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[Re. “Westward, Christian Soldier,” by Mike Coppock, in the June 2021 issue:] I have a problem with General O.O. Howard. I applaud his Christian treatment of Cochise and the Apaches. It is sad that Howard’s own government did not support his efforts in the treatment of the Nez Perces. The problem I have is with the pursuit of Chief Joseph. If you add up U.S. losses in the pursuit of the Nez Perces, more soldiers were lost than Lt. Col. George A. Custer lost at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. How does this make Howard “one of the top Army commanders out West,” according to the author of the article? Does Howard rank ahead of or behind Custer on a Top 10 list?
Editor responds: Mike Coppock says he placed Howard among the top Army field commanders “simply due to his activity in the West” and because “from a military point of view he was a major player.” In 2008 Indian wars expert and Wild West special contributor Gregory Michno gave us his list of the Top 10 commanders in the Indian wars. Neither Howard nor Custer made his list. Michno’s Top 10: 1, Nelson A. Miles; 2, Ranald S. Mackenzie; 3, George Crook; 4, James H. Carleton; 5, Christopher “Kit” Carson; 6, George Wright; 7, Alfred Sully; 8, Patrick Connor; 9, Albert J. Myer; 10, Eugene Carr. Late Indian wars expert Charles M. Robinson III ranked Crook at the top yet listed Howard at No. 9 and Custer at No. 10. Of Howard he noted, “Negotiated peace with Cochise; though his high-handedness led to Nez Perce outbreak in 1877, his response was adequate.”
‘There are no less than three reports to Colorado Territory Governor John Evans, beginning in 1863, that the Minnesota Sioux have come down to the agencies in the Central Plains and were smoking the war pipe with the Cheyennes and Platte River Sioux’
Jeff Broome’s “Top 10 Central Plains Indian Raids and Massacres” [February 2021] contains major errors in geography and history. The August 1862 Minnesota Uprising is today referred to as the U.S.–Dakota War. It took place in southern Minnesota, not, as you state, “in the region south of the Platte River and north of the Arkansas.” The Dakotas involved fled to Canada and Dakota Territory or were imprisoned (at Fort Snelling and in Iowa) or tried in Mankato for war crimes. The Arapahos and “other Central Plains tribes” were not involved at all. Check your maps next time and your facts.
The editor responds: Jeff Broome, author of that list, had opened the Minnesota Uprising item with an explanation of why it headed his list, but his qualifier was unfortunately edited out for space reasons. Our mistake. Here is what Broome originally wrote as No. 1 on his Top 10:
- August 1862 Minnesota Sioux Massacre: Technically not a massacre of the Central Plains (the area south of the Platte River and north of the Arkansas River), but within months after 644 settlers were killed, responsible warriors came south and smoked the war pipe with the southern Sioux, Arapahos and Cheyennes. The Central Plains war started a year later.
Broome’s research does indicate Central Plains tribes were involved. “There are no less than three reports to Colorado Territory Governor John Evans, beginning in 1863, that the Minnesota Sioux have come down to the agencies in the Central Plains and were smoking the war pipe with the Cheyennes and Platte River Sioux,” the author notes. “They are in Evans’ reports in his annual letter to the commissioner of Indian Affairs for the years 1863 and 1864.”
The February 2021 Wild West was another great read. Living near Boulder, Colo., I often visit Tom Horn’s gravesite (pictured on P. 57 of that issue) for a little Western vibe in our rapidly modernizing region. Just a point on Douglas L. Gifford’s piece [“Mother Road to the Far West”] on the Boonslick Road: It’s truly a wonderful piece, but I question his assertion that U.S. Highway 40 is the nation’s first truly transcontinental roadway. In terms of serving as a gateway to many of the roads pioneers followed, it cannot be contested. The Boonslick Road was an integral conduit that served for almost a century. U.S. 40 paralleled much of its path when originally surveyed in 1925 and did indeed eventually stretch from New Jersey to San Francisco. However, the Lincoln Highway was dedicated on Oct. 31, 1913, and spanned from San Francisco’s Lincoln Park to New York City’s Times Square, beating the federally funded road by more than 12 years. This makes the Lincoln Highway the true “Mother Road,” no matter what Route 66 enthusiasts claim otherwise.
Thanks for the stories and the history!
Joseph D. Breithart
Estes Park, Colo.
Douglas Gifford responds: Technically this reader is correct. U.S. Highway 40 was the first planned, numbered federal highway completed. However, the Lincoln Highway—which was created primarily from a series of existing roads—was indeed the first planned transcontinental highway route. Interestingly, when the federal government began numbering roads in the 1920s, a section of the Lincoln Highway became part of U.S. 40.
Sign of the Times
Re. the August 2021 Letters: The “Carrying Deadly Weapons” editorial from the Oct. 23, 1881, Tombstone Daily Epitaph called to mind a rare sign [at right] that I’ve had in my collection for 35 years. In 1898 it hung in the Knights of Pythias Lodge in Bodie, Calif. (now the Bodie State Historic Park). The sign, which was made and printed in England, is composed of a type of celluloid (used in early film) over tin and cardboard, with the celluloid showing many cracks and shrinkage from long exposure to the elements. Signs such as this—Hats, Coats & Revolvers Must Be Checked—suggest that carrying firearms was widely known in Bodie.
San Antonio, Texas
Send letters by email or to Wild West, 901 N. Glebe Road, 5th Floor, Arlington, VA 22203. Please include your name and hometown. These letters were published in the October 2021 issue.