Friday, April 03, 2020

War Comes to Manassas Virginia (1861)

The Grave of Judith Henry

     On July 21, 1861 the eighty four year old, invalid Judith Henry lay in her bed, as the battle began around Pittsylvania, her childhood home.  Shells from Union artillery began to fall around the widow’s house, “Spring Hill”.  Mrs. Henry’s two sons, shocked to find Union troops on their doorstep, decided to move their mother to safety.  Mrs. Henry was unwilling to leave, but after several shells struck the house, the terrified woman gave in.  The two sons placed the old woman on a mattress and carried her out of the house, intending to carry her to the Reverend Compton’s house, about a mile away.  The small party was soon caught in the open in the midst of a furious battle.  Terrified and hysterical, the old woman begged to be taken back to her own home.  The three Henrys returned to the house, and Mrs. Henry was returned to bed.  She was only there a short time before a shell burst in the room where she lay.  She was struck by seven shell fragments and lived for several agonizing hours, dying about nightfall.  Rosa Stokes, a young slave who had been caring for the old lady was wounded by the same shell that killed Mrs. Henry.

     At nearby Folly Castle plantation, Betty Leachman put her five small children under a large sideboard where they stayed huddled all day.  The house was struck by cannon balls several times.  Early on the morning after the battle, young Mr. Henry made his was to Folly Castle and asked Betty and her sister-in-law to return with him, to prepare Mrs. Henry’s body for burial.  They went with him, cutting across fields strewn with dead soldiers.


     The Lewis family of  Portici” found themselves at the center of the battle.  Confederate officers notified the Lewis family that a battle was imminent and that their house would be exposed to fire.  They evacuated, taking everything they could with them, but left valuable and heavy furniture behind.  The furniture was stored in a small room in an angle of the house, and the room securely nailed shut.  The only shot that struck the house during the battle struck this room and destroyed all of the furniture.  Furniture was a trifling matter however.  Fannie Lewis was in her ninth month of pregnancy and went into labor as they began to evacuate the house.  Servants found a nearby ravine and dug a small earthen hollow into the bank.  They covered this with greens.  It was here that Fannie Lewis delivered her first baby, John Beauregard Lewis.

     After the battle, Portici became a grisly field hospital.  The wounded, dead, and dying covered every floor in the house.  There were two piles of amputated legs, feet, hands and arms, all thrown together.  At a distance they looked like piles of corn.  Many of the feet still had boots on them.  Wounded men lay on tables while surgeons carved away like farmers in butchering season.  

The Hard Hand of War

     After an interlude of little over a year, the horrors of war again returned to Manassas in August, 1862 with the Second Battle of Manassas.  After the second battle, Manassas faded into obscurity.  Times were now very hard for the civilian population.  There were no real horses left, only those that were battle scarred, lame or blind.  Women were forced to run farms with the help only of old people and children.  To make matters worse, the farmers ran short of tools and implements, for it was impossible to replace the metal parts of plows, wagons, hoes and scythes.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Norton I, Emperor of the United States (1859)

Emperor Norton I

Joshua Abraham Norton (February 4, 1818 – January 8, 1880), was a San Francisco eccentric who proclaimed himself “Norton I, Emperor of the United States” in 1859.  The city embraced the eccentric, and he was treated with respect.  Merchants honored currency he issued when he made purchases.  Merchants also capitalized on his notoriety by selling souvenirs bearing his name.

Citizens of San Francisco celebrated his imperial presence, and some of his proclamations, such as his order that the United States Congress be dissolved, were popular with many.

Arizona’s Superstition Mountains are mysterious, forbidding, and dangerous.  The Superstitions are said to have claimed over five hundred lives.  What were these people looking for?  Is it possible that these mountains hide a vast treasure?  Is it possible that UFOs land here?  Is it possible that in these mountains there is a door leading to the great underground city of the Lizard Men?  Join us as we explore the history of the:  Legends of the Superstition Mountains.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

There are Monsters in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains

The Superstition Mountains

In the 1920s, two prospectors hiked into the area of Pope Springs to search for gold.  In the middle of the night, a huge beast killed and carried off their four hundred and fifty pound burro.  The prospectors described the beast as a, “large smelly, strange animal with a matted, coarse and tangled hair coat.”  The creature walked on its hind legs and stood at least eight to ten feet in height.  The prospectors claimed that the creature “smelled like feces and urine” and was agile on its hindquarters.  They testified that the creature weighed four to eight hundred pounds.

The creature described by the two prospectors closely matches descriptions of the Mogollon Monster, Arizona’s answer to Big Foot.  The Mogollon Monster is described as being over seven feet tall, with inhuman strength, and large, wild and red eyes. Its body is covered with long black or reddish brown hair, and it emits a strong odor described as that of “dead fish.”  The creature is territorial, and sometimes very violent. The creature is also said to decapitate deer and other wildlife prior to consuming them.

The earliest known documented sighting of the Mogollon Monster was reported in a 1903 edition of The Arizona Republican, in which I.W. Stevens described a creature seen near the Grand Canyon as having, “long white hair and matted beard that reached to his knees. It wore no clothing, and upon his talon-like fingers were claws at least two inches long.” Upon further inspection he noted, “a coat of gray hair nearly covered his body, with here and there a spot of dirty skin showing.” He later stated that after he discovered the creature drinking the blood of two cougars, it threatened him with a club, and “screamed the wildest, most unearthly screech”. 

An account from the mid-1940s by Don Davis says, “The creature was huge. Its eyes were deep set and hard to see, but they seemed expressionless. His face seemed pretty much devoid of hair, but there seemed to be hair along the sides of his face. His chest, shoulders, and arms were massive, especially the upper arms; easily upwards of 6 inches in diameter, perhaps much, much more. I could see he was pretty hairy, but didn't observe really how thick the body hair was. The face/head was very square; square sides and squared up chin, like a box.”

The creature was spotted a number of times between 1982 and 2004 near the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. 

The Phoenix Gazette on Monday, May 11, 1981, announced, “Explorer Plans Capture of Big Foot.” C. Thomas Biscardi was making an exploratory trip to the Superstition Mountains of Arizona to search for Big Foot.  His search turned up nothing conclusive.

In 2007, there was a Big Foot sighting in the Superstition Wilderness Area.  A large upright animal spooked a rider and pack horse near the head waters of Rough Canyon along the northern edge of White Mountain.

Another set of monsters supposedly roaming the Superstitions are the lizard men or reptilians.  Are these creatures coming from UFOs or are they homegrown?  No one can quite decide. Indian legends speak of reptilian beings inhabiting the earth when their ancestors roamed the west. There are numerous Native American petroglyphs throughout the region that depict what appear to be upright, bipedal lizards.

The earliest documented sighting occurred on October 28th, 1878.  On that date, the Louisville Courier-Journal ran a story about a scaly “Wild Man of the Woods” that had been killed and was on display for public view. The creature was described as being about six feet tall, with large eyes, and covered with scales. The strange being was viewed by hundreds of the curious. 

Gold, Murder and Monsters in the Superstition Mountains

Arizona’s Superstition Mountains are mysterious, forbidding, and dangerous.  The Superstitions are said to have claimed over five hundred lives.  What were these people looking for?  Is it possible that these mountains hide a vast treasure?  Is it possible that UFOs land here?  Is it possible that in these mountains there is a door leading to the great underground city of the Lizard Men?  Join us as we recount a fictional story of the Superstitions and then look at the real history of the legends that haunt these mountains in our new book:  Gold, Murder and Monsters in the Superstition Mountains.

Monday, March 16, 2020

I Vow to Thee

Inspirational words in the time of Coronavirus:

I vow to thee my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love.
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best.
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there's another country I've heard of long ago,

Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know.
We may not count her armies, we may not see her king,
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering.
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Anesthesia in the American Civil War

A Civil War Operation

In 1846, Dr. William T.G. Morton, a dentist, introduced the first anesthetic ether.  Ether was first administered by rubbing it on the inside of the patient’s mouth or putting it on a cloth and having the patient breathe through it.  Morton found that ether was more effective when it was inhaled and when on to develop an inhaler.

Morton's first successful public demonstration of ether as an anesthetic was such a historic and widely publicized event that many consider him to be the "inventor and revealer" of anesthesia. However, Morton's work was preceded by that of Georgia surgeon Crawford Williamson Long, who employed ether as an anesthetic on March 30, 1842. Long demonstrated its use to physicians in Georgia, but did not publish his findings until 1849.

Between 1849 and the start of the Civil War, thirty different types of inhalers had been developed for ether and chloroform, another form of anesthesia. One of the thirty inhalers being the one Morton developed and the one he used during his 1846 demonstration. 

Anesthesia had to quickly adapt to the demands of the Civil War.  The most common battlefield operation was the amputation of arms and legs.  Amputation was a quick and reliable answer to the severe wounds created by the .58 caliber Minie ball used during the war.  This heavy bullet of soft lead caused large gaping wounds that filled with dirt and pieces of clothing.  It shattered bone.  Surgeons usually chose amputation over trying to save the limb.  Heavy doses of chloroform were administered and some seventy five percent of all soldiers survived the operation.  The poet Walt Whitman, who served as a nurse in the Union army at the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862, recounted seeing, “a heap of amputated feet, legs, arms, hands, etc, a full load for a one-horse cart.” 

Anesthesia was administered using cloth instead of inhalers because of the lack of resources and the need for speedy operations. However, fortunately for the wounded soldiers, 95% of the time anesthesia was used in Civil War surgeries although in small quantities, just enough to get the job done. It was quite rare when anesthesia was not used. Morton himself became a military anesthesiologist at the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862, attending many patients and sharing his knowledge with other surgeons.   A Civil War surgeon remembered many years later, “How much have the horrors of the battlefield and the hospital been diminished by the use of ether and chloroform!”

A quick look at women doctors and medicine in the Civil War for the general reader. Technologically, the American Civil War was the first “modern” war, but medically it still had its roots in the Middle Ages. In both the North and the South, thousands of women served as nurses to help wounded and suffering soldiers and civilians. A few women served as doctors, a remarkable feat in an era when sex discrimination prevented women from pursuing medical education, and those few who did were often obstructed by their male colleagues at every turn.

In 1860, disgruntled secessionists in the deep North rebel against the central government and plunge America into Civil War. Will the Kingdom survive? The land will run red with blood before peace comes again.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

George Armstrong Custer as a Sioux Chief

Tableaux vivants were popular forms of entertainment on the American frontier.  In a tableau, participants make still images with their bodies to represent a scene. Because there is no movement, or speaking, a tableau is easier to produce than a play, yet can easily lead into extended drama activities with one tableau succeeding another to tell a story.  Tableaux continue today in the form of “living statues”, where street performers often appear in costume as historical characters.

In the summer of 1875, George Armstrong Custer appeared in a series of tableaux with Miss Agnes Bates of Monroe Michigan depicting a Sioux Chief and his bride.  Miss Bates was a guest of Mrs. Elizabeth Custer at Fort Abraham Lincoln, North Dakota in 1874-1875.

In 1873, the 7th Cavalry had moved into the fort to ensure the expansion of the Northern Pacific Railway.  The first post commander of the expanded fort was Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer, who held the position until his death in 1876.

Since his death along the bluffs overlooking the Little Bighorn River, in Montana, on June 25, 1876, over five hundred books have been written about the life and career of George Armstrong Custer. Views of Custer have changed over succeeding generations. Custer has been portrayed as a callous egotist, a bungling egomaniac, a genocidal war criminal, and the puppet of faceless forces. For almost one hundred and fifty years, Custer has been a Rorschach test of American social and personal values. Whatever else George Armstrong Custer may or may not have been, even in the twenty-first century, he remains the great lightning rod of American history. This book presents portraits of Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn as they have appeared in print over successive decades and in the process demonstrates the evolution of American values and priorities.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Please Mr. Custer, I don't Want to Go

“Mr. Custer” was a chart busting song in 1960.  Written by Al De Lory, Fred Darian, and Joseph Van Winkle, and sung by Larry Verne this historical novelty song became the number one song in America on October 10, 1960.  It stayed at the top of the charts for an impressive one week.  This soldier’s song about the Battle of the Little Bighorn also reached the top spot on the Canadian charts on September 12, 1960.