Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Call of the Bugle

Call of the Bugle, painted by J.K. Ralston. This oil painting shows Custer rallying the troops for the final defense of Last Stand Hill. The Custer Battlefield Historical & Museum Association (CBHMA) commissioned it in 1964, donating to the park shortly after. Credit: Courtesy of the National Park Service, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.  LIBI_00138_06378

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

The Rock, and the Big Stick

U.S.S. Iowa, 1951, with Alcatraz in the distance. [LIFE magazine archives]

Battlefield Tours: the Rosebud and the Little Bighorn

​"On a hot June Sunday in 1876, hordes of painted Indian warriors—perhaps as many as 4,000—swarmed over a treeless Montana ridge rising from the Little Bighorn River Valley. Five companies of U.S. Cavalry, about 215 blue-shirted troopers, contended briefly and hopelessly against overwhelming odds. When the guns fell silent and the smoke and dust of battle lifted, every soldier lay dead.
This was "Custer's Last Stand" the most spectacular triumph of the American Indian in his four-century struggle against the relentlessly advancing European civilization that finally crushed him. It forms a chapter of American history that has inspired intense study and provoked intense controversy, that has been chronicled endlessly in prose and verse and enacted time and again on motion picture and television screens, and that has earned a lasting place in the Nation's historical annals and popular folklore. In total defeat and death, Custer and his men achieved an immortality that even the most dramatic victory could not have won them." 
— Robert M. Utley, NPS Handbook, Little Bighorn National Monument.

We'll be heading out to the battlefields with Neil Mangum in mid-October. If you are interested, and can get away for a few days, follow the link below, or go to for registration information, and details on other upcoming tours. 

After hiking part of the Rosebud battlefield on the first day, the next morning we'll follow Gibbon's route down the Yellowstone and ascend the Rosebud. We'll pause at Custer and Indian campsites (and other sites), visit Deer Medicine Rocks, and devote a day each to the Reno and Custer fighting. For good measure, we'll also take in the Baker Battlefield (August 1872), and Canyon Creek (Flight of the Nez Perce).

Friday, May 25, 2018

summer ad for Rosebud and Little Bighorn excursion

Look for this ad in an upcoming issue of Wild West magazine, and in various digital venues. See also the new website for WHT. 

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Bruce Catton

Photos from University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center, Bruce Catton Papers. Text from New York Times obituary, August 29, 1978
Catton was a reporter with the Cleveland News, the Boston American and later with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and a correspondent with the Newspaper Enterprise Association in Washington before he took several government posts. Among them was director of information for the U.S. Department of Commerce in 1945-46, and special assistant to the Secretary of Commerce in 1948. 
Catton won the Pulitzer Prize for historical writing and the National Book Award in 1954. Among his works on the Civil War was Two Roads to Sumter, co-authored in 1968 with his only son, William Bruce Catton. He received the Presidential Freedom Medal in 1955 and then-New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller named him chairman of the state Civil War Commission in 1960. 
Among Catton's other books were The War Lords of Washington, published in 1949; Mr. Lincoln's Army, 1951; Glory Road, 1952; [A Stillness a Appomattox, 1953 won the Pulitzer Prize] U.S. Grant and the American Military Tradition, 1954; Banners at Shenandoah, 1955; This Hallowed Ground, 1956; The Coming Fury, 1961; Terrible Swift Sword, 1962; Gettysburg: The Final Fury, and Michigan: A Bicentennial History, 1976. 
Catton was editor of American Heritage Magazine from 1954 through 1959. He was named senior editor of the magazine in 1959 and held that position until his death.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Charles P. Roland turns 100

Happy Birthday to Charles P. Roland, who wrotein my opinionthe best short, single-volume history of the Civil War: An American Iliad: The Story of the Civil War (University Press of Kentucky). 

I had the pleasure of sitting with Dr. Roland at dinner one evening, during a Jerry Russell-sponsored battlefield conference. When he learned I had attended college in Evansville, Indiana, it reminded him of his best buddy in WWII, who hailed from Evansville, and Roland related some stories from their adventures at the Battle of the Bulge. 

Roland is a great historian, a fascinating man, and a pleasant dinner companion. I'm glad to hear he's still going strong. Roland also wrote what used to me, and what may still be, the only scholarly biography of General Albert Sydney Johnston (Albert Sydney Johnston: Soldier of Three Republics). While visiting the Shiloh battlefield last weekend, where Johnston was killed, I noticed that this (now revised) book is still in print (also from the University Press of Kentucky). 

Those are two great books from a great university press. Here's hoping Governor Matt Bevin's "petty and barbaric" (quoting eminent Kentuckian Wendell Berry) efforts to close the press are thwarted.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Power of History (Bay Area Book Festival)
There's an interesting American History presence at this April's Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley. Wish I could be there for this discussion, but alas, I'll be traipsing around Old Cahawba Archaeological Park that weekend. 

The Power of History: Turning Groundbreaking Scholarship into Page-Turning Prose

Edward L. Ayers, Peter Cozzens, Joel Richard Paul, T. J. Stiles, moderated by Steve Wasserman
Saturday, April 28
11:15 AM - 12:45 PM 

Is best-selling history bad history? Does good history have to be dull reading? Four award-winning historians and biographers talk about the big questions of American history and reveal how they explore them through captivating narratives that win esteem in the academy yet appeal to wide audiences. Bancroft and Lincoln prize winner Edward Ayers (whose many works focus on the Civil War and Reconstruction), Gilder Lehrman Military History Prize winner Peter Cozzens (most recently “The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West”), Pulitzer and National Book Award laureate T.J. Stiles (most recently “Custer’s Trials: A Life on a Frontier of New America” and “The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt”), and Hastings Law Professor Joel Richard Paul (most recently “Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times”) talk with Steve Wasserman, executive director of Heyday Books, former editor at Yale University Press, and former book review editor of the Los Angeles Times.
BAMPFA - Osher Theater
Sponsored by Reed Schmidt, with partial support from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria