‘Some blame should fall upon Captain Frederick Benteen. However, the most negligent officer of the 1876 campaign clearly remains Brig. Gen. George Crook’
Wild West Australian-Style
Congratulations on your tireless efforts to present the history of the Wild West. Superb reading. I have a Wild West traveling museum (artifacts on the Alamo, Chief Joseph, Wild Bill Hickok, Little Bighorn, etc.) here in Australia and have studied the Wild West for more than 20 years. I dress up in full buckskin war bonnet, headdress, breastplate—everything made by hand—and do shows for scout and school groups. I am a member of the Thunderbird Clan of Redwood River Lodge of the Pan-American Indian Association, and my native name is Medicine Crow. I named my son William Frederick Cody Carkeet after Buffalo Bill. I have studied Cherokee history and also love the free life of the mountain men. I have 35 of your Wild West magazines. Keep your hair, your powder dry and your eyes on the skyline.
Cedric “Medicine Crow” Carkeet
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
The editor responds: Too late for the hair, but thanks for the kind words and the picture from down under. Nice that you named your son William Frederick Cody instead of Ned Kelly.
Crook to Blame
I agree with most of “Benteen: Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” by Robert Barr Smith, in the June 2010 issue of Wild West. But some of the criticisms were misplaced. Dividing the forces to attack an Indian village was standard operating procedure, and Lt. Col. George A. Custer had previously battled numerically superior Lakota/Cheyenne forces on the Yellowstone in 1873. Smith suggests aborting the attack was an option. But Custer’s scouts believed the 7th Cavalry had already been discovered. To the contemporary officer’s mindset—not just Custer’s—attack was the only option, or else the Indians would scatter, denying the U.S. Army a decisive victory while dragging on the war for years.
Some blame should fall upon Captain Frederick Benteen. However, the most negligent officer of the 1876 campaign clearly remains Brig. Gen. George Crook, whom Smith doesn’t even mention. Crook attacked the wrong Indians in March on the Powder River, retreated from the Rosebud and went fishing for six weeks, awaiting new supplies. Even worse, Crook made no attempt to contact Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry, despite experiencing the ferocity and strength of the Lakota/Cheyenne fighting men. Eight days later, Custer would face even more warriors with only half the force Crook had assembled.
Major Marcus Reno freaked out, Benteen dawdled and Crook failed. Custer remains the one officer who actually performed his patriotic duty. He and his men paid the ultimate price for our country’s sins. Custer deserves less criticism and a lot more respect.
A Custer Keeper
Bravo on the June 2010 issue. Normally, I pass on your wonderful journal to interested friends—but not this issue. The compelling treatise by Robert Barr Smith on Custer’s (and Benteen’s) engagement in 1876 is an historical recounting I’ve returned to time and time again over the past few weeks. Smith is a meticulous scholar whose phrasing and descriptive language are a delight. The June issue will remain in my library. Sorry, friends.
Stanley E. Jones
San Diego, Calif.
Wild About Horses
It was heartening to see so much space allotted to wild horses in the February 2010 issue. Dan Flores’ “Horse Trading in the Early West” covered the subject very well. As an adopter of one wild horse, I learned much concerning the early times of mustanging. But that time is long past and will likely never return.
What was most appreciated was yet more mention of the horse essentially originating on this continent—not being “introduced” to it by Spanish explorers. As a point of heated contention, this fact is grossly ignored by those who would rid the West of the wild herds. Being a native (not exotic) species favors the survival of the wild herds. A proposal in the BLM adoption program is to move the herds to Eastern and Midwestern pastures, said to be lush with nutrient-rich grasses, something the horses must adapt to if they are to make it. However, that carries potential for some maladies to befall the horses. After many hundreds of years, the horse has done quite well right where it is, on nutrient-sparse forage. Moving the herds appears made to order for other interests vying for land.
Lake City, Fla.
Pony by the Bay
“Taking Stock of the Pony Express,” by Frederick J. Chiaventone, in the April 2010 issue, was excellent, except it left out one important detail. The Pony Express actually ended in San Francisco, because even though the riders arrived in Sacramento, they carried mail and money for delivery to Wells Fargo businesses and banks in the city.
If the riders missed the steamboat at Sacramento, they had to ride to Benicia along the Carquinez Strait, where they crossed by ferry to Martinez, in Contra Costa County. In Martinez they changed horses at the Morgan House Hotel and headed over the Contra Costa Hills to Lafayette, where they again changed horses. From there they went to Oakland and caught the ferry to San Francisco.
There are two Pony Express markers in Martinez. One is in the waterfront park where riders disembarked from the ferry, put up by Joaquín Murietta Chapter 13 E Clampus Vitus. The second marker is on Main Street in downtown Martinez, on the site of the Morgan House Hotel, put up by the local Pony Express Historical Association. There is also a monument in Lafayette, Calif., on the site of the station on Mount Diablo Boulevard. I hope this sheds a little light on a forgotten aspect of this great enterprise.
Walnut Creek, Calif.
The editor responds: On P. 30 of the article, it does read, “From Sacramento the mail would be forwarded by steamboat to the Pony Express offices in bustling San Francisco,” but thanks for sharing more about that stretch of the great journey.
I have noticed what I believe to be a mistake in the April 2010 issue—in the P. 47 sidebar about Robert Addison Gillespie that goes with Wayne R. Austerman’s article “Ambush and Siege at Paint Rock.” Austerman writes, “In 1851, when Gillespie attended a peace conference….” In the next paragraph, he writes, “On September 22, 1846, he was mortally wounded….” How could Gillespie attend a peace conference five years after being mortally wounded and buried in San Antonio’s Odd Fellow Cemetery? Thanks for a great magazine.
The editor responds: Neither Texas Ranger Gillespie nor his ghost were at the 1851 peace conference. Author Austerman says he regrets the “major howler,” and we regret not catching the mistake. At least four other sharp-eyed readers also reminded us that people resting in peace don’t usually attend peace conferences.
Specific Pacific Rifle
I was pleasantly surprised to read the August 2010 “Guns of the West” article by George Layman on Ernest Knaebel’s Pacific model Marlin-Ballard. I purchased that fine rifle from Mr. Layman about 10 years ago, and I still possess the Pacific. It was also related to me by Mr. Layman that there was a $10 gold coin in the buttstock as well as the parchment, but I never saw the coin. Ernest Knaebel was 14 in December 1886, and that would be an appropriate age for a young man to be given a fine sporting rifle, perhaps as a Christmas gift from his father. Marlin-Ballards were highly prized for their fine workmanship and superb accuracy. Knaebel worked primarily as an attorney involved in resolving land patent disputes in New Mexico and Colorado until he moved back East to work as an attorney for the Justice Department, organizing the Public Lands Division. He eventually became the 11th Reporter of Decisions for the U.S. Supreme Court. As a land surveyor by profession and the owner of a New Mexico ranch, I am most pleased to own this rifle and to submit this short history on the original owner.
Robert E. Holland
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