Wild west. What kind of image do those two words bring to mind? Gunslingers, cactuses, and tumbleweeds? If so, you’re in the majority. But that holds true for the nineteenth century. Let’s rewind time and travel back to the 1700’s, when the wild west was no farther than upstate New York.
During the mid-eighteenth century, a war was raging in the far west of what was then Colonial America. The French and Indian War is often glossed over in a U.S. History class. It wasn’t just between French fur traders and Indians. The truth is Native Americans fought on both sides of the skirmish, for the British and the French—which is who the war was really between.
But don’t panic…no stale history lesson here. I’ve got a tale to share from this period that inspired me to write The Captured Bride.
A legend sprang up during the years of the French and Indian War, first spread by word of mouth then finally being put to print in an 1875 Ohio newspaper. Apparently there was a shipment of French gold being moved from Fort Duquesne to Fort Detroit. Both were French forts, so it doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? Wrong. Danger lurked in those wilds, and for the French, that danger was British red coats.
Naturally, the French contingent was on high alert during their trek, scouting ahead and behind, making sure no one took them by surprise. One scout brought back word of a possible attack, either by British sympathizing natives or the British themselves is unclear. Either way, it spooked the soldiers, so they knew they had to do something drastic to survive.
Turning back wasn’t an option. Neither was forging ahead, hoping to outrun whatever trouble might be upon them. Lugging a shipment of gold around makes for very slow going. But what to do?
They decided to bury the gold then hide until the threat passed. The men took great care to painstakingly mark exactly where they buried the treasure. Relieved of the extra weight, they took off—putting space between them and the gold—and hid until the danger passed.
When they went back to retrieve their cargo, they followed their directions with utmost care. But when they got to the spot where the gold was buried, it was gone. But where did it go?
To this day, no one knows.
Many have looked, going so far as to dig up farmers’ fields and surrounding lands. But no luck. And the search continues. Recently there was a news story about another search about to take place.
I can’t tell you where the gold is, but if this legend piques your interest, I can recommend my latest release, an adventure in the wilds of upstate New York.
A war-torn countryside is no place for a lady—but Mercy Lytton is a lady like none other. Raised amongst the Mohawks, she straddles two cultures, yet each are united in one cause…to defeat the French. Born with a rare gift of unusually keen eyesight, she is chosen as a scout to accompany a team of men on a dangerous mission. Yet it is not her life that is threatened. It is her heart.
Condemned as a traitor, Elias Dubois faces the gallows. At the last minute, he’s offered his freedom if he consents to accompany a stolen shipment of French gold to a nearby fort—but he’s the one they stole it from in the first place. It turns out that the real thief is the beguiling woman, Mercy Lytton, for she steals his every waking thought.
Can love survive divided loyalties in a backcountry wilderness?
We’d love to find out! Michelle has graciously offered a copy of The Captured Bride, ebook or paperback, winner’s choice. To enter, leave a comment below.
I love visiting historic sites, particularly those that are so well preserved by the National Park Service. I’ve been to numerous ones throughout the West that are rich with that western culture and history we love here at Petticoats and Pistols, but you might be surprised that there exists such a place with western ties near where I live in the Florida panhandle.
Fort Pickens, which is part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, has ties to American history going back to three decades prior to the Civil War. After the War of 1812, the U.S. government decided it needed fortifications to defend its major ports. Several were build to protect Pensacola Harbor. Among them were Fort Pickens, which sits on the end of Santa Rosa Island across the harbor’s entrance from Naval Air Station Pensacola, home of the famous Blue Angels demonstration flying team. On days when the Blue Angels are practicing, you can watch them from the fort.
The fort is filled with these types of arches.
Though we all learned that the first shots of the Civil War occurred at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, some say that they actually happened at Fort Pickens on Jan 8, 1861, when U.S. forces at nearby Fort Barrancas fought off a group of local civilians who intended to take the fort. Barrancas was abandoned in favor of the more defensible Fort Pickens. Two days after the attack on Fort Barrancas, Florida seceded from the Union. The fort was one of only four in the South that remained under Union control throughout the entire war.
The tie to the West came after the end of the Civil War, during what was known as the Indian Wars. Native American captives were transported east for incarceration. Apache war chief Geronimo; Naiche, the youngest son of Cochise; and several warriors were held at Fort Pickens, separated from their wives and children, who were held at Fort Marion in St. Augustine.
Band of Apache Indian prisoners at rest stop beside Southern Pacific Railway, near Nueces River, Tex. (Geronimo is third from the right, in front), September 10, 1886. Photo credit: Wikipedia, Public Domain
Part of the reason the men were housed at Fort Pickens was because some in Pensacola felt Geronimo’s fame would enable the city to draw tourists, as horrible as that is to contemplate now. Tourists had to obtain permission from Colonel Langdon and then pay for a boat trip to the island so they could see the Apache prisoners. The Apaches were housed in two rooms that were built to house cannons and worked seven-hour days clearing weeds, planting grass and stacking cannonballs. In April of 1887, the prisoners’ families were brought to live with them at Fort Pickens. Fort Marion saw many deaths of Apache prisoners, but in contrast there was only one death at Fort Pickens. One of Geronimo’s wives, She-gha, is buried in Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola.
From the top of the fort, you can look out over the Gulf of Mexico.
A yellow fever scare led to the the move of the prisoners to Mount Vernon Barracks north of Mobile, Alabama, in 1888. Six years later, they were moved to a reservation at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where Geronimo died in 1909, still a prisoner. In 1913, the prisoners were finally released. Some chose to remain at Fort Sill, but Naiche, the hereditary chief of the Chiricahua Apaches, and his family returned to New Mexico, to the Mescalero Reservation. Between 1850 and 1914, the Apache population had dropped a dramatic 95 percent.
The fort is full of displays such as this telling the long and rich history of the site. There is also a gift shop full of books if you want to learn more about the fort, historical figures and the time periods during which the fort operated.
Fort Pickens received some updates in the years that followed, partially to help guard against the threat of German U-boats, but by the end of World War II it had outlived its usefulness. It spent some time in the state parks system of Florida but has been part of the national seashore since the early 1970s. Today visitors can spend hours walking through the seemingly endless rooms of the fort, climbing to the upper level to look out over the Gulf of Mexico and Pensacola Bay, and imagining all the history that resides at the spot.
Encouragement from an unexpected source set Barbara Ankrum’s romance-author’s feet on a new path. Help us welcome Barbara to Wildflower Junction.
By Barbara Ankrum
For years, I resisted the temptation to write a romance with a Native American protagonist. Frankly, I was scared to do it. I might get it wrong. Or, worse, insult someone! So I avoided it even though I longed to write one.
Then my daughter moved to Kansas.
On a visit, I took the grandkids to a cool little farmstead called Deanna Rose, and was surprised to find there a reproduction of a Kanza (tribe) mound lodge. From the outside, the mound looked like a tall, grass-covered hill with two tunnel-like doorways. Inside, it was a circular wood-braced lodge, 14’ high at the center with cottonwood tree trunk poles supporting the arched roof. Beds lined the walls all the way around the forty feet in diameter perimeter. In the center, a fire pit and a hole in the ceiling for smoke to escape.
The earthen walls were fourteen inches thick insulating the interior from the harsh Kansas summer sun. Outside, it was 3,000 degrees, (I jest—but it was Kansas in July!) But inside that mound it was a cool 70-something and I lingered.
A Native American docent started to chat with me about the structure and I asked a bunch of questions. The mounds are scarce—almost non-existent now, because they were nearly all destroyed by the Army in the Indian Wars, set ablaze and collapsed.
When I admitted I write historical romance and secretly always wanted to write a Native American hero, but didn’t have the nerve, this woman looks at me and says, “Why not?” And I was like, “Well, because I’m not Native American. I might not do their story justice.” This sweet woman laughed. “But you see,” she said, “You’d be telling their story, a story that might not be heard otherwise. A story that might never have a voice. You must write it.”
I was dumbfounded but profoundly affected by her words. Maybe I just needed a new perspective. If I did my best with it and gave it my heart and told the story that was calling me, then it might be enough. After all, isn’t that what writers do?
This woman’s off-handed encouragement was the jumping off point for THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS. Set Montana, my hero is a half-breed Cheyenne (okay, so I dipped my toe in!) and my heroine is a white schoolteacher he accidentally kidnaps and drags into the wilds of the Montana Mountains. It’s set in the post-Indian War devastation of the far West tribes and the systematic removal of the Native American children to white-run boarding schools.
And it turned out Essie was brave and maybe a little inspired by that docent’s words, too. When I got a really nice review from a Native American reader thanking me for not backing off the true story of the boarding schools, I could only smile and secretly thank that woman from Deana Rose.
You never know where encouragement will come from. You never know how your words will affect someone else. And you never know what you can do until you try.
I hope you’ll give THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS a read. Maybe it will inspire you to be brave about something in your own life. I think if we just remember that we bring our own heart to the things we do, we bring something to the table that no one else possibly could. And that’s more than enough.
Find The Ruination of Essie Sparks and Barbara’s other books at Amazon.
What is it you’d love to try, but have held back doing? Tell me and I will give away one e-copy of THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS to one lucky commenter.
What a pleasure it is to guest blog at Petticoats & Pistols. I’ve been studying the Apache Indians for the last several months as research for my latest book, and I wanted to share a pivotal moment in American-Apache relations.
In the latter half of the 1800’s, the westward expansion of the United States brought with it endless clashes between immigrants and the military with Native American peoples. Oddly enough, the Apache Indians of the territories of Arizona and New Mexico initially tolerated Americans, and didn’t consider them an immediate threat. Apache had their hands full with the Mexicans, who passionately despised the Indians for all the raiding and plundering they wreaked in northern Mexico. Historians generally agree that this all changed with the Bascom Affair.
In January 1861, Apache marauders attacked John Ward’s farm, located in the Sonoita Valley of the Arizona Territory, eleven miles from Fort Buchanan near the U.S./Mexican border. Two war parties stormed the ranch, one driving off a number of cattle, and the other abducting Ward’s twelve-year-old adopted son, Felix Martinez, who was outside herding stock. Ward himself was away on business at the time, and while two men from the ranch attempted to pursue, they were unsuccessful.
Second Lieutenant George N. Bascom
When news of the raid reached Fort Buchanan two weeks later, the post commander, Lieutenant Colonel Pitcairn Morrison, ordered Second Lieutenant George N. Bascom to locate the Indians and recover the boy. Morrison incorrectly assumed that Cochise and his band were accountable for the kidnapping, so he directed Bascom to proceed east toward Apache Pass in search of the boy and the stolen cattle. Had the military been more familiar with the habits of the Indians in their district, they would’ve known that Cochise, a Chiricahua Apache—while certainly not innocent in other circumstances—had never been known to take American captives. The White Mountain Apache, however, habitually kidnapped whites to barter with other tribes or the Mexicans.
Cochise had made efforts to keep a friendship with the U.S. government by frequently returning token animals stolen by other bands. But the increasing occurrence of raids on the Sonoita and Santa Cruz valleys had hardened the army toward the Chiricahua. Morrison told Bascom that if he located Cochise he was to settle for nothing less than the return of the boy, and to use force if necessary. Bascom assembled 54 men and rode toward the Chiricahua Mountains, known to be a winter home for Cochise.
Once they arrived, Bascom learned that Cochise was indeed in the area, and sent word to him. After a lengthy delay, Cochise finally came to Bascom’s camp, along with his brother, three other male relatives, his wife, and two boys. It is thought that Cochise must not have sensed danger in the meeting since he brought immediate family members with him. When Bascom questioned him about the raid on Ward’s farm, Cochise denied any involvement and even offered to help find the boy, cautioning that it could take at least ten days. Bascom agreed, but would keep Cochise’s family hostage until the boy was returned. At this point, Cochise and his brother, Coyuntura, pulled their knives and slashed their way out of Bascom’s tent. Cochise managed to escape.
Bascom now had six Apaches in custody, many of them related to Cochise, and he swiftly reinforced his defensive position around the camp. They readied for a long siege if necessary. The following morning a large contingent of Chiricahua Apache assembled in the distance, but after a time most dispersed, leaving a small party bearing a white flag. Bascom reciprocated with his own white handkerchief, and a warrior approached. Cochise wished to speak with Bascom, so arrangements were made for a meeting. Each leader would be permitted to bring three men, all unarmed.
While they spoke, two civilians by the name of Culver and Wallace, ignored the rules set forth and began to approach the meeting. Bascom told them to stay back, but they didn’t. Apache warriors struck, and managed to drag both men into a ravine. Both sides opened fire, and a battle continued throughout the day. The following day, Cochise appeared on a hill with Wallace—hands bound and a rope about his neck—and 16 stolen government mules and offered to exchange them for the Apache prisoners. Bascom agreed, but Ward’s boy also needed to be returned. No resolution could be reached.
Unbeknownst to Bascom, Cochise managed to gain three additional prisoners by attacking a train of fivewagons loaded with flour eastbound for the Pinos Altos mines through the pass they all now occupied. Six Mexican teamsters had been killed during the abduction. Two of the survivors had been lashed to wagon wheels and set on fire. Cochise only spared the three white men to use as a bargaining position with Bascom. Cochise left a dictated note on a bush near Bascom’s camp stating that he would come in the following day to negotiate.
But due to the lack of cooperation of the army to exchange the prisoners, Cochise decided he would take back his people by force. He enlisted the aid of Francisco and the White Mountain Apache as well as Mangas Coloradas’s band of Mimbres Apaches. Over 200 Apache attacked two days later. Bascom’s men held them off, and for days he and his men were trapped. Reinforcements arrived, and troops were sent out to scout the situation. They found the decomposed remains of Cochise’s four prisoners—Wallace and the three men taken from the attacked wagon train.
The dead were buried, and talk soon turned to retribution. It was suggested that the Apache hostages behanged in reprisal for the murders of Wallace and the three men. A Lieutenant Moore made the decision to hang the Apache prisoners, and while Bascom objected, Moore outranked him. The bodies of three warriors were left swinging to insure that Cochise saw them.
The Bascom Affair, as it is known today, marked a significant turning point in relations between the Americans and the Chiricahua Apaches. It’s speculated that if Lieutenant Bascom hadn’t been duplicitous with Cochise at the outset (by keeping those Apache who accompanied him prisoner), then the outcome might have been much different. As for the abducted Ward boy, Felix Martinez did live and later became an army scout called “Mickey Free.” It’s very possible that Cochise could have obtained the boy’s freedom if Bascom had just been more patient. In the killing of his white hostages, Cochise forever changed the Apache-American relations, and the officers responsible for hanging the Apache men demonstrated that, in the end, they were no better than the savage men they condemned. This would lead to hostilities between the Chiricahua and Americans that would last for the next 25 years.
THE BLACKBIRD ~ Available late-April ~
Arizona Territory 1877
Bounty hunter Cale Walker arrives in Tucson to search for J. Howard “Hank” Carlisle at the request of his daughter, Tess. Hank mentored Cale before a falling out divided them, and a mountain lion attack left Cale nearly dead. Rescued by a band of Nednai Apache, his wounds were considered a powerful omen and he was taught the ways of a di-yin, or a medicine man. To locate Hank, Cale must enter the Dragoon Mountains, straddling two worlds that no longer fit. But he has an even bigger problem—finding a way into the heart of a young woman determined to live life as a bystander.
For two years, Tess Carlisle has tried to heal the mental and physical wounds of a deadly assault by one of her papá’s men. Continuing the traditions of her Mexican heritage, she has honed her skills as a cuentista, a storyteller and a Keeper of the Old Ways. But with no contact from her father since the attack, she fears the worst. Tess knows that to reenter Hank Carlisle’s world is a dangerous endeavor, and her only hope is Cale Walker, a man unlike any she has ever known. Determined to make a journey that could lead straight into the path of her attacker, she hardens her resolve along with her heart. But Cale makes her yearn for something she vowed she never would—love. ******** Say hello to Kristy and you could win digital copies of the first three books in the Wings of the West series:THE WREN, THE DOVE, and THE SPARROW. The winner will be chosen on Sunday. For more info aboutKristy and her books, visit her online at http://www.kristymccaffrey.com/
I love discovering historical tidbits, and I ran across a gem when researching what happened on this date in Texas history.
On February 26, 1871 – Clinton Lafayette Smith and his brother Jefferson Davis Smith (ages 11 and 9) were captured by Lipans and Comanche Indians while they were out herding sheep for their father on their ranch located between San Antonio and Boerne. Clint and Jeff’s father, Henry Smith, was a captain in the Texas Rangers along with his cousin, John Sansom. The two men quickly rounded up a posse of fellow Rangers and local militia to serve as a rescue party. They pursued the Indians all the way to Fort Concho in West Texas, but to no avail. They failed to recover the boys. Henry Smith returned home empty handed, but offered a $1,000 reward every year to anyone who could bring his boys home.
In the meantime, the brothers were separated. Clint was adopted by a Comanche chief, while Jeff was sold to Geronimo [Yes, that Geronimo] and branded as his property. Jeff traveled with Geronimo’s band of Apaches. They remained captives for five years, both boys acclimating by necessity and with the innate flexibility of children to their new way of life. They adopted Indian traits and mannerisms. They learned to hunt and went on raids with the warriors of their clans.
I was unable to find any details about how they were eventually returned to their families, but after five years of captivity, Clint and Jeff returned home. It took a while for them to reaccustom themselves to lives as young white men, but they eventually did so. Having developed serious riding skills from their time with the Comanche and Apache, they went on to have strong careers as trail drivers, cowboys, and ranchers. Not to mention frontier celebrities. Everyone wanted to hear their story.
Both men married and had families. Clinton married a good southern woman. You can tell she was a good southern woman simply by reading her name: Dixie Alamo Dyche. Don’t you LOVE that name? Jefferson Davis (an excellent southern name on its own) married Julia Harriet Reed.
When the brothers Smith were in their sixties, they related their stories to an author by the name of J. Marvin Hunter. He did his best to record their tales exactly as the men told them in The Boy Captives. Not everything matches precisely with what the history books teach, but personal accounts like this are a rare and valuable glimpse into a part of western culture we know little about.
So have you read stories or seen movies with this theme of white captured by Indians and raised in that way of life only to return to the white world? Talk about culture shock – both ways.
I always think of the movie Dances with Wolves. Great film. What others would you recommend?
By the way, if you are interested in learning a new tidbit of Texas history every day, you can sign up for the Texas State Historical Association’s Day-By-Day emails here.