TOP TEN FIGHTS
I found Gregory Michno’s “Top Ten Western Indian Fights” list, in the June 2007 “Roundup” department, interesting. However, I would have to include the June 1874 Battle at Adobe Walls. It rates inclusion for several reasons: An overwhelming number of southern Plains Indians were repulsed by a handful of men and one woman; the combined forces of Kiowa, Cheyenne and Comanche warriors were led by Quanah Parker, among others, and represented some of the finest light cavalry to ever sit a horse; the battle’s significance with respect to subsequent events on the southern Plains; the presence of Bat Masterson; and the famous “Long Shot” of Billy Dixon, who received the Medal of Honor and later homesteaded and died on the site of the battle.
Author Michno responds:Although a colorful affair, Adobe Walls doesn’t rank in the Top Ten in importance.A small number of men repulsing overwhelming Indian forces makes a good story, but doesn’t necessarily make it significant for anyone except the participants. Beecher Island was similar, but it’s not in my Top Ten either. The fact that there were fine light Indian “cavalry” involved means it is comparable to about 99 other fights.It might have been an opening round in a “war”that lasted only about three months, but the war and a lifestyle began to die at Palo Duro Canyon, which was No. 8 on the list. Adobe Walls does make the Top Ten in “Exciting Tales to Tell a Century Later.”
Being a fan of historian Greg Michno, I find it difficult to believe he would call the Fetterman Fight “the largest ‘massacre’ of white soldiers until the Little Bighorn.” If memory serves me, on November 4, 1791, Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Claire was defeated by Miami Indians, losing 900 men, nearly half of the small U.S. Army of the time. Also on December 28, 1835, Major Francis L. Dade led 110 men of the 2nd and 3rd Artillery regiments into a Seminole ambush with only two soldiers surviving, beginning the Second Seminole War. The losses in both fights surpass Fetterman’s 80 men.
CSM Joseph P. Henderson (Aus., ret.)
The editor responds: Michno’s list involved only Indian fights west of the Mississippi. In the deadly Ohio engagement known as St. Claire’s Defeat, or the Battle of the Wabash, only 24 soldiers out of 920 were unscathed (632 were killed and 264 wounded). The confederation of Indians led by Miami Chief Little Turtle and Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket reportedly lost just 21 men. Major Francis L. Dade’s lopsided defeat (sometimes called the Dade Battle) occurred in Florida.
TWO FRANKIE LAINES
I was glad to see in your June “Roundup” section that you noted the passing of Western singer Frankie Laine. However, the man with the guitar in your picture is not Laine. Also, Laine was entirely aware that Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles was a spoof. During the film’s 1974 release, Laine said in an interview that he had seen a notice in Variety saying that Mel Brooks was looking for a “Frankie Laine–type singer,” to sing the theme for his new comedy. Laine called him up, wanting to know why he wanted a Frankie Laine type when he could have the real Frankie Laine. Frankie got the gig, the song received an Oscar nomination for Best Song, and I believe Frankie sang it on the Academy Awards.
Henry C. Parke
Van Nuys, Calif.
The editor responds: Thanks for the info. The man pictured in the June issue is also named Frankie Laine, but he is an Irish singer whose body of work includes an album called Gunsmoke at El Paso. The American Frankie Laine (1913-2007),born Francesco Paolo Lo Vecchio in Chicago, is pictured at left.
BEST BAD GUY
In your April “Roundup” item on most memorable villains in Western movies, I was surprised that the man who shot (several times) Wil Andersen (John Wayne) in the 1972 picture The Cowboys was not included. Bruce Dern’s character, Long Hair (Asa Watts), had to be one of the meanest badmen. I think Dern put 100 percent into all his acting. Thanks for a good magazine.
San Angelo, Texas
In the April issue, you named some of the top villains in Western films, with gunslinger Jack Wilson (portrayed by Jack Palance) in Shane leading the pack. I was surprised not to see mentioned the Tobin Gang (portrayed by Lee J. Cobb, Jack Lord, Robert Ericson and others) from the 1958 Western Man of the West. These guys were real scum in anybody’s language.
Mario Torres Rivera
The editor responds: Actor Dern indeed qualifies as a durn good bad guy, especially when he sadistically shoots down the Duke in front of all those young cowhands in The Cowboys, and Man of the West hero Link Jones (played by Gary Cooper) has his clean hands full with the nasty Tobin Gang, even though he used to run with those extra hard cases. Thanks for the input.You guys know bad.
As sad as it was to read Gregory Michno’s article “Captive Clara Blinn’s Plea: ‘If You Love Us, Save Us’” in the June issue, it was a reality more women and children faced than our present generation is aware of. Many a cavalry soldier endured incredible hardships to aid victims like Clara and her young son Willie. So while the cavalry is often vilified in the media, I’m glad to know authors such as Michno will be retelling the very painful facts, reminding us that there were honorable and dishonorable people on both sides of the Indians wars, as there will always be in any war. However, printing (in “Custer’s First Fight With Plains Indians”) a soldier’s dead, naked, mutilated body, then naming him underneath, goes too far. Truth can be told and still be dignified. Bad judgment, guys.
The editor responds: The often-published photo (see P.30 of the June issue) is disturbing but a rare look at harsh reality on the warring Plains.Another reader objected to the fact that the image was altered slightly. Dale Crawford of Fort Collins,Colo.,writes: “It seems that someone on your staff had a touch of ‘political corrrectness’ when they used Photoshop to alter the photo of Sergeant Frederic Wyllyams. The poor cuss was killed by the Indians, stripped naked, maimed, had numerous arrows stuck in him and, to add insult to injury, had his manhood removed by a modern-day graphic artist. I have always expected historical accuracy from your magazine.”
Another great article by Paul Hutton on Kit Carson (“Kit Carson’s Ride,” April 2007 Wild West)…almost perfect. One major date wrong, however. The Taos massacre (often called the Taos Revolt) of 1847, witnessed by Kit’s wife, Josefa, was January 19-20, not April as Dr. Hutton says on P. 31. Just for the record—and the reprint.
Chimney Rock, Colo.
Originally published in the December 2007 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.