Saturday, September 24, 2022

Letters between Wyatt and Josephine Earp, and William S. Hart

Below are some interesting letters between Wyatt and Josephine Earp, and silent-film actor William S. Hart.

On Nov. 13, 1928, Wyatt Earp wrote:

“Here is something that will make you laugh. I picked [Al] Smith for the winner of the election; just in my mind, you know, so it didn't cost me anything — no new hat to buy nor any peanuts to roll along the thoroughfare with a tooth-pick nor anything else to make me wish I hadn't. It just furnishes my friends a lot of fun by guying me. Hoover will make an excellent president, and the nation will have no regrets at having chosen him."
On Nov. 16, 1924, Earp wrote to his friend Bill:

“Even the paragraph about Doc Holliday shooting a man in Los Angeles was without foundation. Holliday to my positive knowledge never had been in Los Angeles."
Oct. 21, 1920:

My Dear Hart:

I am sending you the quirt that I promised you some time ago and I am also adding a word of apology for the delay. My time has been so occupied with business affairs during recent weeks requiring my absence. I just did not get the opportunity to mail the quirt to you. Although I have though of you. I believed I explained to you the quirt was made a number of years back in 1885 by a Mexican woman who was serving time in the penitentiary at Yuma, Arizona for the murder of her husband so you can see that a good quirt was made by a bad woman. It ought to stand hard usage and last a lifetime and I am sure it will. In your leisure moments may you occasionally remember that this is just a token of appreciation from me who hold you in deepest regards and esteem.
Your friend,
Wyatt S. Earp
4021 Pasadena Ave.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Oct. 16, 1922
Mr. William S. Hart
8341 De Longpre Drive
Hollywood, Calif.

Dear Mr. Hart,

After a long absence I have now returned to the city for a short stay. It must all come to you with mixed joy. I wish to make no comment because I am your friend and I know you have nothing to regret. You have hosts of friends Mr. Hart and the world thinks of you with a spirit of great loyalty [more] now than it ever has.
But I can rejoice with you in the great happiness that comes to you as a father. In this you are especially blessed. Your son is likewise because he has a good father. I say this modestly and if his purposes in life are as noble, he will be a success. It is the earnest [wish] of Mrs. Earp and myself that he shall live to be all of that.
I trust your recent illness is just of the passing sort and that you will be yourself again within a few days. Mrs. Earp joins me in best wishes.

Sincerely yours,
Wyatt Earp
In the next letter Mrs. Earp tells Hart that her husband wishes to dedicate a book to him — a book about which few Western buffs will ever reach total agreement.

2703 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, Calif.
Mr. William S. Hart
Newhall, Calif.

My dear Mr. Hart:

Am inclosing a letter from Mr. Lake which is self explanatory. I was rather surprised Mr. Leussler told him he had spoken with me. If you will recall it was agreed that he was not to tell ... we had met. I cannot understand that and so presuming your good nature for your valuable advice in this matter, will you kindly return the inclosed [sic] letter to me.

I tried to get in touch with Mr. Leussler three times, but was informed he was south and would not be back until the end of the week. I would like to get in touch with him as I cannot get any information from Mr. Lake.

I want to thank you Mr. Hart for all of your wonderful kindness to Mr. Earp and myself. And it shall be my great pleasure to follow Mr. Earp's wishes in having his book dedicated to you — a real friend.
Trusting you and your dear sister are in good health. I am with kindest regards.

Most sincerely yours,
Josephine Earp
Another letter from Mrs. Earp would come under the heading of "fan mail.”

Dec. 18, 1923
My dear Mr. Hart:

Just a line to congratulate you upon your new picture "Wild Bill Hickok." I saw it twice with several friends and each time the house was packed. When you appeared upon the screen the applause was wonderful. Am happy to say that you have staged a remarkable "come back."
Trusting your future pictures will be as successful as your first.
With kindest regards

I am sincerely yours,
Mrs. Wyatt Earp
William S. Hart often contacted his friend during Wyatt's stay at the mines.

Oct. 21, 1925
Mr. Wyatt Earp
Vidal, Calif.

My dear friend Wyatt Earp:

I am mighty glad to hear from you. I am returning Mr. Sutton's letter which I presume you want to keep. Sutton has been a great admirer of my pictures for many years. I have many letters from him. His account of the opening of the Strip from the Oklahoma side is most interesting. The picture which I have just finished, "Tumbleweeds," shows the action which takes place on the other side starting at Caldwell, Kansas.
Mr. Wilstach the man who is writing the Hickok articles wrote to me a couple of weeks ago for some information which, fortunately, I was able to give him. One of the things he wanted to know was the whereabouts of Bat Masterson when Hickok was killed. I was able to tell him Masterson told me personally he was in Denver at the time.
When you return please let me know and I sure would be glad to see you and Mrs. Earp.

Always your friend,
William S. Hart

Saturday, September 3, 2022

The Death Knell of the Confederacy -- The Surrender of Fort Fisher

On January 15, 1865, the Confederacy surrendered Fort Fisher, North Carolina.
During the early days of the Civil War, the Confederacy built the "L" shaped earthen Fort Fisher in a strategic location near the mouth of North Carolina's Cape Fear River. The fort was there to make sure that the port of Wilmington remained open. The earthen stronghold mounted 39 large-caliber guns that were augmented by several mortars. The fort's nine feet high and 25 feet thick walls were thought to be formidable and able to repel any invader.

The fort was the primary defense for the Wilmington supply line which was in fact the central supply artery that brought food and munitions to Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. By January of 1865, that fort safeguarded the Confederacy's last operational Atlantic port.

On December 14, 1864, the morning saw a fleet of 75 Union warships and transports commanded by Admiral David Dixon Porter steamed south from Hampton Roads, Virginia, toward Fort Fisher. Aboard the troopships were 6,500 Union Army soldiers under the command of Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler.

Because of a storm, the Union Armada didn't start its bombardment of Fort Fisher until Christmas Eve, December 24. During that bombardment, the Union Navy fired over 20,000 shells of all calibers at the fort.

Believe it or not, even after such a barrage, the Union landing party of 2,500 troops came to within only 75 yards of the fort when their assault started on Christmas Day. Seeing his men chopped to ribbons and driven back, General Butler called off the attack. By that night, Admiral Porter realizing that his ships were in danger withdrew the fleet out of range of Fort Fisher's artillery pieces. No, I could not find out how many Union Soldiers died during that first attempted landing. Butler's action there resulted in him being replaced by Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry.

In early January of 1865, Gen. Terry and Adm. Porter decided to launch a second landing. What would take place would be the largest amphibious attack during the Civil War. An attack that combined land and naval forces. And here's something else, that amphibious assault would remain the largest U.S. amphibious attack until D-Day in World War II. 

There were nearly 10,000 Union troops and 58 Union naval ships involved in the attack. Of those, it is said that an 8,000-man landing force of Union troops went ashore after two days of naval bombardment. Among those making that landing would be a detachment of 400 Marines and 1,600 Sailors.

Let's keep in mind that at the opening of the Civil War in 1861, the U.S. Marine Corps' total strength numbered at 63 officers and 1,712 enlisted personnel. While U.S. Navy ships had Marines stationed aboard them, many located around the world and far from the chaos that was the Civil War, there were Marines at the landing of Fort Fisher for that amphibious assault.

Of the 8,000 Union troops there that day, were 1,600 sailors and 400 Marines divided into four companies under the command of Marine Captain Lucien L. Dawson. All were armed with rifles, revolvers, and cutlasses. Union Navy Commander Randolph Breeze led the Sailors during the attack.

For some unknown reason, Union Army Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry held back his Army troops in reserve on the Confederate left. So instead of simultaneous attack, Marines and Sailors fought hand-to-hand with Confederate defenders at Fort Fisher in what was a completely uncoordinated assault. That hand-to-hand fighting lasted for six hours.

Captain Dawson reported later that during the fighting he "received two or three orders from Captain Breeze to ‘bring up the Marines at once. That we would be late if not." Dawson went on to say, "I took the Marines up and filed across the peninsula in front of the Sailors with skirmishers thrown out."

Dawson rallied two companies of Marines to provide cover fire. After Gen. Terry committed the Army's troops, it was reported that several of the Marines aided the Army's attack on the main parapet and helped overrun Fort Fisher. It is interesting to note that on the last day of fighting as Union forces began to make their way through the defenses of the Fort, Confederate Col. William Lamb began to roust the injured and sick Confederate soldiers from the fort's hospital in a desperate last attempt to get the upper hand.

As a result of the surrender of Fort Fisher, 400 Confederate troops were killed or wounded, and more than 2,000 were taken prisoner of war.

The Union Army lost 900 men. The joint Navy-Marine force lost 200 men with 46 wounded or missing. Of those killed, 14 were Marines. Of the 54 Medals of Honor that were awarded for their actions at Fort Fisher, six were Marines. By the way, among the reinforcements were the Union Army's USCT (United States Colored Troops). One of those USCT Soldiers was awarded the Medal of Honor.

With its surrender of Fort Fisher, Union troops took control of Wilmington and severed the supply lines leading to Robert E. Lee's Army. Wilmington's fall eliminated any sort of protection for Confederate blockade runners bringing in needed supplies. This little know battle was in fact one of the defining battles of the Civil War.

The fall of Fort Fisher meant the Confederacy was even more vulnerable to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's advancing troops. But it meant more than just that. For months, Condferate supply lines were already in trouble. It is said that starving Confederate soldiers had already been deserting Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. And even though Confederal President Jefferson Davis approved the arming of African slaves as a means of augmenting those deserting the shrinking Confederate Army, they were losing manpower because of the lack of food and supplies.

So, while there are those who will say that it was Sherman's march or their loss at Gettysburg that toll the end of the Confederacy, I believe that the surrender of Fort Fisher was truly the death knell of the Confederacy. Nothing at that stage of the war had such an impact on the Confederacy's ability to wage war than the fall of Fort Fisher and those severed supply lines. 

With its great importance to keep Gen. Lee's Army fed and supplied, losing Fort Fisher meant the war for the Confederacy was lost. In fact, with the Confederacy and General Robert E. Lee struggling to keep the war going with their limited supplies running out, they would ultimately surrender within 90 days of losing Fort Fisher.

Tom Correa