June 2008 Wild West Cover
June 2008 Wild West Cover
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Cover Story: Ten Myths of the Little Bighorn
By Gregory Michno
Most folks know that not all of George Custer’s men were killed on June 25, 1876, and that the lieutenant colonel did not disobey orders, but the other eight battle myths presented here are discredited with the help of eyewitnesses—the Indians.

The Hanging of Patrick O’Connor and Frontier Justice
By Edward E. Deckert and Constance R. Cherba
At a time when there was no law enforcement or courts in what would become Iowa, the settlers in Dubuque improvised quite well and held a “legal” necktie party.

The Battle of Whitestone Hill
By Jerry Keenan
Indian casualties might have been greater in the 1863 clash than in any other fight in the American West, but many Sioux warriors escaped from Brig. Gen. Alfred Sully’s force and lived to fight another day.

Ellsworth: Ben and Billy Thompson’s Cow Town
By Richard H. Dillon
His brother Billy was fined one too many times by local lawmen in a Kansas community where, according to one 1873 newspaper, “Hell is still in session.” Now gunman Ben Thompson was ready to do his part to fight police corruption.

Celebrating the Fourth Frontier-Style
By Gregory Lalire
Independence Day was also something to celebrate in the Old West, especially if you reached Independence Rock by July 4.

Editor’s Letter


News and events celebrating the days of yesteryear, plus California writer Harold L. Edward’s top gunfights in the Golden State.

By Johnny D. Boggs
It is no mystery why Tony Hillerman is the winner of the Western Writers of America’s prestigious Owen Wister Award. His mysteries featuring two Navajo tribal policemen have become Western classics.

A musical quartert performs at camp in Dakota Territory

Gunfighters and Lawmen
By Harold L. Edwards
California woodcutter Dan McCall asked his young partner if he had “the blood to make money without working for it.” It was no joke. Two would-be train robbers were born.

Pioneers and Settlers
By John Koster
During the blame game that followed the June 1876 disaster at the Little Bighorn, the first enlisted man to serve as a scapegoat was Italian-born trumpeter Giovanni Martin.

Indian Life
By Bill Markley
North Dakota and South Dakota argued over Sitting Bull’s bones for years. During his lifetime, the great Sioux leader is not known to have chosen a burial site for himself.


Western Enterprise
By Charles M. Robinson III
By the 1880s, ranching in the West had become a large, impersonal business, and some Texas cowboys who didn’t like being treated as “servants” went out on strike in 1883.

Ghost Towns
The gold lode mines in the Garnet Mountains of Montana made the town of Garnet flourish in the 1870s and ’80s, and its golden days have not been forgotten.

By Deb Goodrich
At the heart of historic Fort Leavenworth in Kansas stands the Frontier Army Museum, with more than 5,000 items associated with soldiers west of the Mississippi.

Guns of the West
By Wayne R. Austerman
The U.S. Model 1841, better known as the “Mississippi Rifle,” emerged from the Mexican War with a sterling reputation for accuracy and reliability.

Art of the West
By Steve Mauro
In 1986, the year before his death, Andy Warhol did a series of classic Western images on screen prints. Among his subjects were Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull and George Custer.

Must-read books and must-see movies about hangings in the West. Plus reviews of recent nonfiction books and a look at a DVD on the cable-TV series The Real West.



Many, many different things are heard about Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s performance at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Consider the following: Custer disobeyed his orders, Custer did not listen to his scouts, Custer’s tactics were faulty, Custer was not killed at a “Last Stand.” Historian Gregory Michno argues that all of these statements are myths. What do you think? Link to discussion

 Little Bighorn Weapons: The Indians had some repeating rifles while the soldiers had Springfield single-shot carbines. Were the weapons in the battle the deciding factor?

Hanging Bill Longley: The cold-blooded Texas Killer boasted of 32 killings, and legend has it he hanged three times.

Along the Chisholm Trail: The old cattle trail rates high in the mythology of the post-Civil War Wild West, but it presented cowboys with plenty of harsh reality.

Western Movie Quiz: Even wrong answers can be fun.

Wild West Blog: Find it at wildwestblogcom.blogspot.com

On the cover: In General Custer, one of his last works before his death in 1987, Andy Warhol embraces the American West as an icon of popular culture and pays homage to a 19th-century celebrity who had more than 15 minutes of fame. Warhol also did Sitting Bull and Annie Oakley. Cover credit: © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Corbis.