After reading in your magazine about the battles led by Lieutenant Colonel George Custer, I found him arrogant and bloodthirsty, ever eager to take more and more innocent lives. I found him only as noble or heroic as his historic equals—the slave traders, Adolph Hitler or more recently Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dalmer. Custer’s larger than life image was built on the slaughter of villages of native American women and children. His misguided soldiers followed him loyally, believing him legend. It would be the lifeless bodies of these soldiers and Custer himself that made the Battle of the Little Bighorn legend.
The editor responds: The deadly fiasco at the Battle of the Little Bighorn certainly helped secure Custer’s legend, but even most of his critics will say he was closer to the American soldier ideal of his time than being akin to a slave trader or serial killer, let alone the nasty Nazi dictator of the Third Reich. The Plains Indians were excellent fighting men, and they were more than a match for him and the 7th Cavalry on June 25, 1876. Please see historian Gregory Michno’s “Ten Myths About the Little Bighorn,” in this issue for a better understanding of that battle and maybe Custer himself.
Your colorized picture of three of Geronimo’s warriors on the cover of your February 2008 issue was an excellent image. I plan on framing it and putting it on my wall beside my Old West library. Your October 2007 cover and story on Oklahoma’s land rush was the best I have ever seen on the subject. Your competition should look at the way your fine magazine is doing. Keep up the good work.
St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada
In the “Gunfighters and Lawmen” article in the February issue, there is a 1902 picture of Charles Worley as a member of the Pauls Valley City Council in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). The picture appears to have been taken when Charles was in his 30s. He is a twin in appearance of my youngest brother, Paul Edgar Worley, in his last photo before his death from brain cancer in 1995 at age 32. Charles Worley made his living for a time as a constable, and my brother also served a distinguished career in law enforcement (He held the rank of corporal with the Lake Saint Louis Police Department in St. Charles County, Mo.). I would be interested to learn if any of Constable Charles Worley’s kin became law enforcement people, since my other brother, Mike Worley, served more than 20 years in another police department in St. Charles.
The Rev. Steven Robinson-Worley
Fort Tejon Camels
As a longtime docent at Fort Tejon State Park, I read with great interest Dr. Paul Hutton’s article on the camel experiment. One of the great myths of Fort Tejon is the relationship between the 1st Dragoons and the government-owned camels. The article implies that when Ned Beale reached southern California in late 1857, he turned the camels over to the dragoons stationed at For Tejon. Not so. Beale delivered the camels to Samuel A. Bishop, his business partner. Bishop rapidly put the camels to use on his ranch and used them to deliver supplies to Beale’s road-building crew working in northern Arizona. In April 1859, Bishop’s civilian packers launched a successful camel charge against 100 Mojaves who were protesting the construction of Beale’s road across their land. In November 1859, the Army ordered the Fort Tejon army quartermaster to take possession of the camels. The camels spent four months in the army corrals at the fort, during which time they were not used by the dragoons, but ate prodigious amounts of hay and barley. The quartermaster soon sent the camels back to the Bishop ranch.
I noticed Richard Selcer listed Madame Moustache in his inventory of the West’s top ten madams (December 2007 Wild West, P. 10). Period sources say “Eleanor” or “Eleonore” (not “Eleanora”) Dumont arrived at Nevada City, Calif., in 1854. Twenty-five years later, in September 1879, she committed suicide at Bodie, Calif. Her whereabouts between those dates are largely undocumented, but newspapers that reported her death said she had followed mining booms to British Columbia, the Black Hills, eastern Nevada, Idaho and Montana (but not Tombstone). Period accounts I’ve seen say Dumont worked as a professional gambler who ran gaming rooms and dealt cards. Although Victorian language is often veiled, nobody said she was a prostitute or madam, suggesting that her title probably resulted from French ancestry. “Madame” did not necessarily mean she was a madam. Interested readers will enjoy visiting www.BodieHistory.com where I posted information about the Madame.
Michael H. Piatt
It’s a Gass
I enjoyed reading about Christmas in the Old West in the December 2007 issue. Just a small correction about the name of Patrick Gass, one of the three sergeants in the Corps of Discovery mentioned in the article. It is either a typo, or the author got confused with another popular figure of the time—Hugh Glass, who fought with a grizzly and lived to talk about it. Hugh Glass got killed by the Arikara Indians on the Yellowstone River near the old Fort Cass in 1833, while Patrick Gass lived up to the ripe age of 99 and died April 2, 1870, in Wellsburg, W.Va.
The editor responds. Yes, it was a typo. Thanks for the correction. We like Patrick Gass so much that we quote him again in this issue in a story about the Fourth of July on the frontier. As for Hugh Glass, he had more reason than most to celebrate Christmas in 1823 after being left for dead in the wilderness and crawling to safety earlier that year. But there is no truth to the rumor that on Christmas morning, he growled, “I’m as hungry as a bear!” His incredible true tale is told in “Hugh Glass: Legendary Trapper on America’s Western Frontier,” which can be found on our Web site.