How To Use This Site

How To Use This Site

This blog was updated on a daily basis for about two years, with those daily entries ceasing on December 31, 2013. The blog is still active, however, and we hope that people stopping in, who find something lacking, will add to the daily entries.

The blog still receives new posts as well, but now it receives them on items of Wyoming history. That has always been a feature of the blog, but Wyoming's history is rich and there are many items that are not fully covered here, if covered at all. Over time, we hope to remedy that.

You can obtain an entire month's listings by hitting on the appropriate month below, or an individual day by hitting on that calendar date.
Use 2013 for the search date, as that's the day regular dates were established and fixed.

Alternatively, the months are listed immediately below, with the individual days appearing backwards (oldest first).

We hope you enjoy this site.

Monday, November 25, 2013

November 25

1867  Fifty three cans of cranberries reported stored at Fort Bridger.  Attribution, Wyoming State Historical Association calendar.

1876.  The Dull Knife Battle.  Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie, 4th U.S. Cavalry, in command of Company K, 2nd U.S. Cavalry, Company H and K, 3rd U.S. Cavalry, Company B, D, E, F, I, and M, 4th U.S. Cavalry, Company H and L, 5th U.S. Cavalry and accompanied by a large contingent of Pawnees, together Arapaho and even Lakota scouts, surprises the Big Horn mountain camp of Cheyennes under Dull Knife.  Sometimes regarded as a somewhat unwarranted attack, Dull Knife's band had been at war with the US during the proceeding summer, and they had recently attacked and defeated a band of Shoshone.  Mackenzie's attack did not succeed in taking the camp whole, but it did succeed in eventually driving the Cheyenne out of it, who lost a great number of villagers in the frozen retreat thereafter.  A large number of the ultimate dead were the old and very young.  The attack is remarkable for having occurred in horrific climatic conditions..  That is, below 0 weather, snow, and high winds.  

Mackenzie is a figure who tends to be much less remembered, in the popular imagination, than other Indian War Army commanders, but he was actually one of the most effective, and consistently so.  He was the son of a career U.S. Navy officer who had risen to the rank of Commodore and his family was very well connected in the military and in politics.  Ranald Mackenzie graduated from West Point in 1862 and immediately entered into an Army career with, of course, the Civil War raging at that time.  During the war he rose to the rank of Brigadier General.  He was briefly mustered out of the service at the end of the Civil War but brought back in during Reconstruction as a Major General.  He thereafter reverted to his permanent rank of Captain.  During the Indian Wars he demonstrated tactical and field command brilliance, commanding both infantry and cavalry, as well as black and white troops.  During this period he rose back up the rank of Brigadier General.

Unfortunately, he began to decline mentally by the 1870s which was manifesting itself as early as the campaign which featured the Dull Knife battle. A poor horseman, he took to the field in terrible conditions with his troops, but in camp he was already demonstrating signs of mental instability and severe depression.  He was ultimately discharged for insanity in 1884, just three years after he had purchased a ranch in Texas and had become engaged.  He died in 1889 at just 48 years of age.  The source of his mental decline is not really known, and remains somewhat debated today, with a possible head injury being one of the suspected causes.

Ranald S. Mackenzie.

The following Congressional Medal of Honor would be awarded for action at The Dull Knife fight:

FORSYTH, THOMAS H:   First Sergeant, Company M, 4th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Powder River, Wyo., 25 November 1876.  Citation: Though dangerously wounded, he maintained his ground with a small party against a largely superior force after his commanding officer had been shot down during a sudden attack and rescued that officer and a comrade from the enemy.

Forsyth was an unusual enlisted man in that he was from a wealthy family and was somewhat a man of means, an unusual circumstance for an enlisted man, let alone a career enlisted man.  He left the service in 1891, the same year he finally received his Congressional Medal of Honor, at which time he had served in the Army for 25 years.  The retirement period for an Army pension at this time was 30 years, go he left earlier than the norm for a full retirement, and I suspect that it may have been a medical retirement, which would also have resulted in a pension.  He held the rank of First Sergeant at the time.  He died in 1908 at age 65.

1889  Scarlet fever caused the public school in Rawlins to be closed.  Courtesy of the Wyoming History Calendar.

1909  Governor B. B. Brooks declared the day to be one of Thanksgiving and Praise.

1916   The Wyoming Tribune for November 25, 1916: Accord reached with Mexico?

An accord was signed with Mexico. . . but that might not quite mean what it seems. . . .
The Cheyenne Leader for November 25, 1916: Peace breaking out with Mexico?

Big news indeed.  The joint commission with Mexico had reached an agreement which should soon see U.S. troops withdrawn from Mexico.

But, before we assume too much, look for the followup post on this topic.
Inez Milholland Boissevain, Suffragist, lawyer, dies on this day in 1916
Inez Milholland Boissevain, a truly remarkable personality, died on this day in 1916.  She had campaigned in Cheyenne during the election only shortly before.

Milholland was thirty years old at the time of her death.  She was born into a wealthy family in which her father had been involved in many progressive causes of the era.  She graduated from Vassar in 1909 with the intent to pursue a career in law, which she did do. Receiving rejections from many of the schools she applied to, she graduated from New York University School of Law in 1912.  She was admitted to the bar in 1912 and went to work for Osborne, Lamb, and Garvan where she handled criminal and divorce cases.

She was involved in many of the causes of the era, including obtaining the vote for women and the cause of African Americans.  A pacifist, she traveled to Italy early in World War One to report on the war but was not allowed to travel to the front.

She married Eugen Jan Boissevain in 1913, after knowing him for only a month. The marriage cost her citizenship as Boissevain was Dutch and the law at the time attributed a woman's citizenship to her spouse.  She nonetheless campaigned for the right of women to vote in the United States. She fell ill on a speaking tour in 1916 and died on this day of pernicious anemia.

Probably not since the Punitive Expedition wrapped up had John J. Pershing and Francisco "Pancho" Villa appeared on the front page in headlines.

Pershing, still in command of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe, which was going into occupation duty in Germany, showed up as Ohio Republicans were imagining him as a candidate for the 1920 Presidential Election.

The speculation would not prove to be idle. While Pershing would see a major promotion on the horizon elevating him in 1919 to the rank of General of the Armies of the United States, a rank higher than that occupied by any other U.S. officer during his own lifetime, Pershing did somewhat entertain the move.  He later announced that he would not campaign for the office, but he wouldn't decline it if offered either, sort of splitting the Shermanesque position that is so famously quoted. As luck would have it, however, Gen. Leonard Wood, well regarded in Republican circles, and not beholden for career success to a Democratic President, as Pershing was, would be the martial early favorite before his campaigned flamed out in favor of Warren G. Harding.

The presence of Villa on the front page should give the reader now, and should have then, some pause in regard to the Pershing boosterism.  How successful of a general was he really?  He's come down in history as a major American military success but the record is frankly rather thin on that.  Prior to the Great War he had been a very successful combat officer in the Philippines, but he wasn't the only one and that was, after all, an ongoing, embarrassing, low grade guerrilla war.  That doesn't mean that Pershing was bad at it, but guerrilla wars aren't usually major conflicts, and the Philippine Insurrection, while it started off as one from the American prospective, really wasn't by the end.

That wasn't Pershing's first combat command, indeed he saw service in the late stages of the Indian Wars and he'd commended troops in the field in Cuba during the Spanish American War.  But none of those events had really raised him to prominence.  It would take the Punitive Expedition to do that.  But how well did he do, really?

Well, a person can debate it.  He kept the American effort going and it didn't cost a lot of American lives.  It also did not capture Villa, or put him out of commission, which had been its singular goal.  Late in the expedition he made recommendations that would have undoubtedly have caused a major escalation of the war which would have almost certainly converted it from a border conflict into a full blown war with Mexico.  We could have won that, surely, but it would have put us in the position of occupying a hostile revolutionary Mexico which was proving difficult for its own successive governments to manage.  That effort would have likely have been so taxing on the United States that our later participation in World War One may very well not have occurred, which in turn may very well have meant that Germany's 1917 and 1918 efforts would have paid off and Imperial Germany emerged the victor.

Pershing can't be faulted for not seeing that far forward, but he can be for not realizing that a small police action shouldn't risk being expanded into a full blown war.  And in regard to his suitability for national leadership, that's important.

Of course those boosting Pershing were thinking of his hero status that came about due to the Great War.  But here too, real questions can be raised.  Americans have believed since the very onset that Pershing was absolutely correct in keeping the U.S. Army out of action until it could be committed as a singular large command, but the evidence shows that this is somewhat of a myth and, moreover, the AEF was not really well commanded in some regards.  In reality American troops started to go into action under French and British control both in order to get combat experience and because the German 1918 Spring Offensive required the deployment of American troops in defense actions. They did well but when counterattacks began American troops took horrendous casualties in part because they were so green but in part because the American military steadfastly refused to accept lessons from the French and the British regarding the circumstances of 1918 European combat.  American military efforts were successful, but at huge and at least partially unnecessary cost and at least one American offensive, the St. Mihel Offensive, was unnecessary yet conducted at American insistence.  When the Germans began to break in 1918 they were impressed with the recklessness of American operations and the individual American fighting man, but at the same time its notable that the French and the British were advancing with less loss.  Moreover, Pershing was one of the generals, although certainly not the only one, who insisted that combat continue right up until the last minute of the war, something which at least now appears to be not only a miscalculation but perhaps a bit more than that.

All in all, retrospectively, Pershing's record is pretty mixed and open to question.  Nothing really existed to suggest that he would have been a good President.  In the end, the GOP didn't decide to run him.

No comments:

Post a Comment