Tag Archives: Civil War

Try, Try Again – Texas Secession, Invasion, Evasion and Forgetfulness

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by  for a read this morning.  I promised a few days ago I wouldn’t tell you any Texas history anecdotes, but I’ve already got Old Sol’s sober promise to come up on schedule, the cats are fed, and I probably ought to write about something just to prove I can.

I mentioned Texas invaded New Mexico twice, once in 1841, then again during the early stages of the US War of Secession.  Both of those episodes were characterized by more human folly on both sides than anyone has a right to be part of, but one man, JS Sutton, was right up front for both of them.  First name on the monument. 

Captain in the 1841 Expedition, Lt. Colonel in the second.  Never got another shot at a third try because he was offed at Valverde.  But he must have been considered an expert on the second because the 1841 group surrendered without firing a shot and got frog-marched barefooted southward across the same route Sutton followed north to his death two decades later.

Sutton was a courageous, interesting man, lived a life I’d call worth living, but couldn’t seem to keep his eye on the dirt where he was standing, and it eventually got him killed.  As far as I’ve ever been able to establish, he was the only man involved in both expeditions.

However, there was a Lockridge [second name on the monument] involved in the 1841 debacle, shot himself while they were camped at Bird’s Battleground near Three Rivers.  Maybe this later Lockridge killed at Valverde was a brother, son, cousin.  Almost certainly kinfolk, in any case.

Some other similarities between the two expeditions involved both commanders spending a lot of their time drunk, generally being logistically ill prepared for the task, and plenty of poor command decisions to help it along.

That second expedition, however, came inches from being a success in the sense of achieving the main objective.  Driving the US Army out of Fort Union.  The secondary objective, Sherrod Hunter driving west, taking and holding Tucson, probably was doomed from the first.  Nobody could have anticipated the California Volunteers marching east with the equipment and numbers they managed.

Hunter’s force of 500 retreated from Tucson early in May, headed back to the Rio Grande with plenty of difficulties with Apache and desertion.  Only twelve of the force, including Hunter, arrived in Mesilla finally in August.

Which left them with one hell-of-a-long trek back to Texas and a long war to fight and lose when they got there.

Old Jules

Uppidy Modern Human Beings

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

21st Century human beings, and those of us left over from the 20th tend to get fairly uppidy and smarty pants about all the people we managed to slaughter during the 20th Century.  That, and how many we’re likely to off inadvertently here pretty soon [what with the Japanese sewer plants spewing radioactivity into next week’s cat food and whatnot].  We think we were special and innovative with WWI, WWII, the Gulags, Cambodia, Viagra – er, Biafra, the German camps, the Rape of Nanking and other incidentals perpetrated by the Japanese Empire, the pre-WWII French death camps in the Carib for their felons and political problems, Mexican revolutions, Great Cultural Revolution in China.

Mostly fairly piddly stuff compared do what a lot of our ancestors pulled off.  About the time we Americans were bragging about how many people got slaughtered at Gettysburg, in China they were actually doing it up right with the Taiping rebellion.  Bloodiest civil war in the history of humanity and until WWII took the trophy for killing more people than any war of any kind.  100,000 people slaughtered in a single day in the battle of Nanking.

A government clerk named Hung got hold of a Christian Missionary tract in the 1850s,  “Good Words to Admonish the Age“, understood it and decided he was the brother of Jesus.  Set about establishing a new heaven on earth with one-hell-of-a-lot fewer people in it, none of whom didn’t believe he was the brother of Jesus.  Came damned close to succeeding, too, insofar as the Manchu Empire was concerned.

Then there was Queen Ranavalona I of Madagascar, decided she didn’t like people who didn’t belong to her own tribe, killed off two-three million of them during the 1840s.  Survivors dressed up like Europeans, did opera, ate with the right forks and spoons.  But honestly didn’t like Europeans, either.  Butchered or enslaved any of them they could catch.  On second thought, didn’t like anyone else, either.  Gave them mostly the same treatment when they could catch them.

Keep in mind there were a lot fewer people available to be offed in those days, and a million was a lot, compared to the 20th Century where it dwindled down and got piddly.

Just because you’ve got a television where you can hear about it and keep count with a computer doesn’t mean you’re any better at it than your great-granddad.  Considering the tools he had to work with, he was better at it than you.

Old Jules

Picking Your Own Hills Worth Dying For

“Hey!  Congratulations man!  You picked a hill worth dying for and just got your leg shot off instead of dying.  Cool!”

“I didn’t pick it man.  I don’t know who picked it.  Maybe the General.  Maybe the Colonel.  Maybe the other side.  I din’t do any picking.  Nobody asked me anything.”

“Wow.  You got your leg shot off and didn’t even make your own choice about whether it was worth the effort?”

“Higher than my paygrade.  Not my job to figure out whether hopping around on a stump of a leg the rest of my life or spilling my guts across the landscape is worth why they think I should do it.  It’s up to the big brains to decide that.  The Generals, and Colonels and Lieutenants.  The people who see the bigger picture.  I’m not into long-term thinking.”

“Sheeze man.  Tough gig.”

Bloody Valverde.  Measured in percentage of casualties among those participating, the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War.

Texas Mounted Volunteers were on that mesa, coming down to cross the Rio Grande just below the left end.

Federals and New Mexico Volunteers were below and across the river trying to keep them from doing it.

You can’t get over there anymore without breaking some laws.  The railroad police will arrest you for trespass if they catch you trying to cross the RR bridge.  Last I heard, Ted Turner owns the ranch the mesa is on.  He has riders out there who’ll haul you off for trespass if the RR police don’t get you.

A few cows graze up there and Ted Turner can’t have people up there bothering them by poking around among the pockmarked hideyholes and artillery placements.  A lot of men on both sides died so Ted Turner could keep the right to keep you off his holdings and bothering his cows.

If you sighted across the top of that monument across the end of the mesa and drew a tight bead you’d be looking at a mushroom cloud about 50 miles away when they fired off the first atomic bomb in 1945.

But by 1945 the government and scientists all finally realized the place wasn’t worth anyone getting excited about, getting legs shot off or dying for.  By that time they knew it wasn’t worth anything except for blowing up with an atomic bomb.   You can’t go over there, either, for what that’s worth.

Pretty big hunk of granite for such a little event.  But nobody much winds around those desert roads to look at it.

I used to have a pretty nice cannon ball that came off that battlefield.  Wonder what ever became of it.  Hope I didn’t scare any of Ted’s cows or stir up any future atomic bomb attacks on the place by the US Government.

Old Jules

 

Anachronistic Perceptions and Temporal Priorities

Morning readers.  I appreciate you coming by this morning.

The building pictured is on the corner of the plaza in Mesilla, New Mexico.  I don’t recall at the moment what connection it has to Billy the Kid, other than the fact he hung around Mesilla.  I do know the building was the center-piece for a lot more resounding events than some half-baked kid with a pistol could ever have added to, or taken away from.

That building, in 1860, was the County building where Jacob Snively, former Secretary of War for the Texas Republic, and his partners filed the mining claim for their gold strike at Pinos Altos, New Mexico.  They attempted secrecy, but the word leaked out quickly.  They headed back to the Gila, camped after dark, and woke in the morning surrounded by a booming mining camp sprung up during the night, home of a major gold rush.

Not much later the same building became the headquarters for Colonel Baylor and the first wave of Texan Confederate invaders of the western territories.  The primary Government building for the Confederate Territory of Arizona. 

Baylor recruited from there and volunteer recruits from Mesilla and Pinos Altos comprised the overwhelming part of the force of Sherrod Hunter for his invasion and occupation of Tucson.   One of Snively’s partners, Jack Swilling, commanded the Confederate troops at Picacho Pass, westernmost battle of the Civil War.  Swilling eventually became the founder of Phoenix, Arizona.

Jack Swilling

There it sits today, that building, proclaiming itself to be something involved with a tiny man with a big pistol, but it has a lot more to say if anyone was listening.

Old Jules

 

Sunday Morning November 27, 2011 Musings

Old Sol’s finally recovering some dignity, getting some of the southern hemisphere melodrama behind him.  He’s spun around about 90 degrees and you can still see some of it lower right near the horizon.  But all-in-all he appears to be getting back to the business at hand. 

Nobody’s sure what the business at hand is, there’s a nice little solar breeze flowing out of that coronal-hole complex mid-south, leading us the way a hunter leads a goose he’s trying to shoot down.  It ought to reach us around the 29th of November.  Interesting stuff happening down at the south pole.  Remember where you heard it first.

I went up to turn out Kay’s chickens just before daybreak and kicked up a herd of about 20 wild turkeys, which we haven’t seen on this property in a goodly while.  But the country’s filled with hunters now, and there was some shooting not-too-far from the property lines yesterday.  They’re skittish critters and might have decided this side of the fences is safer, everything else being equal.

I swung into Kerrville yesterday to finally pick up that primer-bulb for the chainsaw and get chain and bar oil.  In the AutoZone store I noticed a couple of things I think might actually be worth buying as new tools after studying them a while.  One is a ratchet with 1/4 inch drive on one side and 3/8 inch drive on the other.  It has a comparatively short handle and a break just where the ratchet handle ends with a swivel on it to allow the handle to be bent allowing access to communistly personal space invaded places.

The other was a set of two box-end wrenches with ratcheting heads covering 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 13mm, 14mm, 17mm, 18mm and 19mm.  If someone had told me yesterday morning I’d buy some new tools if I went to town they’d have lost intellectual standing in my eyes.

But looking at these I’m figuring I’m a pretty smart puppy.

Afterthought:  Jeanne found a discarded copy of Chancellorsville, by Edward J. Stackpole and sent it to me for my birthday.  I’m up to my elbows in it, finding it particularly interesting because the Stackpole generation of Civil War historians have such different perspectives about so many facets of what went on in that war.  He goes into loving detail about Hooker’s history, his behaviors throughout his career, his relationships with Lincoln and his various commanders and particularly with Burnside.  I’d never read that scandalous self-aggrandizing report he sent in about Antietam before now.  I’d also never encountered Grant’s “I consider Hooker a dangerous man,” appraisal of him. 

If I’d been driving my own truck I’d have had Chancellorsville propped up on the steering-wheel reading it on the drive to and from Kerrville, is how seductive I’m finding the tome.

Old Jules