport, Louisiana. They were assisted by deputy sheriffs from Overton, Henderson, and Kilgore, by the Boy Scouts, the American Legion, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and volunteers from the Humble Oil Company, Gulf Pipe Line, Sinclair, and the International-Great Northern Railroad.

Workers began digging through the rubble looking for victims. Floodlights were set up, and the rescue operation continued through the night as rain fell. Within seventeen hours all victims and debris had been taken from the site. Mother Francis Hospital in Tyler canceled its elaborate dedication ceremonies to take care of the injured.

The Texas Funeral Directors sent twenty-five embalmers. Of the 500 students and forty teachers in the building, approximately 298 died. Some rescuers, students, and teachers needed psychiatric attention, and only about 130 students escaped serious injury. Those who died received individual caskets, individual graves, and religious services.

Three days after the explosion, inquiries were held to determine the cause of the disaster. The state of Texas and the Bureau of Mines sent experts to the scene. Hearings were conducted. From these investigations, researchers learned that until January 18, 1937, the school had received its gas from the United Gas Company.

To save gas expenses of $300 a month, plumbers, with the knowledge and approval of the school board and superintendent, had tapped a residue gas line of Parade Gasoline Company. School officials saw nothing wrong because the use of 'green' or 'wet' gas was a frequent money-saving practice for homes, schools, and churches in the oilfield. The researchers concluded that gas had escaped from a faulty connection and accumulated beneath the building.

Green gas has no smell; no one knew it was accumulating beneath the building, although on other days there had been evidence of leaking gas. No school officials were found liable.

These findings brought a hostile reaction from many parents. More than seventy lawsuits were filed for damages. Few cases came to trial, however, and those that did were dismissed by district judge Robert T. Brown for lack of evidence. Public pressure forced the resignation of the superintendent, who had also lost a son in the explosion."

Sadly, it takes such a disaster to fix things. History teaches us that some good does come out of such disasters. In the case of the New London Texas School Explosion of 1937, the massive explosion that would go down as the worst school disaster in United States history, it changed how gas is used. In fact, as a result of the disaster, the state and then the federal government passed laws known as "odorization laws". Laws were passed to require manufacturers to add "distinctive malodorants" which are mixed in all gas for commercial and industrial use. This is now done so that people could be warned by the smell of escaping gas, something that we once weren't able to do in all cases.

As for the thirty surviving seniors there, they are said to have finished their year in temporary buildings while a new school was being built. Wisely, the new building focused primarily on safety. In fact, it's said that safety was the builders key concern. So much so, that the desire to inspire students to a higher education was seen as not a priority.


In front of the school is a cenotaph made of Texas pink granite. It was erected in 1939 and dedicated to those lost during the disaster.

As for the town of New London, it grew during the oil boom. As with many towns and cities during World War II, it sent it's men off to war while doing its part on the home front. During the 1950's, the East Texas oilfield began to decline and soon enough drilling was replaced. Care and maintenance of pipelines and pumps became the norm.

In 1963, New London, Texas, became incorporated and began providing municipal services. By 2000, its population was about a thousand people. Their small town supports over twenty businesses while catering to families and retirees who want to live in a quiet rural town that has a rich history all of its own. All in all, I think New London, Texas, would be a great place to live.

Tom Correa



Friday, October 25, 2019

The Jaybird-Woodpecker War 1888


A reader wrote to tell me that I should stay away from writing about politics and stick to talking about history. But history includes politics. Or at least, what took place as a result of politics. 

For example, as a result of politics, Thomas Jefferson stopped the importation of African slaves into the United States in 1808, Andrew Jackson conducted the Trail of Tears, Texans fought for their independence, California was allowed into the Union as a "free state," Kansas turned into a bloody mess, and we fought the Civil War. It was politics that prompted the Copperhead Democrats to call for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. It was politics that motivated Democrat John Wilkes Booth to do the dirty deed and assassinate President Lincoln.

As a result of political strive in America, we saw riots and innocents killed. It was because of the Democrat Party's desire to obtain political power that they created the Ku Klux Klan, the Red Shirts, the White League, and other groups as their militant arm. They did so to terrorize and murder their political opponents, the Republicans, and intimidate freed slaves after the Civil War. And yes, Democrats lynched both blacks and Republicans during the Reconstruction Era.

Democrats fought to stop blacks and women from obtaining equal rights for more than a hundred years after the Civil War. They attacked black Union soldiers in a number of incidents after the Civil War. Later they created Jim Crow laws. They created Segregation. They intimidated and attacked blacks in a terrorist campaign to stop them from voting. Since 1867, Democrat fought against the passage of every civil rights legislation for blacks. Yes, including conducting an 83 hour filibuster to stop the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Even in the 1980s, Democrats fought against women's rights by defeating the Equal Rights Amendment.

My writing about this is really not my attempt to bad mouth Democrats, it's all historically factual and I find it interesting. Fact is there are some really interesting stories because of politics in our history. Take for example, the Jaybird–Woodpecker War fought from 1888 to 1889.

The Jaybird–Woodpecker War

The Jaybird–Woodpecker War was a political war turned in a shooting war as a result of a political feud between two factions within the Democrat Party in a county in Texas. No kidding, it was as nasty as politics can get as murders were committed against Democrats of each faction in 1888 and 1889. They fought each other over political control of Fort Bend County, Texas.

One faction of Democrats were known as Jaybirds. The Jaybirds actually represented the majority of the white Democrat population of Fort Bend County. The other Democrat faction was known as Woodpeckers. The Woodpeckers are said to have been almost the entire black Democrat population of that county.

So now, you're probably wondering why were they called Jaybirds and Woodpeckers? Well, it's said that a local former slave by the name of Bob Chapel used to sing about jaybirds and woodpeckers. Thus, the names were given to identify the political factions. The Jaybirds were 90 percent of the wealthy white Democrats who opposed allowing blacks in local politics. That is, even though those blacks were by then also Democrats.

Republicans had gained control of the county during Reconstruction. Republicans gained political power in that county because they were voted into office by black Republicans. And when the political winds shifted to favor of Democrats after Reconstruction, black Republicans registered as Democrats. What's interesting is that Woodpeckers are said to have controlled the county government by winning elections for the Republicans for almost 20 years.

Why did Black Democrats vote for Republicans instead of voting for Democrats? It's because most of the Democrat candidates were former-slave owners.

Those black Democrats who voted Republican became known as Woodpeckers. And to repay their support, Woodpeckers were put into positions of authority as county officials. Yes, all because they helped to turn out the black vote for the Republican ticket. It was all politics in that the Woodpeckers did what benefited them. The knew that the white Democrats would never allow them to stay in their positions, even though they were Democrats. This set Democrat against Democrat.

The Jaybirds wanted to get rid of the Republicans who held office and control of that county's government. They accused the Woodpeckers, the black Democrats, of still being Republicans as many had been during Reconstruction. Soon, all of the animosity between the two Democrat factions boiled over and led to friends, neighbors, and even relatives becoming bitter enemies. Believe it or not, shootings involving members of both Democrat factions became common place. Remember, these were Democrats fighting Democrats.

The election of 1888 resulted in all sorts of problems as violence increased between rival Democrat candidates. In fact, as result of the infighting, on August 2, 1888, a Jaybird leader was killed. Then, during the following month, another Jaybird leader was seriously wounded.

In response to this, the Jaybirds held a huge meeting in Richmond, Texas, on September 6th, 1888, What came out of that meeting was a surprise to many there. The white Democrats ordered the black Democrat leaders to leave Fort Bend County. The Jaybirds told Woodpecker leaders to leave the county within ten hours, and take their white allies with them -- or die. Many did and left out of fear for their lives.

It is said that the feud crossed racial, social and politics lines. Assassination and violence had become commonplace. Fort Bend County Sheriff Tom Garvey was a leader of the Woodpeckers opposed the efforts of the Jaybirds to return to power through violence. He wasn't scared off and sadly died for standing up to those who would impose their will on others through violence and threats.

The Battle of Richmond

Fort Bend County was founded in 1837. It organized in 1838. It's named for a blockhouse at a bend of the Brazos River. The county seat is the city of Richmond. During the development of Fort Bend County, a large number of black slaves were brought in to work on plantations. The county saw very successful crops of cotton, sugar, corn and other products being produced there. 

In 1850, Walter Moses Burton was brought to Fort Bend County, Texas, as a slave from North Carolina. His owner was Thomas Burke Burton who actually taught Walter how to read and write by the age of 21. After emancipation, Thomas sold Walter several large plots of land. With that, Walter Moses Burton became wealthy and influential in Fort Bend County. 

During the Reconstruction Era, black Republicans were elected to county offices. In 1869, Walter Moses Burton became the first elected black County Sheriff in the United States. Later, he would became a state senator in Texas. Burton was among a few black Americans who held office and ran the government for about twenty years.

On November 6th, 1888, all of the Woodpecker candidates were elected or reelected to office. This fueled revolt and altercations between the two parties. During that election, the city of Richmond, which was the county seat, saw members of both Democrat factions arm themselves to the teeth. As a security measure, the Texas Rangers were brought in to be on hand to quell anything that might take place. 

Thought the election had a heavy turnout, it was said to have relatively few problems. The result was predictable since the Democrat Party there was split. Republicans held on to control of the county government and the black Democrats kept their positions. The Woodpeckers were left in control.

After the election, the two Democrat factions really went to war. Soon arguments turned to assaults, and then there were two more killings. A black Democrat, a Woodpecker, who was the county tax assessor killed white Democrat, a Jaybird, on June 21, 1889. Then a week later that Woodpecker was killed by another Jaybird.

Everything came to a head on August 16, 1889, at what became known as the "Battle of Richmond." That was when a number of people were killed and the Woodpeckers were ran out of the county.

What became known as the "Battle of Richmond" took place at the county courthouse, the National Hotel, and other parts of that city. This wasn't a 30 second gunfight like that which took place at Tombstone Arizona in 1881. Those folks in Texas shot it out for 25 to 30 minutes. Yes, that was a full on battle.

At one point, the Jaybirds faced the Woodpeckers in front of the courthouse. County Sheriff James Thomas "Tom" Garvey and a crowd of armed men warned the Texas Rangers to get out of the way since it was none of their business. With that a Texas Ranger Sergeant and four privates who were on horseback tried to get in the middle and block the two factions.

When the gun battle erupted, Sheriff Tom Garvey, his uncle, former Sheriff J. W. Blakey, Jaybird leader H. H. Frost, and an innocent bystander were all either killed or wounded. Texas Ranger private Frank Schmid, Jr., was severely wounded, and died from his wounds a few years later on June 17, 1893. Pictured above is Texas Ranger Frank L. Schmid in 1888.

Sheriff Tom Garvey was appointed to his position in October of 1886. He was elected County Sheriff on November 2, 1886. He was re-elected on November 6, 1888. He was 29 years old when he was gunned down. Sheriff James Thomas "Tom" Garvey sounds like he was a very good man. Texas Ranger Sergeant Ira Aten who was there that day trying to maintain order in Richmond was appointed the new County Sheriff by the Jaybirds on August 21, 1889.

It is said that many of Woodpeckers retreated into the county courthouse when the shooting started. From there is was a siege until the Woodpeckers turned the city and county over to the Jaybirds. And really, that was for good reason since Jaybirds from all over the county are said to have made a dash to Richmond when the white Democrat population heard about what was taking place there.

The Texas governor had been alerted and in response to the situation, Texas Governor Lawrence S. Ross sent the militia in and declared martial law. The Houston Light Guards militia is believed to have been on their way as the arrived first to establish martial law. The next day, August 17th, the Brenham Light Guards arrived to back them up.

Governor Ross arrived and stayed in Richmond for a number of days while acting as a mediator between the Jaybirds and the Woodpeckers. In the end, with the collaboration of the governor, the Jaybirds had a number of black Democrats and other Woodpecker county officials escorted out of the county. So after a lengthy gun battle broke out at the county courthouse in which four people were killed, including the County Sheriff, white Democrats overturned an honest election and successfully overthrew the local government.

A meeting was held at Richmond on October 3, 1889, to form a permanent organization to maintain white Democrat control of the county. The Jaybirds passed a resolution to appoint a committee to draft a constitution for an association of the white people of Fort Bend County to control county affairs. A second meeting on October 22, 1899, did in fact establish the Jaybird Democratic Organization of Fort Bend County.

In all, 440 white Democrats signed on as members of that organization. They then selected Jaybirds, white Democrats, to fill the positions at the county offices. After more than twenty years of fighting, white Democrats controlled the county government. They established a "white-only pre-primary," and disenfranchised blacks from competing for county offices.

Believe it or not, the Jaybird Democratic Organization of Fort Bend County stayed in political power in that county until 1953 when the Jaybird primary system of excluding blacks was declared unconstitutional. Imagine that.

Tom Correa


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

George A. Custer & The Battle of the Little Bighorn

In my last post, I talked about General George C. Crook. Among other things, you heard about what happened to his large column of troops at the Battle of the Rosebud. Though engaged by a large force of Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho, the Indians did not force Crook's column to withdraw. The fact that his men were low on ammo forced General Crook to withdraw his men and head for Goose Creek where his supply wagons were stationed.

His withdraw to resupply his men, and the need to tend to his wounded, forced a change in the overall battle plan against the Indians in that campaign. The battle of the Rosebud changed things. Whereas he was supposed to have linked up with General Terry's and General Gibbon's forces to take on the Indians at the Little Bighorn, Crook would not be apart of that fight. 

On June 17th,1876, while General Crook moved northward to the Rosebud for his inevitable collision with the Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho, General Terry and General Gibbon had by then joined forces on the Yellowstone River at its confluence with the Powder River. That was where a supply base was established to offload needed supplies from the river steamer  S.S. Far West. In reality, on June 17th, neither Generals Terry or Gibbon knew that General Crook had been blocked by a large force of over 4,000 Indians about 80 miles or so south of their position.

That was the case, even though General Terry sent Maj. Marcus A. Reno with six companies out to reconnoiter the Powder, across the Tongue Rive. Reno was tasked with going into the valley of the Rosebud to reconnoiter the area. It was there on that late afternoon of June 17th, on the same day that General Crooks column had come under attack and withdrew, that Major Reno found a fresh trail leading west out of the valley and across the Wolf Mountains in the direction of the Little Bighorn.

Because Reno was unaware of what really took place earlier that day, he was subsequently unable to inform his superiors that General Crook had been in the Rosebud Valley. While many of us take communication with others for granted, folks today may be unaware of the communication problems that existed at the time. It was weeks later that General Terry would learn why General Crook had to change the plan and did not link up with him. It would be then that Terry would learn about what took place at the battle of the Rosebud. It would also be then that Crook learns of Custer's fate at the Little Bighorn.

It should be noted that the Battle of the Rosebud took place more than 30 miles south of where the Battle of the Little Bighorn would take place eight days later.

On June 21st, General Terry met General Gibbon with his staff to hold a council of war meeting aboard the steamer S.S. Far West to outline his plan of attack. The plan called for Lt.Col. Custer's 7th Cavalry to move south down the Rosebud River, cross the Wolf Mountains, and enter the Little Bighorn Valley from the south. General Gibbon's forces joined by General Terry's would ascend the Bighorn River and its tributary, the Little Bighorn, from the north. That would trap the Indians between the two forces. At least that was the plan.

On June 22nd, General Terry sent out Lt.Col. Custer and the 7th Cavalry. The success of Terry's battle plan, as with any military operation, depended upon everyone doing what they are supposed to do. In the case of Lt.Col. Custer, his failure to do just that resulted in his getting his entire command wiped out. How? He didn't wait until supporting elements were in place. Instead of waiting until everyone was in place, Custer moved at least a day early for the co-operative action envisioned in Terry's plan. Custer premature advance was not part of the plan.

George Armstrong Custer is remembered as one of the most famous and controversial figures in American history for a reason. He started out breaking rules while attending West Point. In fact, he received 726 demerits in his four years there. And that, well that's one of the highest ever received in the history of West Point. He actually graduated last in his class at West Point, the class of 1861.

After graduation, he spent the first part of the Civil War as a dispatch courier and staff officer. Then, just a few days before the start of the Battle of Gettysburg, he was promoted from captain to regular army "brevet" major. For you who have written to ask me about those who held a "brevet" rank, the "brevet" system was a former type of military commission conferred for outstanding service, or out of necessity and need to replace an officer, by which an officer was promoted to a higher rank without the corresponding pay. So the person getting the promotion would get the rank and responsibility, but not the pay that should go along with that position.

While at Gettysburg, his commanding officer was killed during an attack on Confederate Brigadier General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry. Custer took command and led a saber charge. No one said he wasn't fearless and bold. In that skirmish, his unit helped to defeat General Stuart's attempt to make a cavalry strike behind Union lines on the 3rd day of the battle. This was a huge win during the overall battle and was looked upon a contributing to the Union victory there.

Custer received a brevet promotion to Brigadier General on June 29, 1863. As a Brigadier General of Volunteers, and being from Michigan, he was given command of the Michigan "Wolverine" Cavalry. Some called him "the Boy General." Right after that, he actually go rid of his standard-issue cavalry jacket and trousers, and replaced them with a "loose-fitting velvet coat that had golden braids adorning its sleeves, and velvet pants he tucked into knee-length top boots. He had a silver star sewn onto each lapel of a light-blue, broad-collared Navy-issue shirt. To complete the refashioning, he looped a scarlet cravat about his neck and donned a black hat with a lower crown and wider brim than those of standard-issue hats." By then, he had grown his blonde hair to his shoulders. This was all for the image that Custer wanted to convey to the newspapers. 

Because Custer was seen as reckless and premature in his actions, his brigade's losses were the highest of any Union cavalry brigade at Gettysburg. Because of that fact, there is a large monument which was dedicated to his brigade on the East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg.

Custer is known to have participated in nearly every cavalry action in Virginia after Gettysburg. It's said that he was bold, and sometime was actually brilliant in his reading the situation correctly. His fault was his vanity. He was neither humble nor shy when it came to seeking publicity for himself and his action. In fact, he was known to search for newspaper correspondents to give them gloriously exaggerated stories of his victories. There is no doubt that he loved to see his name in the papers.

As for appearing on the cover of Harper's Weekly magazine, he did in fact appear on the cover of that magazine after he sought recognition for participating in the burning of the South. He was said to be very proud of that. As for the rest of the Civil War, well believe it or not, he was present at General Robert E. Lee's surrender.

He ended the war at the rank of brevet Major General. After the war, he is said to have toyed with the notion of running for political office as a candidate for Congress from his home state of Michigan. It was actually a surprise to many that he didn't since he was known to have had some very lofty ambitions. Some say which included wanting to be president. In the end, though he saw himself as a celeb of sorts, he reluctantly refused the offers to enter politics and stayed in the Army after the war.

He was appointed a Lieutenant Colonel of the 7th Cavalry when the Regular Army reorganized in 1866. With that, he found himself fighting in a number of campaigns in the Indian Wars. Of course there was the incident in 1867 that resulted his receiving a Court Martial in which he was convicted of desertion and mistreatment of soldiers.

In July of 1867, while stationed at Fort Wallace, he took it upon himself to take troops and leave. Some say it was to go for supplies. Some say he left to see a women. Either way it was against orders and some troops died while away.

On August 7, General in Chief of the U.S. Army Ulysses S. Grant ordered Custer to be tried by a General Court-Martial. It was held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, that September. In fact, by September 16th, Custer was charged with being "absence without leave" from his command and for  specifications that fell under "conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline." Two of the charge specifications claimed that he had marched his men "upon private business" and that he had used two ambulances and four mules to travel the last leg of the journey to his destination which was Fort Harker. All without proper authority from his superiors.

Two of his men had been killed by Indians who had attacked a detachment, Custer neglected to pursue the Indians or to recover and bury the bodies of those troops -- more concerned about his private business. Another specification had to do with Custer ordering the execution of three known deserters. All without conducting any trial. Another issue was Charles Johnson, who was a wounded deserter who died after Custer stopped a doctor from administering medical treatment. 

Custer pleaded not guilty to all charges. The prosecution called witness after witness, who supported the specifications of the charges. While some testimony actually helped Custer's defense team, the trial had a few surprises. One surprise was Custer's own brother, Lt. Thomas Custer, who himself was a two-time recipient of the Medal of Honor for bravery during the Civil War. He was a member of his brother's staff, and he testified that his brother George said, "I want you to get on your horse and go after those deserters and shoot them down." 

Of course George Custer's defense was that his superiors authorized killing deserters. Though he didn't take the stand, he submitted a long statement that defended and justified his action against the deserters by stating that, after these three men were shot, "Not a single desertion took place from that time so long as I remained with command."

On October 11, 1867, the Army found Custer guilty on five of the charges and specifications. He was immediately sentenced to be suspended from his rank and command for one year and to forfeit his pay for the same period. And no, though he tried, he could not get his sentence set aside. But as was the case with Custer, he and his wife lived well after the verdict. This was due to the fact that his wife's uncle was Major General Philip Sheridan who allowed Custer and his wife use of his suite of rooms at Fort Leavenworth. It's said they lived there in comfort.

To his surprise, on January 2th, 1868, Custer was served with a warrant from the state of Kansas which charged him with the murder of Charles Johnson who was the deserter who died. Then on January 18th, a judge found that the evidence did not support the charge. 

After that, Custer and his wife moved to a home in Michigan. Then in a September of 1868, ten months into his punishment, his wife's uncle General Philip Sheridan pulled some strings to shorten Custer's suspension and had him returned to duty. By September 30th, he was back in command of the 7th Cavalry.

In November of 1868, he massacred an entire Cheyenne village at the Battle of Washita River.  In the Battle of Washita River, which was not much of a battle, Custer attacked a band of peaceful Cheyenne Indians whose Chief Black Kettle was a friend to the United States. In fact, the commander of Fort Cobb had guaranteed them safety. There was even a white flag flying from one of the main lodges which was a sign that the tribe avoided conflict. 

On November 26th, Custer located a large village of Cheyenne encamped near the Washita River, just outside of present-day Cheyenne, Oklahoma. He didn't even bother to identify the village as friend or foe. He did not attempt to identify which group of Cheyenne was in the village, or to make even a cursory reconnaissance of the situation. 

During the night, Custer had the exits of the village sealed off and the village surrounded. And if that wasn't bad enough, believe it or not, he actually brought the regimental band to the site of the attack. Why the band? Well, as insane as it sounds, at dawn, Custer told the band to play "Garry Owen." The 7th Cavalry has adopted the Irish drinking song as their unit's song.

The band started playing "Garry Owen" which signaled for four columns of troops to draw sabers and charge the sleeping village. Surprised and outnumbered, all sorts of innocent Cheyenne were killed. Though a few warriors managed to make a run for the trees and return fire, within no time the United States Army under George Armstrong Custer had killed Chief Black Kettle and slaughtered over 100 Cheyenne. Yes, all to the tune of "Garry Owen," women, infant children, the elderly, and the disabled were massacred. The viciousness of what took place there persuaded many Cheyenne to move to the reservation. 

As shocking as it is to us today, newspapers at the time celebrated the massacre as "the first substantial American victory in the Indian Wars." The papers called Custer a hero. They used the so-called "Battle of the Washita" to promote Custer as someone necessary when dealing with the "Indian problem." 

Yes, his exploits against the Plain Indians were romanticized, glamorized, and exaggerated by the newspapers in the East. And Custer, well he became a legend in his own time. He really did. In fact, to capitalize on his celebrity status, he wrote a number of newspaper articles on the politics of dealing with what he called "savages." And in 1874, he published a book titled "My Life on the Plains."

Then in 1875, because of his celebrity status, Custer was used by the political opposition to President Grant. The Democrat-controlled House invited Custer to testify in Washington for the impeachment of Secretary of War William W. Belknap. Belknap became a political target because he removed troops from the Black Hills earlier that year. That was right after gold was discovered.

The Army had protected the area from white settlers as part of a treaty with the Lakota Sioux. The withdrawal of troops allowed American settlers to flood into the Black Hills during that gold rush. Some say President Grant, Secretary of War Belknap, and others in Grant's administration knew about secretly violating the treaty, but no one was able to prove that. 

As for the Battle of the Little Big Horn

On June 25th, 1876, Custer's 7th Cavalry crossed the Wolf Mountains and moved into the valley of the Little Bighorn. Custer was confident of his capability to handle whatever he ran up against. He was convinced in the invincibility of the 7th Cavalry. And he was convinced that the Indians would follow their usual practice of scattering if they saw such a force as that of the 7th Cavalry descending on them. I believe he thought this was going to be another Washita village that they would massacre.

Little did he know that he was descending upon one of the largest concentrations of Plains Indians ever assembled. It is believed that there was as many as 12,000 Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho, with between 3,000 and 4,000 warriors in that village. All under such leaders as Chief Crazy Horse, Chief Sitting Bull, Chief Gall, Chief Crow King, Chief Lame Deer, Chief Hump, and Chief Two Moon. While the figure of how many were in that Indian encampment have been downplayed to reflect only 9,000 Indians in that village with 4,000 to 5,000 warriors, that's still a hundred times the number of men versus what Custer was taking with him into that fight.

Remember, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's battalion had about 225 men. Under his command was Capt. Thomas Custer's Company C, First Lt. Algernon Smith's Company E, Capt. George Yates' Company F, Capt. Myles Keogh's Company I, and First Lt. James Calhoun's Company L. Major Marcus A. Reno's battalion had 140 men. Under his command was Capt. Myles Moylan's Company A, First Lt. Donald McIntosh's Company G, and Capt. Thomas French's Company M. Capt. Frederick W. Benteen's battalion had 125 men. In his battalion was Capt. Thomas Weir's Company D, Capt. Benteen himself commanded Company H, and First Lt. Edward Settle Godfrey's Company K.

On the Sunday morning, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer learned the location of the Sioux village from his Crow, Arikara, and Osage scouts. Besides Charley Reynolds and Isaiah Dorman, who was once a slave, Custer had 33 Indian scouts attached to the 7th Cavalry. Custer's Crow scouts told him it was the largest native village that they had ever seen. As far as taking their reconnaissance into consideration, he didn't believe them when they reported finding a village of over a thousand lodges. He was convinced that they were either lying or wrong.

In fact, at 10 o'cloak that morning, Custer himself went to what became known as Distant Peak Crows Nest. It was from that position that he saw the village below. The size of the village did not deter him as he subsequently pushed on.

It was about noon when Custer’s men entered the Little Bighorn Valley. We know this because it was about noon at what became known as Reno's Creek that Custer divided his command into three fighting groups. He sent Captain Benteen with 140 soldiers and Major Reno with 125 soldiers in different directions. Benteen with three companies was sent to scout out to the left of the command. The remaining 227 soldiers with Custer would charge straight into the village. With five companies, Custer moved off to the right.

Major Reno was instructed to cross the river and charge the Indian camp. Reno's Valley Fight was what they later called his attack on the village. He attacked the village from the south at 2:30 in the afternoon. He was met with hordes of warriors in a counter attack. Quickly, Reno retreated to the woods and then retreated across the river to form a hilltop defense. Soon after, Reno and his men are  joined by Benteen and his men. Together they will be there defending their lives until the next afternoon when the Indians finally withdraw.

It should be noted that while the Indians had been chiefly absorbed on the Custer section of the field, the pack train and its escorting company had moved up and into a defensive perimeter with Reno and Benteen. At one point they did make an attempt to move in force in Custer's direction, but it failed. And frankly, they had no idea where Custer and his men were.

As for Custer, he is on Sharpshooter Ridge and observes the village. He orders Benteen to bring up supplies. After Custer's defeat, the Indians use that spot to pour fire onto Reno and Benteen's position. Reno defensive position was reoccupied and remained under attack until dark of the 25th and on through daylight hours of the 26th. The siege was finally lifted with the arrival of the Terry-Gibbon column on June 27th.

As for Lt'Col. Custer, after leaving Cedar Coulee, he descends to the Little Bighorn River. The area that he had to cross is known as Medicine Tail Coulee. The Indians who are still preoccupied with attacking Reno and Benteen, now realize Custer is advancing on their village.

In the village, word quickly spreads of the impending attack. Sitting Bull rallies the warriors and orders the women and children to safety. He does this while Crazy Horse readies a large force of warriors to meet the attackers head on. Custer doesn't know what he's walking into. This is not Washita. It is a case of karma.

Some say Custer wanted to capture the women, children, the elderly, and the disabled in the village to use them as hostages to convince the warriors to surrender. Frankly, since he demonstrated previously at the Battle of the Washita that he ordered the killing of non-combatants there, I don't believe he had a desire to take hostages and use them as pawns against the warriors. Also, there is something else, he expected a small group of warriors to be on hand there that day. The reason that he believed that was the case had to do with the reservation's Indian agent who reported only a few hundred actual warriors had left the reservation. Custer didn't know that most of those there that day were not reservation Indians.

Medicine Tail Coulee is where Custer's men first engaged the Indians. As he made his way to the village, Custer sends a dispatch rider to the rear to hurry the pack train and its one-company escort forward. Shortly after that, he dispatched trumpeter John Martin with a last message to Benteen informing him that a "Big village lay ahead" and to "Be quick, Bring packs." That dispatch rider would be the last person to see Custer and the others alive.

Medicine Tail Ford is where Custer's Company E and F make there way to the village. Indians quickly force them out and up to battle ridge. Troops are pushed up Greasy Grass Ridge and up Calhoun Hill. It was here that many of those troops are dismounted and afoot. The Indians take the opportunity to stampede off their horses.

The Indians overrun the defenders on Calhoun Hill and the troops of Company I under Capt. Keogh attempt to retreat up to Last Stand Hill. They are cut down and never make it. In what became known as the Deep Ravine below Last Stand Hill, 28 troopers attempt to flee for their lives but are cut down. On Last Stand Hill, Lt.Col. George Armstrong Custer and about 41 soldiers shoot their horses for breastwork and defend themselves to the end.

Three miles away at a place now designated as Weir Point, Capt. Thomas Weir and a handful of men take up a position at the point at about 5:30 in the afternoon in an attempt to locate Custer. They reported looking north and seeing the Indians overrun Custer's position in a cloud of dust. They are about 3 miles away report that the Indians are shooting toward the ground -- indicating that the soldiers may have already been killed.

When the group of Indians made their way toward Weir, he and his men retreat and return to join Major Reno and Capt. Benteen. Reno’s command had to retreat twice and suffered heavy casualties. Major Reno, Capt. Benteen, and their soldiers remained under siege on that ridge until General Terry arrived with reinforcements on Monday, June 26th.

We know that the Battle of the Little Bighorn lasted more than a couple of hours as some say it did. In fact, looking at from the moment that Major Reno's unit ran into hordes of Indians, not retreating, but advancing on him and his men, to the time when they were finally met with General Terry's reinforcements, it was a long drawn out battle. Certainly not as quick as some say it was.

As for the question of when did Custer and his men finally meet their end at Last Stand Hill, I believe it was probably about 4 o'clock that Sunday afternoon. Remember, Capt. Weir reported that he saw a dust cloud and warriors shooting down from horses by 5:30 that afternoon. Of course, since Custer and all of his men were killed, there were no survivors to explain exactly what happened.

At the site of what is called Last Stand Hill, headstones mark where Custer and about 41 soldiers who were with him met their end. The huge area where it all took place was littered with bodies of both Army soldiers and Indian warriors. Fact is, a lot of men on both sides died that day. There are gravestones stretching for miles there. No, not in just one location as one would think reading about the battle. In fact, there are grave makers were Cheyenne warriors as well as Army soldiers fell almost 5 miles south of Last Stand Hill.

The Custer disaster shocked and angered the nation. The American public wanted blood and revenge for Custer. Whether it was his fault or not, whether he jump the gun and simply went off half-cocked as he was known to do wasn't an issue with the public. They wanted an eye for an eye.

As a result, the Army poured troops into the area. In response to that, the Plains Indians scattered, and some like Sitting Bull's band actually retreated to Canada. But gradually, under increased pressure from the Army, the Indians surrendered and returned to the reservation. Later, on May 6th, 1877, Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief Crazy Horse and his band, seeing the futility of further resistance, would surrender to General George Crook at Red Cloud Agency near Camp Robinson, Nebraska. While most of the American soldiers who died on Last Stand Hill are buried in a mass grave. The officers are later re-interred in other graves around the nation. Custer was re-interred in West Point.

As a last note, some have this belief that all of the Native American tribes celebrated when they heard about Custer's defeat. That's simply not true. The Crow Indians whose land bordered the Lakota Sioux saw themselves as vulnerable and next after the Little Bighorn. Besides traditionally being at war with the Lakota Sioux, they were staunch allies of the United States. That in itself made the Crow a target for others. It is no wonder that it's said that the Crow women cried when they heard about Custer's last stand.

Tom Correa