Archive for the ‘Civil War’ Category


June 2, 2008


               Several days prior to recieving a phone call from a friend, I had been thinking of him — and also thinking of the reenactments at Fort Tejone near Bakersfield.  As usual, I will not use names so as to keep identities private, but this fellow has been a good friend in the past.  I came to know him in a odd manner.  One year we were doing a Memorial Day afair at a local park and I and about four others had taken our cannons and dressed in our Civil War uniforms to fire a salute to our fallen hero’s.  There were some Civil War veterans buried in this cementry.

     Before starting the event, after setting up, we had some time to stand around and answer questions.  I was approached by a mother with a young son and younger daughter.  Answering questions, she learned that my (obviously) home-made field piece was indeed a jury rigged piece. She told me that her husband  also made smaller shooting cannons and fired them in remote areas.  After we did our little show I was ready to disassemble my piece (cannon) to load it in the back of my old ’78 Chevrolet 1/4 ton truck.  They again approched me and asked if I was interested in seeing her husband’s little cannons.  I expressed my interest and asked where they lived.  She started explaining turn here then there and watch for this..   Finaly she volunteered to let the son, who was about nine at the time, ride with me and point the way, of course she was to follow behind.  Into the vehicles we jumped and away we went.

     To this day she says she cannot believe she let the boy go with me.  Today that is something you would not do.  But for some reason people have always trusted me on meeting, something I have no expalanation for, but a trust I also have never betrayed.  Anyway, we arrived at their house and I was allowed to inspect the husband’s cannons.  He, like my good friend the blacksmith at work, had made the guns at work. I would say he had a bore about 1 3/4 inch in diameter from which he fired a solid lead slug.  Unfortunately we never got to go out together and shoot it.

     The husband happened to be back east for something to do with his father, and while there he visited several civil War sites.  I invited the family to our next reenactment, to which they came.  While there, I was able to recruit the father and son for my gun crew.  I had a Captain of the outfit who liked running things but was lously at recruiting, I eventually took us from a one gun crew of four to three guns and about fifteen men before I had to give it up.

     This family and I became really good friends, and I watched the boy grow from nine to about fourteen, before I was forced to quit reenacting by a change in work days.  The son has now been in the Air Force for ten years and is a father of a three year old daughter.  He is curently on the Air Force One matinance crew, as a crew chief.  The daughter is a mother of two girls and young woman in her own right.

     After this long ramble, we are now nearing the meat of this post.  In the later part of last week the husband called to inform me that the city of Long Beach, Ca. and a Civil War association were going to stage a reenactment of the battle Gettysburg — Something I had missed in the local paper.  He invited me to go with him and his wife.  An invitation which I accepted, after informing them of my recent stroke.

     On Saturday morning I was picked up by both and escorted to the park to an area I had never seen, in the remote back section.  There was a gentle rise that resembled a small Cemetery Hill.  I was surprised at the large Civil War encampment. There was a full battery of Parrot Guns, six  30# cannon.  (called 30# because a solid steel ball would weigh that much), and there was even mounted calvary on hand.  In all it was a respectable gathering.  I believe they are planning on trying to make it an annual event.

     The actual battle was an interesting show for one who is interested in such.  To my friend and I it was kinda lacking standing on the side lines.  It is much more interesting when you can uniform up and pour some black powder down a cannon barrel and touch it off. (more…)


Henry McCarty aka William H. Bonney aka “Billy the Kid”

April 6, 2008






       As I sit here prepared to start this new chapter of the old west, I’m surounded by at least six books.  All have business cards, post-it notes and grocery reciepts stuck throughout them marking pages.  While the main story remains basically the same through them, the details vary greatly.  These books are serious works of individuals who researched their stories as best they could, none are the dime and penny stories of his day. 

     Even “The Kids” origin differs from book to book.  Some say without doubt that Henry Antrim and his older brother Joe were both born in New York to Catherine McCarty, Billy around 1860.  Some claim his father was named either Patrick McCarty, or William Bonney.  In another book it is stated that historians have largley dismissed this theroy and feel he was born in Illiniois, Indiana or Kansas.  And one it is stated that Billy told an 1880 census taker that he was born in Missouri.

     What is known is that by 1870 Mrs. McCarty was in Wichita, Kansas where she became acquanted with a William H. Antrim.  Antrim was a discharged private with the Indiana Volunteer Infantry.  Antrim was a part time carpenter, farmer and bartender.  Catherine filed on a quarter section of land and purchased a lot in town where she operated a hand laundry.

      After a lengthly courtship the couple marrried in Santa Fe.  Antrim is often potrayed as a shiftless scoundrel, but he seems to have done his best to provide for his family.  Catherine suffered terribly from tuberculosis and soon after the marriage the family moved to Silver City, New Mexico.  Probably in the hopes that The dry climate would prove benificial for her health. 

     While life in a mining camp could hardly be described as a wonderful experience, Henry’s could not be called unpleasant either.  He seemed to have done well in school, and was described as an eager learner and very helpful in the classroom.  He acquired the ability to express himself, as later revealed in letters he wrote to the governor.





      Not true!  Catherine McCarty died on Sepetember 16,1874, and the family began to disolve.  Antrim could not exert much influnce over the boys.  Joe would roam the west and die in Denver, Colorado at the age of seventy-six on November 25, 1930.  His body went unclaimed and was donated to the Colorado Medical School.  He has never been quoted as saying anything about his infamous brother to my knowledge.

     It did not take Henry long to have his first brush with the law.  According to the Grant County Herald  of September 26,1875 “Henry McCarty was arrested and commited to jail to await the action of the grand jury on charges of stealing clothes from Charlie Sun and Sam Chung.  It is believed that Henry was simply the tool of Sombrero Jack who did the actual stealing while Henry did the hiding.  Jack has skipped out.” (more…)


March 20, 2008


       I am drawing from two books on this one and the author of my favorite states, Print Olive, Just plain mean as hell.  His name was Isom Prentice Olive,  known to most as “Print”.  Print rode with the Texas Volunteers in the civil War.  After the hostilities ended he returned to Williamson County, Texas and took up ranching on his father’s spread.

     This was the time when the range was filled with the wild Longhorn Cattle that bred and roamed free.  Until a maverick was branded it was fair game to anyone who could drive, drag  or wrestle it out of the heavy brush and rope and brand it.    All this was open range but the man who controlled the watering spots either by ownership or dominance was in effect in control of the surrounding area.  A person caught branding or slaughtering a steer in that area was considered a rustler,  and the Olives had no tolerance for rustlers.

      An unfortunate individual named Ron Murry was Print Olive’s first rustler.  Print in effect shot Murray out of the saddle and then took him home, patched him up and hired him as a hand.

     The next encounter turned out a little different for Print.  He discovered one Dave Fream in a running gun battle on horse back. Fream was killed but wounded Print badly.  Olive was indicted for murder but the jury scoffed  at the charge and Print was freed.

    Still on the mend from his wounds Print started on a trail drive to Kansas.  Homesteaders felt these drives should pay a fee for crossing their lands or using their watering holes.  Often they would charge a sum that the drovers considered highway robbery.   Most trail bosses would settle on a more reasonable fee, but some pushed on with bluff or bullied their way through.

     (Now I know that this word is sensitive to many and is one that I do not use.  But it was in use at the time and is recorded in the book.  I will use it only once as printed, and apologize to any I offend.)  Print had a big black cowboy and somewhat of a gun-hand.  He would have gained greater notoriety had his skin been white.  His name was James Kelly, most commonly known as “Nigger Jim”  or “Print’s Bad Nigger”.  As a gun-hand he had few peers, and was devoted to Print Olive.

    Print would send Jim  Kelly out to negotiate with these homesteaders, most of whom had never seen a Negro in their life and never one who wore his guns in so fearsome a manner.

     One cowboy recorded:  “That big black boy with his gun would sure tell them punkin’ rollers where to head in at.  He’d roll his eyes like a duck in a thunderstorm and grit his teeth–Lord he could play a tune with his teeth.  Most of the settlers were poor northern folks that never seen any colored people and was scared of them anyway.  When they saw Kelly, they would come down quickly enough from $25 to $5 as the price for watering the herd.”

     In Ellsworth, Kansas, according to a reprinted newspaper article in a second book, an account is given as to the shooting of Print — the article is too lengthily to reprint here but it gives this account.

     “Our fair city was once again rocked with another shooting in the saloon district.  Print Olive and a local known cardsharp named Jim Kennedy had a disagreement over a hand of cards.  Mr. Kennedy stood up from the table and Mr. Olive made charges as to how Mr. Kennedy had dealt the last hand of cards.  Mr. Kennedy drew a concealed gun and before Mr. Olive could move from the table, fired striking Mr. Olive in his upraised hand.  Firing twice more Mr. Olive received serious wounds to his groin and thigh. Someone standing  on the porch fire through the window striking Mr. Kennedy in the hip.  Mr. Olive was removed to a back room for treatment by local Doctors.  Mr. Kennedy was taken into custody and treated at undisclosed location.  He later escaped though a unlocked window.”

    The person who fired through the window and there-by saved Prints life was James Kelly.

     When Print recover enough he returned to Texas to recuperate.      Farmers and cowboys were now roping and branding mavericks that the Olive’s had claim to.  Print had signs made and posted that read “All cattle and horse thieves pay attention, anyone caught ridding a Olive horse or driving a Olive cow will be shot on sight.” (more…)


January 20, 2008

     I watched a movie from the 1960’s the other, “THE HORSE SOLDIERS” staring John Wayne.  And in it of course they fought the confederate forces several times.  In each scene  there was someone carrying or waving the confederate flag.  And the flag they used was the ever popular rectangular red banner with the crossed stripes.  Now this is not the Confederate Flag nor was it the battle banner, it is a naval ensign, flown from the stern of a ship.  Anytime you see a clown driving his pickup truck with a decal of this banner displayed on it he is declaring that he is in the Confederate Navy.

     The Confederate Battle Banner was square, red with the crossed blue stripes and the thirteen stars.  It was 50 inches square for the Infantry, 36 inches for Artillery and 24 for Calvary.  Yes there were a few units that used the Naval Ensign but few.  This was strictly a battle banner, not the Confederate Flag.

     When the southern states succeeded from the union, a conclave was convened to select a flag and the banner was presented.  It was turned down with one senator exclaiming it looked like a damned pair of suspender’s.  The first confederate Flag had a blue field with the 13 stars in a circle, it had one large white stripe bordered by two red ones.  This was the “Stars and Bars”.  It had thirteen stars because the Confederacy thought that Missouri and Kentucky would succeed with them.  Neither did but tried to remain neutral, both suffered greatly and became areas of bloody conflict between devise elements with in the states and bordering ruffians. 

     It was used during the first two years of the war, and caused quite a bit of confusion on the battle field.  In one instance Confederate Infantry was able to advance to within 75 yards of a union artillery battery and open fire because the flag remained limp in the still air and the union troops thought it was their flag.

     It was decided to change the flag to reduce the confusion and a new flag adopted.  this was the Stainless Banner it was white with a impression of the battle banner in the field area.  This was met with much dislike as most thought it looked too much like a surrender flag.  This is the correct flag for the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, although many were still using the Stars and Bars.

     The third Flag was never carried into battle and I really do not remember what it looked like, and my books are still boxed up.

     We always say the Confederate Army, but it was made up of the various Army’s of the States.  the Army of Virginia, The Army of Georgia, The Army of Tennessee.   Each state claimed the right to govern it’s own army which caused a lot of friction with in the ranks of the Confederate command.  When Sherman burned the vast stores in Richmond the  forces of other states were ragged.  Georgia would not allow its supplies to be rationed to states.  This seriously weakened the cohesion of the south.

     In the north you had a standing Union Army under the direct command of Washington.   these forces were divided into two Army’s the Army of the Western theater and the Army of the East.  These were divided into divisions and further into regiments, then to company’s.  Each regiment had its regimental flags, all the same except for the numbers on them.  State militia’s were issued regimental flags with their states represented on the most times.

     In the South they usually had regimental flags based on the state flags.

     All this ramble is to say all this information has been readily available for years so why has writers and prop people been so ignorant for so long is my question.  This is as stupid as them using 1873 Colts and 1894 Winchesters in a 1863 area movie.  Maybe they think we are all ignorant as they are.

     Now I know some of you are more informed than I , but you get the drift of my complaint.

And thanks for dropping in again.

I find it difficult to believe that this pile of rambles has had 12,500+ hits in the two years I been punching these keys.

 Thanks a heap.



June 14, 2007

     The life of a army wife in the old west after the Cicil War was not one to be envied by the gentler woman of the east.  Most forts in the west were not the high walled log defensive structures seen in the movies.  And accomodations were mostly primitive at best, although a few were like small villages.  A officer in command might have a dewelling of several rooms and other subornate officers were usually regulated to lesser structures in decending order of rank.  Also quarters were subject to “ranking”, a pratice when a new officer with more rank moved to the next highest housing avaliable to him.  displacing the individual in that place to bump down the line in order.  In one instance recorded a young Lieutenant and his bride were forced to set up housekeeping in a hallway after being ranked.  Later he was informed he had to vacate as a senior Lieutenant was ranking him again, upon which he imedatly resigned his commision and left the army.

     George and Libby CusterArmy wives were subject to a strict hierachy of rank regemented, social status.  A few wives acompanied their husbands everywhere they could.  Elizebeth Custer even acompanied her husband Brev. Gen. George Custer, (the title  from the Civil War, actually at the time he was a Colonel), on several minor campains.  She lived in the tent with him and took delight in riding and hunting game along the trail.  She later recorded that their tent was blown down in heavy wind and rain storms.  She wore his borrowed underwear under her soaked skirts and even wore a pair of his boots as her shoes were also saoked.  On reasignment to Kentucky she lobbied with him to be reasigned to the west.  She remained devoted to him untill her 94 year when she died.  She wrote three books on her experences in the west with her husband and the army.  Upon the delevery of the news of Colonel Custers death at her back door in the early morning hours ,she threw a blanket over her dressing gown and acompanied the officers to visit 27 other wives with the news of their husbands death.   Two days before her death she had written a letter urging a monument for the men of her husbands comand, but empthatly stating that Major Reno not be included on it, as she felt he was a coward and his actions had contrubited to Col. custers death.

     All women on a military base were listed as camp followers, including officers wives.  the only women who had any offical standing were the launderesses.  On most bases to be a laundress she had to be married to a enlistedman.  Women were in short supply and it was not difficult for a woman to find a husband.  Also the military regulations allowed one laundress for every 19 1/2 men ( yeah 19 1/2) and they recieved the same wage as a enlisted man of $13 a month and medical, and food rations also they recieved their wages first before the men were paid.  A enegertic laundress could earn upward of $40 a month, as the enlistedmen paid for their laundry service.  So it was not hard to find a enlisted husband.  Their housing was usually deplorable at best, dirt floors and leaky roofs.  One acount record lists a woman checking on her 3 month old during a heavy rain finding him almost drowned in his crib located under a leak in the roof.  Often these same women did service as medical personel on post where a surgon was not provided. 

     In 1876 fractions within th army structure mounted a push to elemate the laundress corps, claming        rampant prostution and other charges.  Other fractions pushed just as hard to retain the service.  The final straw that broke the draw, was the contention of how many thousand dollars the army would save if the laundresses were eleminated.  The final decision was to fase out the existing  service with no new hires.  On many base in the west the service continued long past the 1878 deadline.

     Many photos exist showing both sides of the prade ground,  However the two sides existed with very little inter action.  The officers wives had their parties and the enlisted men and their wives existed in their own world.  Neither had a easy life in any case.  Both have to be admired for their perserverance.

    Washboard I personaly do most of my own laundry.  In the Marines during boot camp it was done on a scrub table using a large bar of soap and a scrub brush under faucets of runng water.  We scrubbed our underwear, our socks and fatuges all the same way many guys got rashes because they did not rinse the soap out good enough.  Later we had machines available at the barracks on on base laundry facilitys (they were prone to losing some articles).  We could also take our laundry to town.  Anyway that is another story.


A Civil War Rennactor goes to School!!

March 20, 2007

     Well the last time I wasted your time I gabbed about giving a magic show for my  daughters kindergarten class.  A number of years rolled by and I became a grandfather to my son’s little boy.  He eventually started to school and progressed to the second grade.  The school he attended during his elementary years was located in the city of La Mirada, Ca. and was a presidential citation school for excellence.  One day during a visit to their house it was mentioned that his second grade class was studing   the Civil War, which suprised me as I did not know it was studied it that young age.  Once again my foot got inserted into my mouth with out thought.  I volunteered to come to his class in uniform as his show and tell, “Bonk me on the head!!”.  Well Jeremy’s mother went to school and discussed it with his teacher, this led to a conference on the school office with the principal.  While this was being discussed it was overheard by a fifth grade teacher.  She excitedly interrupted to ask if I would consider doing the fifth grade also, as they were deeply involved with the Civil War at that time.   By the time I was notified of the results I was committed to doing the second grade in the morning, both classes aprx. fifty kids, and the three sixth grade classes after lunch aprx. sixty kids.  This had expanded from going to a class room in uniform and being shown off to a full course demonstration of    thirty minutes for the second graders and a hour for the fifth grade.  Once again I was totally unprepared for something of this magnitude.  What the hell could I talk about for a hour?  Well I had enough junk to haul around with me so I hastily made notes of facts I thought would interest them. (more…)

“Unsung Hero’s”

October 31, 2006

     If you have followed my blog for any length of time you know of my Civil War reenactment and interest.  My reenacting took place  in a Confederate Artillery unit. On the field there were of course the infantry and mostly dismounted Calvary units.  But on the actual Fields of battle in the real war there were many more men engaged in the important behind the lines endeavors that are seldom mentioned.  Supply was a very necessary and unglamorous duty.  Food had to be provided and ammunition did not magically appear in the men’s ammo pouches.  Cannons had to be supplied, medical equipment and medicine delivered.

      For the first time in the history of warfare the railroad played a important part.  However the track only ran from place to place and battles were fought many miles away.  Therefore the supply corps was a very necessary element of both armies.   Can you imagine the size of the supply dept?  Horses for example, need fodder in the form of hay and grain.  Officers horses, Calvary horses, artillery horses, ambulance and  horses of every kind had to be feed.  Now I suppose most people think these animals could forge in fields and roadsides.  No so, it would be impossible to feed that many animals off the land.  This fodder had to be hauled from the northern farms and fields.    hundreds of miles to the front lines.  It took countless wagons to just supply this one important commodity.  Then consider this the animals hauling this grain and fodder also need to be fed. 

      The southern armies were not so fortunate as the union they had not the supply base and equipment.The best they could hope for was to intercept what union supplies they could.  It was often said the best supply corps for the Confederacy was the union army.  Many Confederate Calvary units were devoted to raiding the union supply lines.  Nathan Bedford Forest and John Mosby were particularly adept at this type of raiding.  The rail lines were targets of choice as their routes were limited to the tracks.  Many troops were diverted from combat to guard duty along the lines and wagon routes.

     My wife has a friend whose husband has some of his family history in which his great great grandfather was wounded while delivering hardtack.  Hardtack is a particularly unappetizing cracker made of unleavened flour and water which was a staple of combat troops.  Often times weevils infested  the crackers which the men hailed as extra protein.  For the north air-tights (canned goods) were often available.  

     What I wanted to call attention to here is the fact that for every man in combat there were up to five more behind the lines supporting him.  There were engineers, medical personal, supply and repairmen of all types.  There were telegraph linemen and operators, signal men, map makers, and even balloon conservationist.  (more…)

Civil War Reenacting

September 23, 2006

                    This time I am not going to talk about me so much as about other guys I know and talked with.  The California reenactment group is relative small compared to groups back east especially in the area where the main battles took place.  I used to drive ninety miles to the Fort Taejon State park for my wars.  It was a Fort long before   the Civil war in the Calif. early statehood days.  During the civil war it functioned as the terminus for the experiment with the Camel Corps.  Some one got the bright Ideas to use Camels as transportation vehicular for supplies across the desert.     they had to import Arabs to try to teach members of the United States Army how to handle the big animals.  the American horse did not get along well with the Camel and a lot of difficulty ensued.  Needless to say the program was discontinued after several years of trying.  The camels were eventually turned loose to fend for themselves.  Sometime around 1929 was the last sighting of a wild Camel in the U.S. desert.  A number of the buildings still stand today at the park.

     On one occasionI went up on a Saturday afternoon for a meeting and spent the night in my camper-shell, battles were fought on Sundays.  I was parked on one of the side roads next to the park cleaning up for the day and eating a small breakfast, a stand of trees separated me from the main camping area and open battle ground.  As I was shaving I looked through the trees and up above the open area I saw the Union Infantry at drill.  This was early in the morning and they had camped overnight.  They were in full uniform marching four abreast in full company strength.  Their rifle’s were at shoulder arm with naked bayonet’s shining in the early sunlight.As they maneuvered around a obstacle they looked like a silver snake crawling across the ground.  This was before the park was opened for spectators so  everything looked period.  It was a chilling and thrilling sight and one felt like he had been transported back in time to the 1860’s.  This is the feeling I want to try to capture for you through the eyes of others.

     I once talked to a fellow who portrayed Gen. grant at a reenactment at Shiloh, (known as Pittsburgh Landing to the union army).   reenactors from all over the U.S. were on hand for the set piece.      It was early morning with daylight just coming on, the ground was srouded with fog.   Union Infantry was silently filing into position voices were muted and equipment soft clinking as he rode along.  These are decated people who take their roles very seriously.  Individual solders would acknowledge him with a half wave or salute.  Officers would come with reports or to seek instruction.  He said tension and anticipation was so thick in the air you could hardly stand it.  Everyone was straining to hear the approach of the confederates waiting for the attack to begin that he would forget for minutes at a time this was just a reenactment.  When the battle opened off to his left he was startled he had expected it to come from the front.  then suddenly while everyone was consecrating on the left they were hit from the right flank.  He said the confusion was so real he now understands why so many battles were uncertain affairs until the end.  (more…)

The Civil War and Me

July 13, 2006

     The largest opening Battle of the Civil War after the firing on of Fort Summter was litterly fought n my back yard.  On July 3 1961 the Battle of Carthage Missouri took place.  I started two miles north of town and proceeded right over the property of the first house I remember living in.  It involved over four thousand Confederate troops, half of them unarmed, and a large force of regular Union troops from Springfield, Mo. under the command of a General Lyons.   I grew up on storied of the battle and tales of a union cannon abandoned in Spring River.  Periodically boys would form expeditions to try to find the gun.  According to official records such a gun was lost never to be found.  But I expect it was later recovered by the victorious confederate troops.       As a young teenager after I discovered the town library I spent countless hours pursuing a set of ten large books of Civil War photographs.  My Wife   Bought me this set about five-teen years ago for one Christmas.  Over the years I have amassed a library of over one hundred hardbound books on the subject.  Add to that the six or eight years of magazine subscriptions I have quite a Lot of materiel on the subject. 

      If you have read my previous ramblings you know of my forays into the Mountain Man era.  I have a respectable collection of books and material on that subject also, as well as on the American West (read that as Cowboys that for a later time).  After my daughter had reached the age where she became her own individual and was perusing her own interests, I drifted away from the Mountain Man encampment and was at odds-ends as what to do with my self.  I attended a function one weekend at the store that provided most of my shooting supply for black-powder shooting which hosted what they called a shivery.  This was a gathering of different shooting enthused.  One group caught my attention.  They were calling their-selves the Southern Missouri Confederate Artillery.  After talking with them and discovering there was a large group of Civil War reenactors in Southern California I became involved.  I found I could join the Confederate group     using much of my mountain man equipment with out a large out lay of money.  To join the Union forces at that time would require in excess of fifteen hundred dollars, that was a no brainer on my part.  Yeah I know I had at least six  double great grand fathers who fought for the Union rolling in their graves but what the heck I was not making a political (more…)