Author: tjlinzy (Page 2 of 16)

Battle of Wolf Mountain 8 January 1877

Background

After the disaster of the Battle of Little Bighorn where George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry was nearly wiped out and Custer was killed, the U.S. Army tried desperately to get the Indians back onto the reservations and secure concessions. The Army Indian fighters of the upper American plains went hell for leather in harrying American Indian leaders Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. However, the harsh winter of 1876-1877 made it hard for the US Army to conduct the pursuit. General George Crook called an end to the campaigning season until the weather eased. However, the aggressive, but vain General Nelson “Bear Coat” Miles wanted none of Crook’s waiting and launched new offensives over Christmas 1876 and into early 1877 in search of Crazy Horse’s Oglala Sioux. The Indians had felt they were secure for the winter, because the Army did not normally pursue them in the think of the northern plains’ winter.

Sioux and Cheyenne Join Forces

The Sioux were in decent shape, but some of their Cheyenne allies who joined them were ragged from lack of provisions and the weather. Most of the Cheyenne wanted to re-enter the reservation to secure provisions. However, others, including most of the Sioux, did not want to concede the Black Hills in return for the provisions. These fractures in the coalition caused many discussions  amongst the Indians in search of consensus throughout December 1876. In the mean time, Miles was wading through the deep snow in search of Crazy Horse’s trail. The situation for the Sioux was growing tense with Miles stalking them. On 7 January 1877, Crazy Horse found and attacked Miles’ column on the Tongue River, but the Indians were rebuffed and Miles took a Cheyenne contingent prisoner.  Thereafter, Miles encountered repeated raids to free the prisoners, so he decided to set up a defensive position near Wolf Mountain. Simultaneously, the Sioux and Cheyenne moved their villages further north along the Tongue River to get away from Miles.

The Battle of Wolf Mountain

On the morning of 8 January 1877 the battle commenced in a blizzard with Crazy Horse attacking from various angles, but he did not find a crease to exploit. As the weather cleared a bit, Miles was able to get range with his artillery which prompted an advance on Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse had no choice, but to retreat to save his force. The numbers lost by both sides were small and the battle may have gone down as a draw. However, the larger point was made on the Indians by the Battle of Wolf Mountain, also known as the Battle of the Butte. They were not safe from US forces in their own areas, even in the dead of winter. Total capitulation was to follow shortly. Miles was not liked by much of anyone, but his successes were rewarded and he eventually became the Commanding General of the US Army in 1895.

Battle of Wolf Mountain Motorcycle Ride

For a good long run all around the area of Miles’ and Crazy Horse’s actions in the Tongue River area, try this ride from Sheridan, WY to Decker, MT to Birney, MT to Ashland, MT to Busby, MT, and finishing at the Battle of Little Bighorn Battlefield, which I highly recommend. This is a long run for bikes with smaller gas tanks with few fuel points. Make sure you top up in Sheridan, WY before making this run. Some of it is gravel road too, so be careful out there. The Battle of Wolf Mountain Battlefield is approximately 4 miles southwest of Birney, MT. It is under the private ownership of the Quarter Circle U Ranch. The Battlefield Biker’s fellow riders are a polite and respectful bunch, so please ask for permission before entering private lands.

King Charles I Flees London 10 January 1642

The Five Members Indictment

On 4 January 1642, King Charles ordered the issuance of an indictment of treason against the “five members” of parliament. The members were John Hampden, Sir Arthur Hasilrige (multiple spellings), Denzil Holles, John Pym and William Strode. John Hampden died at the Battle of Chalgrove the very next year. Battlefield Biker favorite, Sir Arthur Hasilrige, fought throughout the war with his regiment of cuirassiers, or “lobster” cavalry.” Denzil Holles fought at the Battle of Edgehill, but was later a leading proponent of a negotiated settlement of the war. John Pym was the driving force in Parliament to curb the King’s powers, but died two years later of cancer. William Strode, after being imprisoned for eleven years at the King’s behest, was probably only second in vociferousness in the war party to Pym.

King Charles I Flees London

On 10 January 1642, King Charles I had to leave London as the unrest against him grew. He had recently tried to arrest five members of parliament on treason charges, but failed. His coach had been surrounded by a mob when he had demanded that those who were sheltering the five members should give them up. This was enough to scare Charles and his Queen, Henrietta, into leaving London. They first decamped to Hampton Court, then Windsor Castle and finally to Oxford to set up an alternative government to the Parliament in London. Parliament was busy activating its militias, called the “Trained Bands.” Although there were some attempts at reconciliation, the train of events leading to the English Civil War was already underway.

King Charles I Flees London Motorcycle Ride

I’m sure it was faster for King Charles I by horse and carriage, but if you don’t mind fighting London traffic, you can retrace the royal route to exile. Start in Whitehall, then to Hampton court, then to Windsor, then to Oxford. I’m not joking about London traffic. I recommend taking this ride in the mid summer and starting in London very early in the morning, say 5AM. You will have plenty of daylight in the summer and you can avoid the atrocious London traffic. Once you are in Windsor at 6:30-7:00AM, stop for a Full English Breakfast while the rush hour passes. Then take the ride through the English countryside on the way to Oxford. The area around Henley-on-Thames is especially beautiful. Check out the Battle of Chalgrove and the ride around the Oxfordshire countryside.

Battle of Big Sandy River / Middle Creek, Kentucky 10 Jan 1862

Background

On 10 January 1862, Union forces, under Colonel James Garfield, sought to drive out the Confederates, under General Humphrey Marshall, who were recruiting in the vicinity of Paintsville, Kentucky. Garfield was an new Colonel of Ohio volunteers who was to make his name at the Battle of Big Sandy, also known as the Battle of Middle Creek. This fame would eventually propel him to the White House. Marshall, on the other hand, came into the battle with an outstanding reputation from the Mexican War where he led the First Kentucky Cavalry. He was to leave the Battle of Middle Creek with a big question mark over his head.

Battle of the Big Sandy

As Garfield approached from the north, Marshall fell back to Prestonburg along the Middle Creek to take up defensive positions, even though his rebels were not well provisioned. The Confederate cavalry that was to provide a rear screen were surprised by the Federal cavalry as they were breaking camp. The initial rout by the Union forces turned into a bloody pursuit as the recovering Confederates ambushed the pursuing Union cavalry. Garfield pushed on, however, and caught up with the mass of Marshall’s force to the west of Prestonburg. Marshall had taken a strong position and had set a trap along Middle Creek to catch Garfield’s forces as they advanced into a hammer and anvil position. Garfield, who was unsure of Marshall’s positions, sent a small cavalry force into the open area to see where Marshall’s forces were. Marshall fell for the ruse and released the trap too early. Garfield now knew where Marshall had deployed and set to advancing slowly and methodically on the ill-equipped and hungry Confederates. The Battle of Big Sandy was truly one of those Civil War battles where brother fought brother and neighbor fought neighbor. Kentucky units on both sides of the war met in the boggy ground around the creek, sometimes in hand to hand fighting. As the pressure on the Confederates grew into the early evening, Marshall felt he had no choice, but to retire as he feared widespread desertion from his hungry troops.

The overall effect of the Battle of Big Sandy was not decisively in favor of the Union, but the future President James Garfield had made his name in showing that the area could be held by the Union. The fact that eastern Kentucky was now off-limits to the Confederates meant that the Union forces could begin their push into Tennessee with a secure eastern flank.

Battle of the Big Sandy Motorcycle Ride

Check out the scenery on two of Kentucky’s great parkways, the Combs Mountain Parkway and the Hal Rogers Parkway (formerly the Daniel Boone Parkway). Be unique. Be someone who has actually been to the Kentucky Appalachia, rather than a smug jokester about it.

Photo Credit: By American Battlefield Protection Program (National Park Service) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

New York Herald Story on Events Leading to Civil War

This article from the New York Herald of 11 January 1861 gives a feel for what it must have felt like to see the terrible events leading to Civil War in America unfolding to display the bloody outbreak of war. This article focuses on the gravity of the situation when federal troops aboard the The Star of the West were denied landing at Ft Sumter.

Events Leading to Civil War

As this article makes clear, President James Buchanan‘s administration (4 Mar 1857 – 4Mar 1861) was left for hopeless in settling the quarrels between north and south. All hope was pinned on the incoming administration of Abraham Lincoln and his Secretary of State, William Seward. What I find interesting is the last paragraph of the Herald article.

“As the present administration can do no more toward pacification — the Executive having exhausted its constitutional powers, as Mr. Buchanan states in his message — it is the new administration which must accomplish this grand result, by fairly and boldly settling the differences between the southern States, who are contending for their constitutional rights, and that party at the North which, for the sake of a mere abstraction, is disposed to deny them.”

Don’t forget this is a New York newspaper making a point that the south thinks it is fighting for constitutional principles, even if those principles are tied to the abhorrent issue of slavery. I think that we, as modern Americans,  have turned the crisis of the Union into a simple dichotomy of all of the north felt one way and all of the south felt another. The American Civil War was much more complicated than is often presented. Why is this important? If we as a people cannot understand how complicated a topic was at the time of our darkest hour, how can we learn the lessons of it? Even if we arrive at the correct conclusions, understanding how we came to those conclusions is important. I hope we never need to face circumstances like those again, but wouldn’t it be good that if we have to, we know how we dealt with those of the past?

Events Leading to Civil War Motorcycle Ride

Try the ride from Myrtle Beach, SC to Ft Sumter National Park along US Highway 17/701 which takes in the length of Francis Marion (the legendary “Swamp Fox” of the Revolutionary War) National Forest.

The Crittenden Compromise Fails in Senate 16 January 1861

Background

John Jordan Crittenden, one of Kentucky’s most prolific politicians, attempted to broker a compromise to save the Union in the U.S. Senate and avoid civil war. The Crittenden Compromise failed on 16 January 1861 and virtually guaranteed civil war. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 allowed the southern states and new states south of the 36’30” latitude to continue slavery, whilst the northern states and new states north of that line couldn’t. The Compromise of 1850 changed this and allowed the new territories’ residents to vote on the issue regardless if south of the 36’30”.

The Crittenden Compromise

Crittenden tried to mitigate the Compromise of 1850 in favor of the South. However, the Crittenden Compromise was a step too far in reverse for the Republican party which had formed specifically to oppose the expansion of slavery.
Crittenden was especially torn over the issue, as he had one son (Thomas L. Crittenden) and a nephew (Thomas Turpin Crittenden) who fought for the North and one son who fought for the South (George B. Crittenden). In the end, the gulf was just too wide for even a despairing father to stop. J.J. Crittenden died in the middle of the Civil War.

The Crittenden Compromise Motorcycle Ride

If you find yourself traversing western Kentucky on I-24, get off near Eddyville, KY and try the backroads through Crittenden County, Kentucky, named after J.J. Crittenden. It also gives me a good reason to recommend another ferry, and you know the Battlefield Biker likes to put the Red Rover on a ferry. Try the free (well, the KY taxpayer is paying) Cave-in-Rock ferry over the Ohio. This is the Battlefield Biker’s ancestral homeland and they are the back roads that Battlefield Biker learned to ride on as a young boy. Enjoy a little slice of rural Kentucky. From Eddyvile, you are not too far from Fort Donelson either, if you are looking for another local ride.

Photo Credit: Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Battle of Logan’s Crossroads – 19 January 1862

Background

After the defeat at the Battle of Middle Creek / Big Sandy on 10 January 1862, the Confederates were definitely on the defensive in eastern / central Kentucky. Kentucky was a key area for the Union to establish dominance, both politically and logistically. The long hoped for push into Tennessee by Ulysses S. Grant would be happening in February 1862, so the importance of clearing Kentucky of any serious Confederate forces was paramount to the Union. Not only would Tennessee be open to attack, but the Union would have direct access to the Cumberland Gap through eastern Kentucky and Tennessee to western Virginia. For the south, this area was also critical for supplies for the Confederacy with such staples as salt and mineral mines for ammunition.

Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer was sent to defend the Cumberland Gap and in the winter of 1861/62, he decided to occupy the area south of present day Nancy, Kentucky for winter quarters. Zollicoffer built defenses along both sides of the Cumberland River. Union General George Thomas wanted to break the remainder of the eastern Kentucky forces under General George Crittenden, Zolicoffer’s senior. When Crittenden determined that Thomas was to attack the area, he took personal command of the position.

As Thomas moved into the area in heavy rain, Zollicoffer and Crittenden thought they might be able to split Thomas’s forces by catching them off guard with the swollen Fishing Creek separating Union camps. Zollicoffer took his troops out of their defensive positions in the middle of the night for a forced march through appalling conditions to attack. The forces met at the Battle of Logan’s Crossroads, also known as the Battle of Fishing Creek (not to be confused of the North Carolina Revolutionary War battle of the same name), near Nancy, KY.

The Battle of Logan’s Crossroads

The Confederates achieved some level of surprise in the attack, but Union pickets and a cavalry patrol provided enough alert for Thomas to get his men moving. Crittenden had some early success, but three factors meant the battle was soon to sway in the Union’s favor. First, at least a regiment of Rebels had old flintlock rifles that would not fire in the deluge, so at least 1/8th of the force had to be sent to the rear. Second, Fishing Creek, although swollen, was not impassable, so Thomas was able to bring full force to bear. Finally, the Yankees had a further forces advancing to join the fray.

As if all of this was not enough, Zollicoffer got lost whilst working the lines and met up with Union Colonel Speed Fry. It is not clear as to whether both confused each other intially as friend or foe, but Fry was on the uptick quicker and recognized Zollicoffer for who he was and shot him in the chest. The loss of Zollicoffer threw panic into the closest Rebel brigade which took flight. Their panic sparked the other brigade and soon the Union rout was on. Crittenden got his troops across the Cumberland in a ragged retreat, but was to later be reprimanded on charges of drunkenness at the battle with aspersions being cast about his commitment to the southern cause. His daddy would not have been proud.

The Union was successful in pushing the line across eastern and south-central Kentucky much further south to near the Tennessee line. The stage was now set for attacking down the western ends of the Tennessee River and Cumberland River in western Kentucky and Tennessee at Forts Henry and Donelson in February 1862.

The Battle of Logan’s Crossroad Motorcycle Ride

Check out the Cumberland Cultural Heritage Highway for beautiful ride around the area of the battle.

British and Kentucky Riflemen Battle of Frenchtown 22 Jan 1813

Since its shameful fall in August 1812 with scarcely a shot fired in defense, the Americans wanted Detroit back. So embarrassed by it, a winter campaign was conceived to win it back. William Henry Harrison, the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe, was selected to take back the area and further the American goals in the War of 1812. Harrison’s second in command was General James Winchester. The two split their forces to move on Detroit.

On 18 January 1813, Winchester’s lead elements entered Frenchtown (near modern day Monroe, Michigan) and took it in a short battle with a handful of British Regulars and a couple of hundred of local Indians. The American soldiers were militia that had recently been recruited in Kentucky and marched north with severe privation. The Kentuckians found great stores of food and gorged themselves for several days. Unfortunately, their officers had not ordered them to fortify the area for a counter-attack.

Battle of Frenchtown

A mixed force of British, under Colonel Henry Procter, and Shawnee, under Chief Tecumseh, counter-attacked on 22 January 1813. There followed a fierce battle that would go down as one of the biggest ground battles in the War of 1812. The British and Indians attacked across the American front. The American right flank was enveloped and surrendered, including Winchester. The left flank, however was holding well along a fence in the west of the area. The Kentuckians there were not surprised to see a British truce party arrive, but they were surprised to hear that it was the Kentuckian’s surrender they were after. Winchester had sent word that they should give up. The Kentuckians did surrender, but only with the assurance that the captured would be protected from the Indians.

The British then quickly unoccupied the area of operations for they feared that Harrison’s column would soon descend on Frenchtown. They left the prisoners with Tecumseh’s force. Some, but not all, of the Kentucky prisoners left with the Indians were massacred. The remainder were taken to Detroit for ransom. The Raisin River Massacre became a rallying point for remainder of the war in the old northwest. The event had a solidifying effect on the frontiersman for the war that was not there previously. Future Kentucky units rushed north yelling, “Remember the Raisin!” The area was re-captured by Kentucky cavalry units in September 1813.

Trivia; Although born in Ohio, George Armstrong Custer lived in Monroe as a boy and married a local girl. No doubt, young Custer would have heard the story of the massacre in his local school.

Battle of Frenchtown Motorcycle Ride

Check out the Raisin River Battlefield National Park. Then go from the Raisin River Battlefield Visitor’s Center and follow the Raisin River out to Raisinville, Dundee and back to Monroe to the Sterling State Park.

Marias River Massacre 23 January 1870

Background

At the confluence of the Two Medicine and Cut Bank Rivers is where the Marias River begins and flows east for approximately 60 miles to Lake Elwell, then on for another 80 miles where it meets the Missouri River near Loma, Montana. Somewhere along this stretch of river (possibly here), there lies an ancient American Indian site where Major Eugene Baker of the U.S. Army took his mixed detachment from the 2nd US Cavalry and the 13th Infantry to surround an encampment of Piegan Indians on 22 January 1870. What happened next is clear, but why is not so clear.

A Tragic, Familiar Story

The area had seen an altercation between two hotheads, one white, Malcolm Clarke, and one Indian, Owl Child. Clarke beat Owl Child, who he claimed had stolen his horses. Owl Child retaliated by killing Clarke. As so happened in those days, this caused cries for the army to make sure another white was not killed by another Indian, so Major Baker was sent to teach the Indians a lesson. Baker’s detachment left Fort Shaw on 15 January 1870 and rode north to find a group of Indians known as the Piegans. Baker found an encampment at a big bend on the Marias River and surrounded it in the winter’s night of 22/23 January 1870. There is some debate as to whether Baker knew it was the camp he was looking for or another one.

The Marias River Massacre

On the morning of the incident, also known as the Baker Massacre and the Piegan Massacre, Chief Heavy Runner tried to stop the attack by showing papers that he claimed gave him and his people clear passage in the area. Regardless, Baker issued the order to fire on the camp and many women, children and elderly were killed, the camp was burned and the survivors set afoot in the Montana winter without provisions.

Some said Baker knew that it as the wrong encampment. Some said he didn’t care. Some said he was a drunken commander and didn’t know what was happening. None of the PR options were good and the Army made it worse by ignoring, at the least, but probably covering up the massacre. As so often happened in these cases in the U.S. Army, a young soldier steps up where his superiors have fallen down and tells the truth. Lieutenant William Pease, acting as a Blackfoot agent, reported the massacre to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Ely Samuel Parker. Parker, a Civil War veteran, confidante to U.S. Grant and an Iroquois Indian whose Indian name was Donehogawa, demanded a investigation, but the outcome was prevarication as the U.S. Army closed ranks with General William Tecumseh Sherman saying he would prefer to believe his soldiers.

In the end, no official recognition of the Marias River Massacre was forthcoming and only time has brought a gradual acceptance of the fact of this massacre. Author Dee Brown, in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, puts the casualties at 33 men, 90 women and 50 children. Stan Gibson has investigated the topic deeply. He and Jack Hayne are working on a book on the topic.

If you are teaching this topic to 7-12th grade students, there is a good looking lesson plan that uses the Montana: Stories of the Land textbook by Holmes, Krys, Susan C. Dailey, and David Walter. Helena, Mont: Montana Historical Society Press, 2008. You can find the relevant chapter 7 online.

Marias River Massacre Motorcycle Ride

This is a long ride starting and ending at Browning, Montana at the Museum of the Plains Indians. The ride passes through the origin of the Marias River and also runs about 5 miles north and parallel to the Marias for a good while on the beautiful U.S. Highway 2. This is a good description of the things to see along this route, including a Cold War missile Silo. As always, good Battlefield Biking requires the courtesy to ask for permission to travel on private roads. Be polite and ensure the rest of us can enjoy the ride too.

Battle of Nantwich 25 January 1644

Background – English Civil War

With the arrival of Irish forces (somewhat) loyal to the King in late 1643, the Royalists had developed a strong footing in the northwest of England and were besieging the strategically important town of Nantwich. The Royalist commander Lord Byron decided to complete his conquest of Cheshire by quickly capturing Nantwich, which was being defended by Parliamentarian Sir William Brereton. However, the Parliamentarian Sir Thomas Fairfax had other plans. Showing his grasp of the whole war and not just that of his eastern England locality, Fairfax pulled together his disparate forces around Lincolnshire and marched to the relief of Nantwich. The two forces met near the present day Shropshire Union Canal on the close, flat pastures to the west of Nantwich.

Battle of Nantwich

Having deployed tightly coming out of Nantwich, Fairfax had to fight on each flank to open up space for his cavalry. On the other hand, Byron, converging on Nantwich, had to deal with over-extension. One has to imagine an inner concentric arc pushing against an outer concentric arc to understand the tension between the two forces. Fairfax was able to hold both flanks as his centre made the advance into Byron*s centre who were unsupported by their flanks due to the over-extension. Eventually, the Royalist centre cleaved in two and flanked away in opposing directions. This saved the left side, but doomed the right which fell back near Acton church.

Things went from bad to worse for Byron, as the blocking force meant to hold the Nantwich Roundhead forces at bay, failed. These Parliamentary forces proceeded to attack the Royalist baggage train near Acton church and the Royalist right flank near the present day Acton Bridge (footbridge) over the canal. In the melee, the Royalist lost many, but many more surrendered, including whole Irish regiments who felt they had been tricked into coming to England to fight for the King.

Nantwich was a clear win for the Parliamentary forces, having relieved the siege, captured the Royalist baggage train and not a few senior officers. Strategically, it kept the centre of England in play and established Fairfax as a Parliamentarian commander of national stature.

Battle of Nantwich Motorcycle Ride

Try this circular ride from Nantwich to Whitchurch and back

Abenaki Attack York in Candlemas Massacre 1692

Image Credit – New England Historical Society

In the late 1600s, tensions rose between the Abenaki people and the English settlers of Maine. As so often was the case, the tensions which might have arisen over local grievances took on a more Atlantic nature due to war in Europe.

Situation in Europe

In Europe, at the time, William of Orange had taken the English throne in the Glorious Revolution in 1689 and had joined the League of Augsburg (the Grand Alliance) to halt French King Louis XIV’s aggression in the low countries (The Netherlands and Belgian coastal lowlands) and German palatinates. In New England,  the Wabanaki Confederacy Indians, goaded on by French Jesuits, fought the English colonists for dominance as part of “King William’s War.” The wars in the English colonial northeast were less like wars than raids and counter raids between settlements.

Abenaki Attack York

The most disastrous of the Wabanaki Confederacy attacks was on Candlemas  in early February, 1692(New Style / Gregorian date). At the break of day on 25 January 1692 (Old Style – Julian date), Chief Madockawando of the Eastern Abenaki (also called Penobscot), led his warriors on a raid of the village of York, Maine. The Indians, probably with the verbal backing of the Jesuit priest, Father Louis-Pierre Thury, killed almost 50 villagers and took more than that hostage, including many children of slain parents. Madockawando’s forces  also torched the farms around York on their way out to deprive the Maine settlers of food supplies. Like much of the warfare on the American frontiers, the result was to make tireless Indian haters and fighters of the captive children who were later returned to the European settlements. Those who remembered the atrocities in York most acutely were to figure prominently in future conflicts.

The English would settle with the largest of the tribes in the Northeast, the Iroquois, in 1694, which effectively put an end to French hopes for rallying the tribes of the New England against the English. However, it did not stop the French and Abenaki from trying for five more years, two more than the war in Europe. The Abenaki finally came to peace with the settlers in 1699 at Casco Bay, Maine.

Abenaki Attack York Motorcycle Ride

Start at the John Paul Jones Memorial in Kittery Maine and follow the coast through York and on to Kennebunkport and Biddeford Pool.

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