Texas Joins The United States

In 1837 Mexico didn’t like Texas being an independent nation. And then, when Texas became our 28th state, it was just too much. With diplomacy breaking down, in 1846 President Polk declared war on Mexico.
In battles it wasn’t unusual for the Mexican forces to outnumber the U. S. forces as much as four to one. But superior weapons and battle tactics gave the American forces victory. And in less than a year and a half, American soldiers occupied Mexico City.
Envisioning the possibility of additional slave states, southern politicians started calling for the conquest of all of Mexico. The northern states, not wanting additional slave states, not only opposed the conquest of Mexico; they introduced bills that said “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude” would exist in any territories acquired by the Mexican War.
Finally, on February 2, 1848, after three months of negotiations, a treaty was signed in the Mexican city of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
The treaty said the United States would pay Mexico 15 million dollars. The U. S. would take care of any claims American individuals had against Mexico, by paying these Americans 3.25 million dollars. In turn the United States got over one million square miles of territory. It included all or part of what is now California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado.
Counting the money given to Mexico and the Americans, it cost the United States about $15 a square mile. Not a bad deal.
Stephen Austin

The Controversial George Armstrong Custer

George Armstrong Custer seemed to always live on the edge.  Even while at West Point, where, incidentally, he graduated at the bottom of his class, Custer was almost expelled because of demerits for actions like food fights in the cafeteria.

However, one of the low points in his career took place on November 25, 1867 when he was court-martialed.  Supposedly, Custer’s officers fell into two categories…those who were related to him, and those who hated him.  As for the enlisted men, they fell into one category…those who feared him.

Custer was found guilty on eight counts.  They included being absent without leave from his command.  He had left his post to visit his wife, Libby.  He had also taken along troopers as escort during this trip.  Another count was shooting deserters without trial.  Incidentally, when Custer left to visit his wife, he was considered a deserter himself.

Libby Custer

The testimony of Captain Frederick Benteen, an officer with Custer at Little Big Horn, was particularly damning.  Other charges included abandoning two men, failing to recover two bodies, and cruelty to three wounded troopers.  The average officer being found guilty on any of these counts would have meant the end of his career.  But George Custer wasn’t average.  His sentence was, “to be suspended from rank and command for one year, and to forfeit his pay proper for the same time.”

At the end of the year Custer’s friend and advocate, General Phil Sheridan, called him back to active duty.  Custer felt he had to do something spectacular to redeem himself.  And he did on November 27, 1868, when Custer and 800 men attacked the peaceful camp of Black Kettle that was flying the American Flag and a white truce flag.

Old West Book Review: Myth, Memory and Massacre

Myth, Memory & MassacreMyth, Memory and Massacre, Paul H. Carlson and Tom Crum, Texas Tech University Press (800-832-4042) $29.95, Hardcover.

Students of Texas history are familiar with the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, the nine-year-old white girl taken captive by Comanches, May 19, 1836.  For the next 24 years, Cynthia Ann lived with her Comanche captors, bore at least four children and somehow survived the rigors of life among the Indians until her rescue in 1860 by a troop of Texas Rangers in a fight known as “The Battle of Pease River.”

By now Cynthia Ann had been assimilated into the tribe, had forgotten most if not all of the English language, resisted parting with her Comanche children, and had become a hardened, sun-burned woman with huge work-worn hands, chopped hair and haunted eyes.

Ripped from her family at age 9, having witnessed the brutal murders of her parents and friends, faced with abuse and humiliation in a Comanche camp, Cynthia Ann Parker became the most famous of the white captives in Texas. There were many hundreds of other white girls and women taken captive by marauding Comanches, too.  Most were raped, tortured and killed.  Others traded back to their families were covered with scars and facial mutilation.  But what made Cynthia Ann different is that one of her children grew up to become Quanah Parker, famous in his own right as a chief and important negotiator between Indians and Whites.

After her rescue, Cynthia Ann never did adjust completely to return to White society. She died of a broken heart in 1870 and is buried at Fort Sill, Oklahoma between two of her Comanche children.

If you are interested in the complete history of the life and times of Cynthia Ann Parker, you must look elsewhere because there are many books available on the subject.  This book, Myth, Memory and Massacre delves mainly into events regarding the accidental rescue of Cynthia Ann by the Rangers at Pease River.  When the Rangers attacked a Comanche hunting party, they had no idea Cynthia Ann Parker was living with this clan.  The Rangers nearly killed her as she ran away clutching her baby, but one of the men realized she had blue eyes and correctly guessed she was a White captive.  It took a while to figure out who she was.

From here the authors begin their discussion of who, why, where and how.  They carefully dissect events beginning with the initial raid upon the camp, pointing out this was a hunting camp filled with women and children who had been butchering and preparing buffalo meat for winter.  Most of the Indians killed were women and children.  The surprise rescue of the white woman is what caused such a sensation throughout Texas since nobody thought Cynthia Ann could still be alive.  The publicity gave some individuals riding with the Rangers the opportunity for self importance and political gain.  Their actions, motives and self-promotion are exposed with regard to their showing the battle of Pease River had been a great victory with many more Indians killed, and at least one war chief taken out of action, which was probably not true.

The authors have done a great deal of careful research and tedious fact- finding.  Their conclusions are meant to clear up, in their opinion, many falsehoods regarding the rescue of Cynthia Ann that after many years of telling and re-telling has become folklore.  The authors aim to show how the rescue of Cynthia Ann Parker was eventually used for political advantage, and finally how the analyzation of these events historically have been misleading.  For those interested in “the rest of the story” concerning Cynthia Ann Parker, this book might help close the final chapter.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including Hell Horse Winter of the Apache Kid, Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 vvww.silklapelbooks.

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

Old West TV: Dakota Livesay on Haunted Saloon

A while back Dakota was a guest on Haunted Saloon TV, where he was interview at the OK Corral shoot out site by Terry “Ike” Clanton. Clanton is a fourth generation cousin of the legendary Joseph “Ike” Clanton of OK Corral gunfight fame. 

Searching for the Lost Dutchman’s Mine

When Jacob Waltz died on October 25, 1891, he became either the world’s greatest prankster or the world’s greatest secret keeper.   Although during his life his last name was spelled a number of different ways, we simply know him as “The Dutchman”… the man who discovered the “Lost Dutchman’s Mine” in the Superstition Mountains, just outside of Phoenix, Arizona.
Actually, tales of the existence of treasurers in the Superstition Mountains go back to when Mexico owned the area.   Long before The Dutchman there were stories of others bringing out gold….and many other people disappearing, supposedly killed by Apaches, who were protecting a sacred area.
A variety of stories are told about how The Dutchman found the gold mine…. and each of them involves an Apache or Apaches taking him to the area.
Supposedly, Jacob Waltz went back into his mine on several occasions during his lifetime, each time being careful to cover his tracks.  Although The Dutchman lived a very modest life, any time he needed large sums of money, he seemed to be able to come up with tin cans full of gold nuggets.  Records show that he cashed in at least $250,000 worth of gold.
Even to this day, there are people who spend their whole life searching for the Lost Dutchman’s mine.  Maps guaranteed to be the location of the mine regularly appear.
Even in modern times, people who go into the Superstitions disappear.   And if their bodies are found, they’re often without a head.
The Superstition Mountains where the Lost Dutchman mine is located is now right next to freeways and housing developments, yet it remains one of the Old West’s most tantalizing mysteries.
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