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.


Tuesday, January 07, 2020

The Strange Case of Adolph Ruth and the Lost Dutchman’s Mine

                                   The Superstition Mountains of Arizona

The year 1931 saw one of the best known, best publicized and most investigated deaths in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains, the death of Adolph Ruth.  Adolph Ruth was a sixty-seven year old retired government employee and amateur treasure hunter. Adolph Ruth’s story began not in the Superstition Mountains but in Mexico.  His son Erwin, a veterinarian, who was a cattle inspector in Mexico, helped eradicate the cattle tick problem plaguing Mexican ranchers.  He helped the Gonzales family who were so grateful that they gave Erwin Ruth some old mining maps.  These maps had been in the Gonzales family for many generations, and showed the exact location of a number of gold mines in the United States.  Erwin who had no interest in the maps passed them along to his father Adolph.  One of these maps showed the location of an old mine in the Superstition Mountains.

Adolph Ruth was familiar with the hardships of prospecting in the desert.  He had previously looked for the Lost Peg Leg Mine in California.  In 1931, he came to the Superstition Mountains to look for what he believed to be the Lost Dutchman’s Mine.  It should be noted that Ruth was talkative.  He showed his map to any and all who were interested, and talked authoritatively about how HE was about to find the Dutchman’s Mine.  Ruth hired guides and horses and was packed into the mountains around June 14 by two cowboys.  He set up camp at Willow Springs in West Boulder Canyon.  This was the last time anyone saw Adolph Ruth alive. 

After six days, the cowboys’ boss, Tex Barkley, went looking for Ruth. Upon arriving at Ruth’s camp, Tex Barkley could tell that no one had been there for at least a day and reported Ruth missing.  A reward was posted and search parties combed the mountain fruitlessly for the next month.

In December, a skull with two holes in it was discovered near the three Red Hills by an archaeological expedition. It was the skull of Adolph Ruth.  The story of Ruth’s death was headlined by the Arizona Republic and went national.  Sensational stories alleged that Ruth had been killed for his map. Ruth’s son, Erwin, was convinced that his father had been murdered.

The rest of Ruth’s body was found the next month, in a small tributary on the east slope of Black Top Mesa. Ruth’s treasure notebook was also found at his original campsite.  In this notebook, were written these cryptic words, “Veni, Vedi, Vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”).  Did Adolph Ruth discover the Dutchman’s mine?

Friday, January 03, 2020

Are Civil War Battlefields Haunted?

There is a huge body of circumstantial evidence of battlefield hauntings stretching back to ancient times, when ghosts were seen and heard to engage on the plains of Marathon after the battle (the Battle of Marathon was fought in 490 BC).  In the 1930s visitors to this region of Greece were still claiming to have heard the sound of metal clashes and screams coming from the battlefield. In Vita Isiclori, Damascius tells us that after a battle outside the walls of Rome against the Huns in 452AD, ghosts were reported to still be fighting for three days and nights after the battle, the clash of their weapons being heard all over the city.  The first major battle of the English Civil War (1662) produced a well-documented case of ghost armies fighting as reliable witnesses reported the phantom soldiers engaged in battle.  King Charles I was so intrigued by the stories that he sent a Royal Commission to investigate.  The trusted officers of the Commission reported back that they too had seen the ghastly spectacle and even recognized the ghosts of some of their fallen friends.  The phenomenon continued for some time, gradually lessening over time, until now there are only occasional reports of people hearing the sounds of battle at Edgehill.

How do we account for such stories?  The two most often reported types of hauntings are categorized as residual hauntings and intelligent hauntings.  Residual hauntings are the most common form of hauntings and may eventually be found to be natural phenomena.  A residual haunting is similar to a DVD that is played over and over again.  In a residual American Civil War battlefield haunting, for example, the sights, sounds, and even smells of battle are continually replayed and are always the same. Apparitions may be seen, but they will not notice living people around them.  The theory here is that energy created by the strong emotions created in battle imprints itself on a physical place and that an individual sensitive enough to pick up this embedded energy sees and hears ghostly events while those who lack such sensitivity do not. Since current science has no instruments to measure such embedded energy or test for individual psychic sensitivity to that energy, such hauntings are dismissed out of hand, even though they may actually exist.  

Paula Ann Kirby, author of  A Yankee Roams at Dusk, describes two types of  hauntings that may be occurring at Manassas, (1) residual hauntings, which are a manifestation of stored up energy replaying endlessly like an old movie, and (2) intelligent hauntings, which are rare instances in which ghosts try to interact with the living.

A brief but fascinating look at humor in the Civil War including: (1) Stories Around the Campfire, (2) Parody, (3) the Irish, (4) Humorous Incidents, (5) Civil War Humorists, and (6) Lincoln.

A quick look at women doctors and medicine in the Civil War for the general reader.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Weaver's Needle and the Lost Dutchman's Mine

Weaver's Needle

Legend tells of a fabulous mine in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains. So alluring is the prospect of unlimited wealth that it said that hundreds have died searching for the lost mine. 
The entire story began in 1748 when the Peralta family began mining silver and gold. According to family records this wealthy family operated eighteen silver and gold mines in the Superstition Mountains. With the Mexican War of 1848, law and order disintegrated in the area and the Apache Indians grew increasingly hostile, attacking the miners almost continuously. Disaster finally overtook the Peraltas in September 1848 with a general massacre by the Apaches. Following this massacre the Apaches controlled the Superstition Mountains until 1865.

Jacob Walz (or Waltz), the “Dutchman” enters the picture in 1871 with his partner Jacob Weiser.  The two immigrants purchased a map drawn by the original Peralta family and located the mine “within an imaginary circle whose diameter is not more than five miles and whose center is marked by the Weaver’s Needle.”

Weaver’s Needle was known early on as “the finger of God”.  Woven into the fabric of the Superstition Mountains, this prominent peak was named in the 1850s for Pauline Weaver, a famous pioneer scout.

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

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, December 03, 2019

The Lost Dutchman and The Lost Dutchman’s Mine

Sorting out fact from fiction is the great challenge for anyone interested in searching for the Lost Dutchman’s Mine.

There was a Jacob Waltz, “the Dutchman.”  Waltz (sometimes spelled Walz) was born in Germany around 1810, and immigrated to America in 1839.  Waltz arrived in New York City, but quickly made his way to goldfields in North Carolina and Georgia. Waltz did not strike it rich in either North Carolina or Georgia, but he learned a valuable lesson, that he had to be a citizen of the United States in order to stake a claim.  Waltz filed a letter of intent to become a citizen on November 12, 1848, at the Adams County Courthouse in Natchez, Mississippi.

Gold was discovered in the newly annexed territory of California in 1849. The California fields eclipsed the gold fields of the East, and Waltz, like every other prospector, headed west.

Waltz arrived in California in 1850. His name appears in California census records. Waltz worked as a miner in California for eleven years. On July 19, 1861, in the Los Angeles County Courthouse, Jacob Waltz became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Waltz left California in 1863, with a group of prospectors bound for the Bradshaw Mountains of Arizona Territory. Waltz’s name appears on a mining claim filed in Prescott, Arizona Territory, on September 21, 1863. His name also appears on a special territorial census in 1864.  Waltz mined in the Bradshaw Mountain area between 1863 -1867.

Waltz moved to the Salt River Valley (an area near Phoenix and the Superstition Mountains) in 1868.  He filed a homestead claim on one hundred and sixty acres of land on the north bank of the Salt River. It was now that Waltz began his trips into the mountains surrounding the Salt River Valley.  Did Waltz discover a rich gold mine or cache on one of these prospecting trips? Witnesses who knew Waltz, say Waltz prospected every winter between 1868 -1886. Waltz died in Phoenix, Arizona Territory, on October 25, 1891, in the home of Julia Thomas. Waltz gave Julia Thomas clues to the location of a mine on his deathbed.  Waltz is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery, in downtown Phoenix.

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.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Exchange Hotel and Civil War Medical Museum, Gordonsville, Virginia

The Exchange Hotel: Gordonsville, Virginia

Gordonsville Virginia’s Exchange Hotel opened in 1860 and provided an elegant stopping place for passengers on the Virginia Central Railway.  In March, 1862 the Confederate army transformed the hotel into the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital.  Dr. B.M Lebby of South Carolina was the director of the hospital and its operations continued under his leadership until October 1865.

The wounded and dying from nearby battlefields such as Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, Brandy Station, and the Wilderness were brought to Gordonsville by the trainloads. Although this was primarily a Confederate facility, the hospital treated the wounded from both sides. By the end of the war, more than 70,000 men had been treated at the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital and over 700 were buried on its surrounding grounds and later interred at Maplewood Cemetery in Gordonsville.

By the end of the Civil War, Virginia had fifty three Receiving Hospitals similar to this one.  All were burned to the ground by the Union army except the Gordonsville Receiving hospital.

A brief look at love, sex, and marriage in the Civil War. The book covers courtship, marriage, birth control and pregnancy, divorce, slavery and the impact of the war on social customs.

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.