Texas Legends

Charles Goodnight, Cynthia Ann Parker, and Quanah Parker are legendary figures in the history of Texas and their stories have been the subject of numerous books and movies to include my own novel, Palo Duro.

On September 26th, Cowboys & Indians Magazine and Legacy of Texas the official store of the Texas State Historical Association both carried articles that once again showcased their amazing inter-related lives.

C&I Magazine focused its piece on an art exhibit by Lee Cable entitled “The Life and Times of Charles Goodnight” that is currently on display at the Bryan Museum in Galveston, Texas and runs through October 14th. The exhibit contains twelve historical paintings and twelve associated pencil sketches depicting important moments or achievements in Charles Goodnight’s life. “The paintings portray everything from Goodnight’s evolution into one of the most prosperous cattlemen in the West to his relationship to bison (first removing them from his land, then preserving them) to his close relationship with Quanah Parker.” The exhibit will also be on view November 16, 2018 – April 22, 2019 at the Cattle Raisers Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

TSHA provided background information on Cynthia Ann Parker, one of five captives taken by the Comanche during a raid on Fort Parker May 19, 1836. She would remain with the tribe for almost twenty-five years during which she married a Comanche war chief, Peta Nocona, and gave birth to three children, boys Quanah and Pecos, and a daughter, Topsannah. “She never returned voluntarily to Anglo society.”

On December 18, 1860 a Texas Ranger Company under the command of Lawrence Sullivan Ross attacked a Comanche hunting camp capturing three Native American prisoners. They were subsequently surprised to find that one of the captives had blue eyes. Colonel Isaac Parker would later identify this person as his long-lost niece.

Among the Texas Rangers that day was Charles Goodnight. He and Quanah Parker would be bitter enemies following the raid but would eventually overcome  their enmity and forge a close and lasting friendship.

For earlier posts related to these three individuals refer to my blog entries A Fate Worse than Death, October 12, 2017; Historical Figures & Fictional Characters, July 4, 2017; The Last Comanche War Chief, June 27, 2017; and Saving the Buffalo, March 7, 2017. Better yet, pick up a copy of Palo Duro!

 

 

Pecos Bill: Fact or Fiction?

Pecos Bill is a character most often associated with American folklore; the tall tales, myths and legends about fictional and real individuals whose stories embodied the pioneer spirit and captured the imagination of the American public.

The author Edward S. O’Reilly first introduced the fictional Pecos Bill in the early 1900’s in stories written for “The Century Magazine,” a monthly periodical published in New York that promoted American nationalism through stories that emphasized such values as strength and courage in humorous exaggerated narratives. Pecos Bill was the personification of the western hero – orphaned as a baby during a trek westward with his family, raised by coyotes, ultimately stumbling on his true calling as the quintessential cowboy. Pecos Bill is credited with inventing calf roping and cattle branding and creation of the six-shooter.

His popularity was such that these stories were collected into a book, “The Saga of Pecos Bill,” published in 1923. Bill’s exaggerated exploits would also capture the imagination of Walt Disney who in 1948 introduced the character in an animated short that accompanied his movie “Melody Time.” Disney Studios would later make the short into a stand-alone film featuring Pecos Bill, his horse Widowmaker, and his lady-love, Slue-Foot Sue that aired on television in 1954 as one of Disney’s “Tall Tales” episodes.

The flesh and blood Pecos Bill was also larger than life. William Rufus Shafter weighed in at over 300 pounds. He was hardly the image of a career military officer, however, in July 1875, in command of the Tenth Cavalry, the Twenty-Fourth and Twenty-Fifth Infantry, and both Tonkawa and Seminole Indian scouts, he mounted an expedition against the Apache that would last over six months, cover over 2,500 miles, and earn him his nickname.

In addition to the Apache, the terrain across the Llano Estacado in West Texas and in the Big Bend area of South Texas was both treacherous and unforgiving. Water, or the lack thereof, was just as much the enemy as the Plains Indians. The Buffalo Soldiers under his command were exhausted and dying not only from their human adversary but thirst. It was up to their commander to lead them to the Pecos River if they were to have any chance for survival.

The stretch of river wasn’t overflowing with water, but when you’re in possession of the only water source anywhere around, it looked like the oasis that it was. The men’s doubts and anger were forgotten. Many dismounted and abandoned their mounts;not a good idea since, left to their own devices, the horses also headed straight to the water where they would drink way too much and potentially harm themselves. Right now, the men didn’t care. Many dove head first into the water, shouting and carrying on like kids who’d just received their best gift ever. “Hurrah for Colonel Shafter,” went up the cry… only to be replaced by – “Hurrah for Pecos Bill. Hurrah for Pecos Bill! That’s his name now”… and it would be; William Rufus Shafter would carry the nickname for the rest of his life. – Excerpt from Palo Duro.

 

Bad Hand

 

From 1871-1874 Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie distinguished himself in military campaigns against the Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache. He’d already made an indelible impression on General Ulysses S. Grant during the American Civil War by his valor, gallantry, and meritorious conduct in several seminal battles including Second Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Petersburg. Grant would describe him as “the Union Army’s most promising young officer,” and assign him to duty on the Texas frontier. The Southern Plains Indian tribes would give him the name Bad Hand for wounds sustained at the battle of Petersburg where he’d lost two fingers on his right hand.

Initially, Mackenzie commanded one of the all black regiments, the Forty-First Infantry, made up of freedmen and former slaves, commonly known today as Buffalo Soldiers. Their exemplary record of accomplishments under his leadership at a time when institutional racial prejudice still existed in the Army brought him to the attention of General William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman would re-assign him to Fort Richardson, Texas at the head of the 4th U.S. Cavalry, and task him with implementing Grant’s Quaker Peace Policy.

More than any policy, however, it would be Mackenzie’s tenacity against the Southern Plains Indians that led to their eventual defeat and subjugation. He would put an end (for a time) to the Apache raids against settlers along the Rio Grande by boldly crossing the border to attack their encampments at Remolino, Mexico. He would mount multiple expeditions into the previously unexplored Llano Estacado (Staked Plain,) each foray yielding new new information and tactics to be used against the Comanche and Kiowa, finally resulting in the decisive engagement against these tribes at Palo Duro Canyon September 28, 1874, and an end to the Red River War.

Ranald Mackenzie surveyed the burned encampments. All his efforts seemed to point to another campaign where he’d been unable to keep the Indians from escaping; another failure. He then looked toward the captured horses. Past experience told him he would be unable to keep the pony herd intact all the way back to friendly lines. The Indians would once again mount raids to recapture their mounts and the cycle of resistance and the so called “Red River War” would continue. Mackenzie had long since hardened himself against any pity for the enemy and now knew what was required of him. He ordered his Adjutant to drive the pony herd to Tule Canyon, to select fresh mounts for the troop and his Tonkawa Scouts, and to shoot all the remaining horses. – Excerpt from Palo Duro.

Read the book to learn more about the Plains Indian Wars, Ranald Mackenzie, and this gut wrenching decision!

 

 

 

The Texas Literary Scene

Book Blog Tours

I know you’ve seen the Lone Star Literary Life logo on my blog before, specifically this past January when they featured my historical novel Palo Duro on one of their blog tours, and most recently when it appeared again in their “Texas Reads” section on March 11th.

Because of their commitment to advancing Texas authors and their works and my wholehearted support of that effort, I recently asked if I might join their team of bloggers. I’m very pleased to announce that I was accepted and will henceforth be using this forum to not only post about my books, but to also write reviews and carry promotions on the latest releases and tours in the Lone Star State.

I hope to add my voice and perspective to the ongoing efforts of the professionals at Lone Star Literary Life who strive to encourage literacy throughout this great State by informing the public about Texas writers and their books. Look for related posts in the weeks to come, and in the interim be sure to check out their website!

 

69th Infantry Regiment

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Many Irish and Scottish immigrants served in the Union Army during America’s Civil War. These soldiers proved themselves during every major campaign from the onset of the conflict in 1861 to the final surrender at Appomattox in 1865, but now faced a new enemy on the country’s western frontier. Their adversaries wore neither Yankee blue nor Confederate grey; they were the Comanche, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne, Arapaho and the Apache.

Of the many immigrant units formed during the war,the most prominent was the 69th Infantry Regiment, one of five regiments comprising the Irish Brigade that fought for the Union. Renown for its courage and tenacity, it was always at the forefront of campaigns against the Confederacy suffering huge losses over the course of the war.

The number of dead and wounded led many to believe that Irish immigrants were being used as “cannon fodder.” Spearheading the Army of the Potomac’s advances resulted in casualties disproportionate to the rest of the service. By 1863 riots broke out in New York over new conscription laws that required the working-class to replenish the ranks. Irish immigrants felt that they were being forced to fight the “rich man’s war.” Federal troops would eventually be called in to quell the riots. However, while individual Irishmen would continue to serve, organized Irish participation on behalf of the Union effectively ended.

Those not killed, maimed, or ushered out of the Union Army at war’s end found themselves garrisoned in places like Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. They formed the backbone of the troops tasked with subduing the Southern Plains Indians.

Sergeant Major [Timothy] O’Shannon was a big man and a stereotypical Irishman if ever there was one. He could be gruff if the situation required, invoking “Jesus, Joseph, and Mary” as the circumstances dictated, but he was also fair and genuinely caring when it came to the men. He was the counterpoint to [Colonel Ranald] Mackenzie’s demanding and uncompromising leadership style. The Sergeant Major had served with the Sixty-Ninth Regiment, the Irish Brigade, during the war and had seen action  at the Battle of First Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and Chancellorsville. As a result he and Mackenzie shared a mutual respect for one another that only survivors of the carnage they had witnessed over the course of the war could possibly forge or understand. This respect even ignored what should have been a natural impediment to working well together… O’Shannon’s Irish and Mackenzie’s Scottish heritage. – excerpt from Palo Duro.

Texas Reads

My novel has been featured in the Texas Reads section of this week’s edition of Lone Star Literary Life, (Sunday, March 11th.)

Historical fiction: San Antonio author Max L. Knight covers a lot of colorful historical western characters and events in his novel, Palo Duro (Page Publishing, $16.50 paperback).

 Among them: Quanah Parker, Charles Goodnight, Billy Dixon, Ranald Mackenzie,  Geronimo, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, and John Wesley Hardin.

“The characters that populate my book,” Knight writes, “are a composite of both real people and the products of my imagination… The dialogue, with very few exceptions, is strictly fictional but captures the essence of the events portrayed and the people involved.”

 “I’ve tried to portray the savage nature of the conflict between the Southern Plains Indians and white settlers, buffalo hunters, merchants and soldiers as evenly as possible without bias to either side, and I’ve tried to portray the difference between the lawman and the lawless as a fine line that was often crossed.”

 Readers of historical fiction will find much to savor in Knight’s novel.

For anyone unfamiliar with the online publication, Lone Star Literary Life is the best source of information for all things literary in the State of Texas. Its stated mission is “to connect Texas books and writers with those who want to discover them,” and they’ve certainly done this for me!

Each edition includes write-ups on authors and new book releases, bestseller lists, literary destinations and events including festivals, author appearances, readings and book signings, upcoming blog tours, biographies, author insights, news briefs, classified listings and so much more.

To read their full issue each week, be sure to check out their website.

 

The Roots of Evil

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To date I have used this forum to promote discussion of my books Silver Taps and Palo Duro. However, a blog should also serve to engage readers’ interest in upcoming publications. Later this year I hope to release my next book, Tarnished Brass, which looks at America’s involvement in the brutal civil war fought in the small Central American country of El Salvador from 1980-1992, and the aftermath of that conflict to include the origins of the violent street gang MS-13.

The timeliness of this upcoming release coincides with recent news coverage and comments by the President and the U.S. Attorney General highlighting the growing threat posed by this organization.

Mostly made up of Salvadoran nationals who illegally entered the United States and settled in Los Angeles, California, MS-13 engages in a broad range of criminal activity characterized by extreme violence toward rival street gangs and those caught in the crossfire. The savagery of their attacks is the principal reason the organization has become the focus of Justice Department efforts to incarcerate or deport its members.

The gang’s mobility within the United States has resulted in increased violence not only in Los Angeles, but in the southeastern, central, and northeastern sectors of our country. Additionally, El Salvador remains one of the most dangerous places in all of Central America with the violence that characterized a war ravaged nation supplanted and exceeded by the violence perpetrated by MS-13 gang members.